Roy, Everblades chomp on Solar Bears

ESTERO, Fla – Normally when teams play each other for a number of straight games, it comes in the playoffs where adjustments by coaches come as quickly as one timers from the slot. In the ECHL, sometimes squads get that chance when the schedule makers set up groups of games to cut down on travel costs.
Friday night at the Germain Arena, the Florida Everblades made all the right moves, scoring four unanswered goals over the final twenty-one minutes of play to defeat the Orlando Solar Bears 6-2 in front of 5,133 fans. The win was the perfect answer to Wednesday’s 5-1 Solar Bears win as Mathieu Roy scored two goals and David Rutherford picked up four assists to pace the Everblades effort.
Playing each other in the second of a five-game “mini series”, the Everblades wanted to avenge the embarrassment they suffered in front of their home supporters two days ago. The Solar Bears were one step closer to ending a six-game road trip that if they won Friday and again on Saturday would even their record at 3-3.
Florida got on the board first in the contest. Four and a half minutes into the opening period, Rutherford put a shot on net that Orlando goalie Hannu Toivonen stopped but failed to control the rebound. Roy took advantage of his positioning in front of the net, grabbing the rebound and lifting it into the top left corner for his eleventh score of the season. It took the Solar Bears just under two minutes to even the score when on a power play, some intense pressure led to a Bryce Lampman shot that Everblades netminder John Muse thwarted but Ryan Reaves was on the doorstep to clean up the rebound at the 6:28 mark.
The tie held up until the Everblades, who entered the game with the ECHL’s third best home man advantage success rate, hit pay dirt again. Rutherford picked up his second helper of the night when he set up Bobby Raymond for a wrist shot from the right wing side that beat Toivonen with less than seven minutes left in the stanza. Despite the Solar Bears out-shooting the Everblades 14-13 in the period, the home team was able to hold the one goal lead into the intermission.
The second period was an even tighter defensive struggle than the first with the teams combining for just five shots over the first half of the frame. Orlando had a chance to tie the game midway through the period when Raymond went to the penalty box. Even though the Solar Bears power play failed to score, its play directly led to the equalizer. It came when Orlando defenseman Derick Martin lifted an aerial pass to the front of the Florida net in the direction of teammate C.J. Severyn. Showing a brilliant display of hand-eye coordination, Severyn batted the puck out of mid-air and into the Everblades net.
The Solar Bears continued to keep the pressure on Muse and the Everblades defense, controlling the shot clock as well as the flow of play. The pivotal play of the period and the game with less than a minute to play before the second intermission. With a delayed penalty coming to the visitors, Everblades forward Corey Trivino put a shot on net that Toivonen stopped. The puck bounded into the crease where it hit the skate of Lampman and redirected into the open net.
It was a tough goal for Orlando to give up but given their play in the period, a one-goal deficit didn’t seem to be a problem. In fact, with less than 15 seconds to go before the break, a pass from Ryan Cruthers to Reaves that could have provided the equalizer just missed, allowing the Everblades to escape with a 3-2 lead.
Florida tightened its ranks in the third, trying to defend against what they expected to be a furious rush by the Solar Bears. That rush never really materialized, allowing the Everblades to take control during the back half of the period.
It started when Toivonen (24 saves) made a save but lost track of both his position and the puck. The rebound bounced out of his reach to Alex Hutchings who deposited it into the back of the net. At the 15:28 mark, Roy took advantage of yet another defensive breakdown to poke a rebound between Toivonen’s pads to increase the lead to three.
Not too long after the Roy tally, Orlando pushed back and came close to scoring when Mat Sisca, one of Wednesday’s heroes, whipped a shot that beat Muse but clanged off the goal post. As the Solar Bears pressed, it opened up an opportunity for Hutchings to get a clean breakaway but Toivonen made the save. It would prove to be anti-climatic as Mark Stewart whacked a one-time into the twine with 1:14 to go to create the final score.
The Solar Bears (11-15-2-2) will have to have very short memories as they face the Everblades (14-10-1-4) again Saturday night in Estero before the teams head north to Orlando for two more meetings after Christmas. Game time Saturday night at the Germain Arena is 7 p.m.
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