ORLANDO, FLA – Judging by the smile on the face of Orlando Solar Bears head coach Drake Berehowsky, you’d think he had gotten the best Christmas present ever. Given the fortunes of his team of late, it was the present of all presents.
Sunday afternoon at the Amway Center, Berehowsky’s Solar Bears got goals from six different players as they defeated the Fort Wayne Komets 6-2 in front of 6,671 fans. It was the second largest scoring game of the season for an Orlando team that had scored seven goals in its previous seven games.
After having Darcy Kuemper play two straight games, the Solar Bears got goalie John Curry back from Houston. Unfortunately, when Kuemper got on the plane to Texas, he took defenseman Kyle Medvec with him. Orlando was also without Nick Petersen again and Ryan Ginand was added to the reserve list after Saturday’s tilt. To make up for Ginand’s absence, Dale Mahovsky, who was acquired along with Dan Gendur from Evansville, made his first appearance.
Not wanting to fall behind yet again, Orlando came out with a fast and furious pace at the start. The pressure paid off quickly when C.J. Severyn cleaned up the rebound of a Michael Wilson drive from the point and put it past Fort Wayne netminder Ken Reiter just 1:40 into the first period.
Less than four minutes later, the lead doubled and once again Wilson was the lynchpin. The play started when Mat Sisca carried the puck into the Komets end. He dropped a pass to Wilson who quickly turned and slid the puck across the slot to a wide open Sean Lorenz who ripped a one-timer into the open side of the net. The goal at 5:15 was Lorenz’ first goal as a professional.
As the period came to a close, things got heated on the ice as Orlando’s Ryan Reaves and Fort Wayne’s Brent Henley had words in front of the Komets bench. One thing led to another and the linesmen had to step in but as they did, Henley got his right arm loose enough to hit Reaves several times. When the dust settled, Reaves got two minutes and Henley received a fighting major and a game misconduct.
“There’s times to fight and there’s times not to. We were up by a couple of goals and I know he (Henley) was trying to get his team going and all those guys trying to get the boys going,” Reaves said. “At that time, there was no point for me to fight – it wasn’t going to help our team anyway.”
Leading 2-0 heading into the second, the Solar Bears had an opportunity to put a stranglehold with a three minute power play thanks to Henley. Reiter kept Orlando off the board and his teammates rewarded him with a short-handed tally when Stephon Thorne threaded a pass to Brandon Marino who popped it past Curry to cut the lead to 2-1.
The Marino goal woke up the Solar Bears and they responded quickly. Just before the midway point of the period, Olivier Fortier carried the puck down the near side boards looking to make a play. At that moment, Reaves busted straight down the slot, took a perfect pass from Fortier and put it in the back of the net for his first goal as a Solar Bear.
With less that three minutes left before the intermission, Fort Wayne’s Daniel Maggio went to the box for holding, giving the Orlando power play, which had been blanked to that point, an opportunity to extend the lead. They finally cashed in when Lorenz flipped a backhand pass to captain Ryan Cruthers who knocked it down and ripped a slap shot past Reiter to give the Solar Bears a 4-1 margin heading to the final stanza.
The Komets pulled back within two early in the third period when Ryan Lasch banked home a shot from a bad angle on a power play just over four minutes into the stanza. The Solar Bears got that one back with a man advantage tally of their own soon after when Gendur set up Fortier for his ninth goal of the season. Three minutes later, Severyn won an offensive zone face-off back to Bryce Lampman at the point. Lampman would up and blasted a shot into the back of the net to produce the final score of the contest. It was Lampman’s first goal in a Solar Bears uniform.
After the game, Lampman said that the team’s recent struggles have been frustrating but that they are always looking forward instead of worrying about the past.
“It has been real frustrating but it’s that type of game where you can have a breakout game all of a sudden and things start going in and the bounces start happening,” Lampman said. “It also is a game. It ends today and we have to start focusing on the next game because the next game is going to be just as tough to score goals.”
Orlando now will head out on another two-week road trip starting with a swing through the Northeast to Elmira, Reading and Trenton before two games in Estero against the Florida Everblades before Christmas. Berehowsky said that the discipline and structure his Solar Bears exhibited Sunday will be an important key to having success on the road.
“They all stuck to our four pillars of success. We put them up in the room for a reason and the players follow it today,” he said. “They showed intensity. They showed character and resilience. They showed everything a great team shows. Now they just have to keep building on it and remember this. We’ll show them video of it – we’ll show the good and the ugly. We’ll go over all of that so they understand it.”
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