ORLANDO, Fla – In the wake of Wednesday’s gut-wrenching loss to the Greenville Road Warriors, the Orlando Solar Bears wanted redemption in the worst way. The chance for payback came Friday night and despite some nervous moments, revenge was served.
Dan Dries scored his second professional goal two minutes into the third period in support of goalie Patrick Killeen’s 31-save effort as the Solar Bears hung on for a 3-2 victory over the South division leading Road Warriors at the Amway Center. It was just the second time in six tries that Orlando was victorious against Greenville.
Friday’s contest was just the eighth game that Dries had played in since signing with the Solar Bears on January as a free agent. Berehowsky had talked about Dries’ offensive skills and they came into focus early in the final frame. 26 ticks after Greenville’s Chad Ziegler sucked the life out of the 6,347 fans in attendance with a game-tying score, Michael Neal made a perfect stretch pass to Dries who was streaking up the left wing. As Dries got to the face-off circle, he let loose with a laser-like shot that beat Road Warriors’ goalie Nathan Lieuwen over the netminder’s left shoulder.
For Dries, it was his first goal since the 2011-2012 season with the St. John’s IceCaps in the AHL.
“Like anything in life, you’ve got to earn your ice time. Nothing’s given to you,” Dries said about his on-again, off-again playing status. “I’m just trying to keep battling and try to earn a little more ice here. I can’t really worry about anything that’s out of my control.”
Just as it was on Wednesday, control was again a key factor in the contest. Orlando (20-22-2-3) held sway over the visitors for much of the first half of the game. The Solar Bears tested Lieuwen several times in the opening period. The lone goal of the stanza came at the 14:52 mark when Ryan Cruthers and Mat Sisca double-teamed the puck, sending it to C.J. Severyn in the neutral zone. Severyn drove into the Greenville end and unleashed a wicked shot that blazed its way over Lieuwen’s shoulder into the net.
The home team’s lead grew to a pair just past the six minute mark of the middle period. Winger Dan Gendur picked off the puck in the Greenville end and fired a shot on net. Lieuwen made the save but Rob Mignardi was in the right place to scoop up the rebound and backhand it home.
Using Mignardi’s tally as a wake-up call, Greenville (28-16-2-2) began to turn up the heat. The activity turned into a goal at the 15:04 mark when Bretton Stamler’s shot from the point found its way through some heavy traffic in front and got past Killeen. The visitors had several chances to tie the game up, in particular Wednesday’s shootout hero Jordie Johnston, but Killeen held the fort until the intermission.
With visions of another dramatic comeback in their heads, the Road Warriors continued to come at the Solar Bears. Just before the third period got to the two minute mark, Danny Hobbs won an offensive zone draw back to Ryan Flanigan, Flanigan skated toward the right wing boards before launching a shot toward Killeen. On the way through, Ziegler got a piece of it, sending the puck head high at the Orlando goalie. The deflection sent it over Killeen’s shoulders and into the net to knot the score. Seconds later, Dries untied the scoreboard, sending the crowd into a mix of happiness tinged with a bit of nervousness.
As the clock wound down, the fans’ anxiety rose. On this night, however, it would be the Solar Bears’ veteran leadership making sure the younger guys didn’t let Wednesday’s loss get into their heads that secured the win.
“We have to stay composed. We can’t be nervous. When we’re out there we have to stay composed, know where our positions are and give up the least opportunistic parts for them,” defenseman and assistant captain Derick Martin said. “The most dangerous guy (is the one) we have to take care of but the guys that are to the outside leave them alone. It’s still a game. You have to make your plays, make smart plays, get the puck out of your zone and that’s what’s most important at the end.”
The Solar Bears will go right back at it on Saturday night as they host the Trenton Titans in a 7 p.m. contest. The game will also be a nod to the original IHL franchise as a banner acknowledging the 2001 Turner Cup championship will be raised to the Amway Center rafters.
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