Lee, Gladiators topple Solar Bears again

DULUTH, GA – In professional sports, there are times when one team dominates another. Sometimes it is luck, others it is pure talent. Either way, it can play havoc with the mental processes of the team that constantly comes up on the losing end.
Thursday night at The Arena at Gwinnett Center, the Gwinnett Gladiators rode the stellar play of goalie Mike Lee to a 1-0 win over the Orlando Solar Bears. It was the fifth consecutive win for the Gladiators over the Solar Bears and the fourth time that Lee has held Orlando to one goal or less. The loss by the Solar Bears (8-7-2-1) came at the expense of another solid effort by netminder Hannu Toivonen who stopped 25 of 26 shots in the contest.
Coming into the contest, Lee was among the top three netminders in the ECHL in wins, goals against average and save percentage. Against the Solar Bears, he had given up just six goals in four games on 123 shots against. Getting a win again him and the Gladiators would knock a big weight off the shoulders of the visitors.
Despite being without defense Bryce Lampman and forward Chris Lawrence, Orlando felt that if it played its game, the goals and the win would come. The Solar Bears also knew that it would be important to get the first score of the game because Gwinnett was 11-0-1 when scoring first but 1-4 in the games it didn’t.
The Gladiators thwarted Orlando’s hopes by getting on the board first. It came 5:31 into the opening period when Cody Brookwell lined up a snap shot from the point that found its way through traffic in front of Toivonen and into the net. At the time, no one knew that it would be the lone goal of the contest.
Only down by a goal, the Solar Bears needed to pick up the offense and get shots on net. It would turn out to not be such an easy task against Gwinnett which was tied with Elmira for fewest goals allowed in the Eastern Conference. Orlando mustered seven shots on Lee in the first, nine in the second and just six in the third – only two of those coming in the final 7:26 of regulation.
Toivonen kept the Solar Bears in the game, especially in the final stanza when he came up big three times on shots that could have expanded the Gladiators lead. Meanwhile, Orlando’s best opportunities failed to hit the mark. Several good chances went by the boards when passes didn’t connect, others ended up in shots that missed the net. Those that were directed between the pipes were handled by Lee, whose goals against average dropped to 1.69 and his save percentage rose to .936 as he recorded his second shutout of the season.
The Solar Bears will get another shot at breaking the Gladiators hex Friday night when the two teams meet in a 6:05 pm start at the Arena at Gwinnett Center.
Contact the author at don.money@prohockeynews.com

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