ORLANDO, FL – The Orlando Solar Bears (18-17-5-1) finished their weekend set against their state rivals the Florida Everblades (29-7-1-2) by earning three out of a possible four points. That is a notable accomplishment given the rough start on Saturday night.
The Everblades gained a two-goal lead early on in the first period of the game. Florida’s Clark Seymour would get credit for the first goal, and John McCarron would score the second. With not even 10 minutes elapsed, the Solar Bears found themselves with an uphill climb.
However, Orlando would eventually surge back, striking late in the first and eventually later on in the third to dig themselves out of a two-goal deficit, sending the crowd of over 8000 fans at Amway for Military appreciation night into a frenzy. Both of those came off the stick of Chris Crane, and both occurred on power plays. Adding to the deja vu feel, both goals had Joe Perry and J. J. Piccinich involved in assists.
Penalty kills were another bright spot for the Solar Bears. They fended off all five of Florida’s power plays and executed some smart and spirited defense that kept the Everblades struggling to get its offense charged.
When asked why the special teams were so stellar, Chris Crane commented,
“In this league, special teams is what’s going to win you hockey games. We had two power play goals tonight and we take pride in our penalty kill. We obviously don’t want to take a lot of penalties, but tonight we’ve been working on it a lot in practice, and it definitely showed tonight.”
The game went into overtime, and Orlando had to spend the opening time playing a man down. But when they came back to even strength, it looked like they might pull off the comeback. Those hopes were dashed, however, as Florida’s Stephen MacAulay struck 2:59 into overtime to give the Everblades the win.
The next day, the Solar Bears pulled off a 5-3 win against their southern state rival Sunday afternoon, avoiding a losing streak —something the team needs to avoid at all costs at this point in the season.
One key to the Sunday win was a fast start. Chris Leblanc got the Solar Bears rolling at the 1:29 mark, and late in the second period, Orlando saw itself riding a 4-1 lead thanks to two tallies by Piccinich. The Everblades came back with some key goals by McCarron, but Perry put it away for the Solar Bears when he put in an empty-netter.
Looking ahead, the Solar Bears have two upcoming games against the South Carolina Stingrays (24-9-4-1), a team which Orlando has done surprisingly well against. In fact, the Solar Bears remain undefeated against the Stingrays this season. Should the trend continue, we may see Orlando extending its new win streak.
The Solar Bears are in a very tight race against the Greenville Swamp Rabbits and the Atlanta Gladiators. A mere five points separates the three teams. Head coach Drake Berehowsky was encouraging his squad to drive ahead with determination and focus:
“We’ve got to win games. It’s a tight race—it was a tight race last year. You know, Norfolk is coming up as well. We have to go out, and we have to play as close to perfect hockey as possible, and then we’ve got to get our points.”