Jackals bite back on Solar Bears

ELMIRA, NY – Coming off a win that they hoped would be a springboard, the Orlando Solar Bears headed north for their first trip through the northeast corridor Friday night. When they got there however, the first stop turned out to be rather unforgettable.
Led by two goals from Chaz Johnson, the Elmira Jackals proved to be less than hospitable hosts as they beat the Solar Bears 4-1 at the First Arena. The win by Elmira (11-10-1-1) avenged an earlier loss to Orlando in Florida was well as drawing the Jackals into a tie with the Solar Bears (10-12-2-2) for ninth in the ECHL’s eastern conference.
Once again, Orlando head coach Drake Berehowsky had to work with a make-shift roster as Olivier Fortier (Hamilton) and Rob Mignardi (Houston) were both called up to the AHL. With defenseman Corbin Baldwin being assigned to the 21-day injured reserve list, Berehowsky had to quickly find fill-ins, picking up defenseman Gentry Zollars from the Danbury Whalers and forward (and Orlando native) Matt Smyth from the Williamsport Outlaws, both teams in the Federal Hockey League.
Elmira was anxious to intimidate Orlando from the opening draw, initiating things with a big hit by Jordan Pietrus on Solar Bears defenseman Derick Martin 24 seconds in. Even though the hit drew a penalty, it set a tone.
The first period from start to finish belonged to the home team. Three power plays helped the cause as the Jackals out-shot the Solar Bears 20-9 in the stanza. Had it not been for Orlando starting goalie Hannu Toivonen, the game could have been over by the intermission. The only shot Toivonen couldn’t stop came off the stick of Johnson. During the Jackals first man advantage, Louie Caporusso fed a pass to Johnson in the slot area. He didn’t wait, ripping a one-timer into the net for what proved to be the lone score in the first.
The middle period was much more competitive when it came to the shot count but on the scoreboard it continued to be one-sided. Just past the eleven minute mark, Elmira was able to double its lead. Andrew Rowe did the honors, picking up the puck at the top of the slot, weaving his way through the right circle and roofing a backhander over Toivonen’s shoulder. Four minutes later, Kevin Harvey set up Johnson for another one-time shot that found the back of the net.
Desperately needing a spark, the Solar Bears were handed a golden opportunity when Harvey went to the penalty box with just under two minutes left before the intermission. 37 seconds into the man advantage, defenseman Bryce Lampman lined up a drive from the point and fired. Ryan Reaves, who scored Sunday’s game-winner, moved to the front of the net and redirected the shot past Jackals goalie Mark Cheverie to get Orlando on the board.
The Solar Bears nearly trimmed the deficit to one early in the third but a deflection in front of Cheverie clanged off the post. The Jackals still needed one more goal to put the game away and they got it at the 7:10 mark when Pietrus atoned for his early penalty by top shelving a rebound shot after his initial attempt was blocked right back to him. Cheverie was perfect in the third, stopping all ten shots he faced to bring his game total to 27 saves. Toivonen made 42 saves in a losing effort.
Orlando now travels to Reading to take on the Royals who have won four in a row and eight of their last ten games. Puck drop at the Sovereign Center is set for Saturday night at 7:05 pm.
Contact the author at don.money@prohockeynews.com
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