ORLANDO, Fla. – Early in the first period of Thursday night’s ECHL game between the Orlando Solar Bears and the Reading Royals, Solar Bear forward C.J. Severyn watched as the skate of a Royals opponent came at him head high. As Severyn hit the ice following the contact, all he could think about was whether he was bleeding because blood could have meant serious damage.
Thankfully for the Solar Bears, Severyn was not cut and it proved to be critical as Orlando’s All-Star forward came back to score the game-winning goal as the Solar Bears knocked off the Eastern conference leading Royals 1-0 in front of an energized crowd of 6,840 on Star Wars night at the Amway Center. The win was also the first shutout for Orlando goalie Zoltan Hetenyi since coming to the Solar Bears and marked the first ever whitewash for the expansion franchise.
“The guy fell over and caught me with his skate in the head. Luckily I had a visor on or I would have been in deep trouble,” Severyn said about the incident that could have ended his night or worse.
Severyn’s brush with flying steel came on what looked to be an innocent play along the boards in the Reading end to the right of goalie Riley Gill early in the first period. All of a sudden, a Reading player lost his balance and fell backwards, sending his legs airborne. In an instant, one of his skates headed straight for Severyn who had no time to move out of the way or even duck. Severyn’s visor took the brunt of the hit but the blade still gave the young forward a close shave.
With the run of serious skate-induced injuries in the NHL of late, any kind of play where a blade gets close to a player’s body draws cringes from the fans and teams alike. The fact that in Severyn’s case the skate came close to his eyes made it that much more frightening.
“I caught his toe (of the skate) right by my eye. I laid on the ice not really hurt but I was just thinking in my head before I felt my face with my hand please I hope I don’t see blood because I knew his skate caught me in the face,” he said.
Severyn could have let the incident affect him for the rest of the night but that would not be anything like him. Severyn dusted himself off and got right back into action. His presence on the ice would be crucial at the 8:56 mark of the period. He settled himself into the middle of the slot where defenseman Corbin Baldwin found him with a perfect pass. Severyn quickly collected the puck and fired a wrist shot past Gill for what would be the lone goal of the game.
“He (Severyn) battles all the time. You’re always going to have scrapes, cuts and bruises and little injuries throughout the year. The famous line is are you hurt or are you injured,” Solar Bears head coach Drake Berehowsky said about Severyn. “That’s what hockey players are – they battle through things. I don’t know what it is about hockey players but it seems like they always play hurt and they battle through it because they love the game, they love to compete.”
The remaining 51 minutes of the contest turned into a duel between Gill, who was playing
in his second game since being called up from the SPHL Louisiana IceGators, and Hetenyi, who is on the Nashville Predators’ radar. Neither seemed willing to cave in before the other.
One of Gill’s best saves came early in the second period. With the puck on Rob Mignardi’s stick, Gill, despite being on his belly, out-waited Mignardi to smother his shot. Hetenyi saved a couple of his best stops for the final stanza, showing a quick glove hand to snare a shot by Julien Cayer early on and then snuffing out a two-on-one Royals break by stoning David Marshall.
“We’re glad to have him. Coming from the Nashville organization, you know he’s going to be a quality goalie,” Berehowsky said about Hetenyi. “He’s had great goaltending coaches thru Mitch Korn (Nashville goalie coach). I’ve been able to experience it first hand to know what those guys are teaching and you know that they’re going to send us a good goalie when they are in that organization. We’re very fortunate to have him and he deserves a lot of credit. Tonight he battled hard for that win.”
After the game, Hetenyi, who had two previous shutouts (including one against Orlando) while with Cincinnati, said he had no idea that it was the franchise’s first shutout. What he did know was that Reading had the potential to score at will so being on top of their game was a must for the Solar Bears.
“We know that they have a pretty good team. If we wanted to succeed, we had to put everything on the table. We had to be ready,” Hetenyi said. “I think I was ready to battle. I like to battle against good teams. I think it’s a big challenge for an athlete and I’m really glad and happy that we did great (with) teamwork tonight and we beat this very good team.”
With the Orlando Magic taking over the Amway Center for an NBA game on Friday, the teams will get a day off on Friday before doing battle again Saturday evening at 7 p.m. Prior to the regular game, the Solar Bears will host the first annual “Be Great Classic”, a celebrity game with proceeds going to the Boys and Girls Clubs of Central Florida. Former IHL Orlando stars Bob Joyce and Allan Bester will play as will Berehowsky and seven-time Stanley Cup winner Bryan Trottier.
Berehowsky, whose playing career ended in 2006, said that he is keeping his expectations low for himself, joking that it could be scary for fans watching him on the ice.
“I haven’t put on equipment in a long time. It’ll be fun,” he said. “If you don’t practice your skills every day, you lose a lot so I hope people don’t expect me to be flying up and down the wings because that won’t be the case. It’ll be more of me floating in the middle of the ice looking to pass the puck to people.”
Game time for the “Be Great Classic” is 4 p.m. Tickets for the Solar Bears game will be good for both contests.
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