ORLANDO, FLA – Considering how quickly a season can get away from a team if a losing skid becomes a losing streak, minimizing bad stretches of play is just as important in December as it is in March and April. Sunday afternoon at the Amway Center, the Orlando Solar Bears faced arguably its most important game of the season and found a way to win.
Zach Harrison and Scott Tanski scored goals 36 seconds apart late in the third period to give the host Solar Bears a come from behind 4-3 victory over the Colorado Eagles in front of an announced crowd of 5,226. The win ended a three game losing skid – all of them at home – while going a long way to pulling the team out of its recent funk.
“You can tell that we’re trying to score, everybody’s in the paint (goal crease) trying to score. You could see it to the point where we’re opening up the game a little bit because we had so many guys trying to score that we were giving up some odd man rushes,” Orlando head coach Vince Williams said. “There were some tough bounces and some forced plays. Finding ways to win is important and good teams with good character find ways to come back. It was big for us especially after this week we had.”
Trailing by one with less than three minutes left in regulation, Blake Kessel put the puck on the stick of Tyler Murovich who fired a shot at Colorado goalie Adam Brown. Brown made the save but Murovich got the rebound and pushed it in the direction of Harrison and Kessel who were at the post to Brown’s right. Harrison got to the puck first and pushed it into the open net for his second score of the game.
Seconds later, the Solar Bears (13-9-0-1) went ahead when Ian Slater got the puck to Tanski at the base of the faceoff circle near the goal line. Somehow Tanski found a way to squeeze a shot between Brown and the post for the game winner.
Much like the two previous games against South Carolina, Sunday’s game didn’t start well for the home team. Colorado (13-6-3-0) took the early lead by taking advantage of the boards and some hustle. Trent Daavettila sent the puck down low where it hit the end boards and came straight back out in front of the net. Jonathan Parker turned on the jets and beat the Orlando defense to the disc and put it behind Solar Bears goalie John Curry into the net.
Unlike the games earlier in the week, the Solar Bears dug their skates in with the intent of tying the score and they did just that. At the 14:10 mark, Andrew Johnston carried the puck below the goal line in the Colorado end. It appeared he was going to go around the net but instead he dropped a backhand pass to Harrison who jammed the puck inside the post and into the twine.
Orlando took its first lead of the night three minutes into the second period. During a power play opportunity, David Rutherford took a shot that was blocked. Mike Ullrich was able to collect the puck and fired a wrist shot that found its way home. The lead lasted all of one minute and thirty-five seconds when out of a wild scramble in the crease, Jesse Mychan somehow found the puck and shoveled it in to knot the score at two.
The Eagles regained the advantage a little over eight minutes into the final frame. A turnover in the Orlando end allowed Greg Gardner to get the puck and walk in alone on Curry. Gardner got Curry to commit, moved around the prone netminder and from a tough angle hit the top corner of the open net. Colorado had a subsequent power play opportunity but Curry (35 saves) and the Solar Bears defense held the visitors off the board.
Down the other end of the ice, Brown (43 saves) was doing his best to keep Orlando from evening the contest. As the shots piled up and time ran down, things looked bleak for the Solar Bears before Harrison and Tanski came to the rescue.
“There was no jump or jam yesterday (in Saturday’s game) and then today we had a little bit more physicality,” Williams said about his team’s effort. “If we don’t play with some edge, we’re not as effective. We’re not a team that is a perimeter team. That’s (physical) our identity and the quicker we figure that out – all twenty guys – it’ll be a lot easier for us to manage that.”
After finishing a grueling four games in five days stretch, Orlando will now get a few days off before a weekend trio of contests in three different cities (Greenville, North Charleston and Gwinnett). Williams said the trip is coming at a good time.
“It’s going to be nice to get on the road because we’ve got some new guys. We can get some continuity and some chemistry back and some bonding which is important,” Williams said. “We ended up having that good stretch there rolling back to those crazy bus rides out to Cincinnati and Evansville. It made our team stronger and better and it translated to the ice.”
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