ORLANDO, FL – After a slow start to the season, the Solar Bears seem to have awakened the sleeping giant and are building momentum.
The team has gathered nine out of a possible 10 points in the last five games. The run started on Nov. 19, with a blazing third-period onslaught against the Greenville Swamp Rabbits. Orlando managed to keep the good times rolling with a win and OT loss to Jacksonville on Nov. 21 and 22.
This past weekend, the Solar Bears faced a formidable South Carolina Stingray team which entered the tilts with a 10-2-2 record.
Dupuy doubles it up
The Saturday evening match pitted the Solar Bears in Captain America jerseys squaring off against the Stingrays arrayed in Iron Man outfits. Orlando’s Max Novak got the scoring started late in the first period when he took a feed from Marcus Basara who had just emerged from the penalty box.
Thereafter, center Jean Dupuy took center stage. He put Orlando up 2-0 in the second period when teammate Jeff King found him alone in the slot during a rush.
The Stingrays came out strong at the start of the final frame with tallies off the sticks of Tim McGauley and Joe Devin. But Dupuy would seal the deal for Orlando when J. C. Campagna forced a turnover with a mean backcheck, and then he connected with Dupuy who was rushing the net.
Explaining the team’s growing success, head coach Drake Berehowsky said, “I’d like to think they are getting to know each other better, and maybe they are getting used to the systems we like to play. They are still working hard, and they haven’t stopped working hard even though they’ve been through a bad patch. I commend them on that. That builds character, and their character is starting to show.”
Comeback kids with some heat from Heeter
Having secured a 3-2 regulation win on Saturday, the Bears managed to comeback Sunday after being down 2-0 heading into the third period. That game had everything you expect in a hockey game: A late period rally, a controversial game-tying goal that was called off, a final push with the goalie pulled that resulted in a saving tally by Martins Dzierkals with 23 seconds left, and a shoot-out win.
Cal Heeter was outstanding over the weekend, having an overall save percentage of .930. New players to the roster like Basara and Campagna are making immediate positive impacts. And the Solar Bears are finally getting players from injured reserve back into the mix. Both Michael Turner and Kristian Pospisil returned to the lineup over the weekend, and others are lined up to join them soon.
Regarding a controversial waved-off goal that occurred in the third period, Berehowsky said, “The referee though it was in, but the goal judge said he 100 percent didn’t think it was in. It’s unfortunate, but we are happy to get the win.”
Looking forward, the team will embark on a ten-game road trip starting tonight against the Jacksonville Icemen. The Solar Bears will looking for some revenge following the overtime loss they suffered in their last meeting with its northern in-state rival.
Following that, the Solar Bears will play three games in three days against three different opponents in three different cities. They face off against the Greenville Swamp Rabbits on Friday night, the South Carolina Stingrays on Saturday, and then play a Sunday matinee against Atlanta. If Orlando can keep its winning ways going during that stretch, they will effectively put the South Division on notice.