ORLANDO, Fla – When Dan Gendur joined the Orlando Solar Bears last month, people saw his four goals and ten points in 19 games with the Evansville Icemen. They also saw that he had a minus-9 rating on a team that was dead last in the ECHL’s Eastern Conference standings and questioned the trade. Friday night at the Amway Center, Gendur put all of those questions to rest in a big way.
Gendur equaled his goal scoring output from Evansville, netting four goals in the first 32 minutes of play to lead Orlando to a resounding 8-4 win over the Florida Everblades in front of a raucous crowd of 8,608. Ryan Reaves added to the fun with a pair of short-handed goals, part of a three goal night for the Solar Bears penalty killing units, one score shy of tying a league record. It was also the second time this season that Orlando (14-15-2-2) put up a snowman on the defending Kelly Cup champions.
Saying that it all came together for the Solar Bears was an understatement. Three goals in the first period, four more in the second and a lone tally in the third did the trick as Orlando won its third straight and fourth in five games against the Everblades (14-12-2-4). Since losing the first two games of the year to Florida in Estero, the Solar Bears have now taken care of business in six of the last seven meetings against their in-state rivals. Even so, Orlando head coach Drake Berehowsky wasn’t willing to say that his team has Florida’s number right now.
“I don’t know if we have their number. We played a great first two periods. We came out and we stuck to the game plan and we had some success,” Berehowsky said. “We were very fortunate and we take nothing for granted. They’re a great team and they play with a lot of patience, a lot of structure. For some reason the pucks just found the back of the net for us tonight.”
The two sore spots in the game for the home team were giving up a hat trick to Florida captain David Rutherford and the status of goalie Hannu Toivonen. Toivonen gave up three goals (all to Rutherford) before leaving the game with 6:45 left in regulation. Berehowsky did not want to comment on Toivonen’s status after the game.
After Thursday night’s defensive struggle, Friday’s contest started off like a track meet. Gendur started the proceedings just over a minute into the first period, taking a face-off win by Mat Sisca and blowing a slap shot past Everblades goalie Pat Nagle. A minute later, Rutherford scored an unassisted goal to tie the game. Just under five minutes after Rutherford’s tally, Reaves took a drop pass from C.J. Severyn, dangled the puck through a couple of defenders and fired it home to put the Solar Bears in front for good.
Not to be upstaged by the NHLer (Reaves), Gendur showed off his moves in the final minute of the period. He stick handled his way past a few opponents, faked Nagle down and deposited it into the back of the net. When the buzzer sounded ending the period, Orlando had three goals on 14 shots and a reasonable amount of control of the game.
The middle period got off to the races two minutes in in when Severyn took a pass from Bryce Lampman, sped into the Florida zone and ripped it past Nagle for a short-handed score. The tally, Severyn’s tenth of the season, ended Nagle’s night as John Muse came off the bench to replace his teammate.
When Rutherford popped a rebound past Toivonen just past the five minute mark, the Everblades gained some hope. That hope vanished in a four and a half minute flurry by the Solar Bears. Scott Tanski started the run with some hustle and hard work that led to a wrap-around score at the 7:29 mark. Gendur then completed his third career hat trick (first in the ECHL) with a shot from the slot that hit Muse’s catching glove, fell to the ice and dribbled across the line. Exactly one minute later, Gendur made it a quartet with a power play goal to extend the lead to 7-2.
The man advantage tally, according to Gendur, was something that he and assistant coach Matt McIlvane had been working on in practice.
“Me and the assistant coach (McIlvane) have been working on some things on the power play and he kind of I guess proved me right on that one for sure,” Gendur said.
As the score grew, the tempers shortened. In between the Tanski and Gendur goals, Florida’s Alex Hutchings and Orlando captain Ryan Cruthers got under each other’s skin and ended up in the penalty box. The pair continued to chirp at one another for two minutes before coming out and dropping the gloves. Later, Everblades forward Aaron Bogosian ended up on top of an Orlando opponent pounding away. Severyn went diving in after Bogosian and a line brawl nearly broke out. When the dust settled, Bogosian received a fighting major and an aggressor game misconduct while Severyn was nabbed for a roughing minor and a third man in game misconduct.
Gendur was in the penalty box early in the third when Reaves picked up his teammate with his second short-handed score. It was a pretty play that included a nasty shoulder dip fake and a quick shot to the top corner on the short side. It was Reaves’ fourth goal with the Solar Bears in ten games, just one shy of his NHL career total (five) that took him 88 games to amass.
“When I’m up in St. Louis, there’s not always a lot of points for me so to get two goals is cause to celebrate for me,” Reaves said. “I’m trying to be a more well-rounded player. I think I can take that up with me if the (NHL) season starts this year or whenever we get back up there. I don’t think anyone wants to be buried on the fourth line and just kind playing a limited time role. I want to develop my skills here where I think I can have a little more freedom and then take it wherever I can.”
Reaves’ goal was the lone offensive highlight for Orlando in the final stanza – in fact it was the only shot on net the home team was credited for. Florida unloaded 14 shots on Toivonen, who stood tall during the Gendur penalty with a number of clutch saves. Rutherford completed his hat trick at the 13:15 mark with a power play tally. It was also the final shot that Toivonen would see as he got up and looked uncomfortable, causing Berehowsky to send Curry in. Leigh Salters beat Curry with 1:26 left in regulation to produce the final.
After the game, Reaves was quick to give credit to his teammates for a good 45-50 minute game but said that playing the full 60 will be much more important as the season moves forward.
“I think we got away from our game a little bit in the third period. It’s something we’re going to have to correct because getting down the stretch here, we’re going to have to be a team that can close out sixty minute games,” Reaves said. “When it gets down to the (finish) line and they’re (games) a lot closer, it’s going to be important for us to close them out.”
The Solar Bears now have a few days off before they begin a two-week, six-game road trip through the upper Midwest and Greenville while the circus is in town. Orlando’s next home game will be January 17th against Wheeling.
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