ORLANDO, Fla. – After suffering a pair of discouraging losses to South Carolina over the weekend, the Orlando Solar Bears needed a quick pick-me-up before facing South division rival Gwinnett for two contests. Wednesday night at the Amway Center, they got that boost and then some.
Captain Ryan Cruthers scored twice and added an assist while linemate C.J. Severyn chipped in with a goal and three helpers as the Solar Bears thumped the Evansville IceMen 6-1 in front of 4,876 midweek fans. Derrick Burnett, a second lieutenant in the Air Force stationed at nearby Patrick Air Force Base, contributed his first professional goal and Justin Levac added his first tally in an Orlando uniform to the offensive outburst while new netminder Zoltan Hetenyi stopped 35 of 36 shots in his Solar Bears debut.
Burnett, who has been on the Orlando roster when his day job allows, had just one assist in his previous fourteen games with the Solar Bears and carried a minus-two rating into Wednesday’s contest. By the time the final horn sounded, he had doubled his point total, tallied his first goal and his plus/minus rating was in positive numbers.
“It definitely feels good to get the monkey off the back. I know I’ve had some chances in recent games here,” Burnett said. “It finally feels good to bury one and feel better about my game a little bit.”
Hetenyi, who was loaned to Orlando (24-26-2-3) by Milwaukee before the Admirals traded his AHL rights to Peoria, had just one practice to get acclimated to his new teammates before spelling Patrick Killeen in between the pipes. He was no stranger to many of his new friends, having shut them out on January 9th while with the Cincinnati Cyclones.
“It’s always a new experience to get into a new locker room. You get to know new people,” Hetenyi said. “It gave me a little confidence that a couple of months ago when we (Cincinnati) played against them I could shut them out but now I’m a part of this team (Orlando) and I do everything for this team from now on.”
Led by former Solar Bear and current ECHL Player of the Week Kevin Baker, Evansville (19-31-2-3) made sure that Hetenyi was plenty busy from wire-to-wire, peppering the Orlando net with double-digit shots in each period. The only one that lit the goal light came off the stick of Andre Bouvet-Morrissette, who was Hetenyi’s teammate in Cincinnati and would have been paired with the goalie in Peoria, fourteen minutes into the second period.
“You have to be prepared before the game mentally because we are working to catch a playoff spot. It’s not like you can take your time and things will work out,” Hetenyi said about getting right into things. “I’m in deep water now so I would like to survive.”
Bouvet-Morrissette’s score was the only blemish on what was a solid performance by the home team. The Solar Bears had things under control from the early minutes on. Cruthers put Orlando on the scoreboard first 5:58 into the opening period when he redirected a slap pass from Mat Sisca past IceMen netminder Paul Dainton. Late in the stanza, the lead doubled when Severyn made a seeing-eye backhand pass into the slot where defenseman Michael Wilson stepped into it, one-timing the puck into the back of the net.
“Tonight we came out and we potted a couple of goals and we just seemed to keep rolling and we wind from it,” Solar Bears head coach Drake Berehowsky said.
Burnett’s goal, a blast through a screen off a drop pass from Rob Mignardi, 7:14 into the second period put Orlando up by three and the rout was on. Three minutes after Evansville scored, Cruthers picked up his second of the game and 19th of the season, tipping a Ryan Blair shot into the top of the net.
Levac netted his first career ECHL goal early in the third, cleaning up the rebound of a
Scott Tanski shot at the 3:08 mark. Severyn closed the scoring by tipping a Cruthers pass through Dainton’s legs with just over three minutes remaining. The rest was left to Hetenyi, who showed why he was a big part of his home country Hungary’s success in under-18 and under-20 World Junior championships as well as the 2010 IIHF worlds.
After the game, Berehowsky complimented both Cruthers and Severyn for the way they led by example on the ice.
“Ryan played a great game tonight. He got pucks in deep. He didn’t turn pucks over at the line. Sevy was skating real well. He went to the net and he was rewarded for going to the net,” Berehowsky said. “You go to the net and in most cases you’re going to get rewarded eventually. It might not happen the first time or the second time but it is going to go for you one of those times. If you don’t want to go there, you’re not going to be successful. We need guys to go there and tonight our guys did the job.”
The Solar Bears have very little time to enjoy Wednesday’s win as the division leading Gladiators come to Orlando come to town for a pair of 7 p.m. games. With both Mike Lee and Louis Domingue away from the Gwinnett net on call-ups, Orlando will see a different team than the one that has bedeviled it. Still, Berehowsky isn’t taking the visitors lightly.
“I’ve learned in this league that on any give night anybody can win. Anybody can get hot, anybody can have a shutout,” he said. “I’m not going to preach anything to the guys. I’m going to preach structure. I’m going to preach hard work. I’m going to preach discipline and I’m going to preach compete.”
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