ORLANDO, FLA – In writer Alexandre Dumas’ classic tale “The Three Musketeers”, the trio of guards live by the theory of “all for one and one for all”. It is a simple theory, one that can easily be applied to any kind of group or, in the case of sports, team where achieving the group goal is more important that the individual. Right now, if Dumas were alive, he could very well apply the theory to the Orlando Solar Bears hockey team.
Led by Michael Catenacci’s two points and yet another steady effort from goaltender Cody Reichard, the Solar Bears ran their improbable winning streak to 11 games with a 4-3 win over the Kalamazoo Wings in front of an announced crowd of 6,832 at the Amway Center. The victory, combined with South division and Eastern conference leader South Carolina’s loss to Reading, pulled Orlando within two points of the top spot in both the division and the conference.
The win was the Solar Bears’ tenth in a row at home and also ran Reichard’s personal win streak in net to nine games. On a night when Mickey Lang and Taylor Matson were both held off the scoresheet, it took the collective effort of the group to ensure that the start of a three game weekend homestand was a successful one.
“It’s been awesome. There’s nothing better than winning,” Catenacci said about the streak that the Solar Bears began back on February 4th. “We’ve won eleven in a row and we’ve really come together as a team. All the guys are battling for each other. That’s what it comes down to and hopefully we can continue it.”
Continuing the streak was certainly on the minds of the fans and it created a palpable buzz that the Solar Bears team seemed to feed on from the get go. Orlando (33-16-1-2) jumped on the Wings early and the aggressive approach paid off 2:41 into the first period. Zach Harrison gained control of the puck in the Kalamazoo defensive and got loose by making a stick move past a defender. He then fed a pass down low to Catenacci who immediately made a pass to Blake Kessel on the back side. All Kessel had to do was bang the puck home into the open side of the net for his eighth goal of the season.
Kalamazoo (30-18-2-3) responded with a strong push back and the pressure resulted in a game-tying goal at the 13:07 mark. The puck worked its way back to the point where Yannick Veilleux lined up a drive that David Pacan, who was left alone in front, redirected it between Reichard’s legs for his tenth goal of the year.
Before the period ended, the Solar Bears went back in front thanks to some great individual effort. Defenseman Bryce Aneloski stepped up in the neutral zone and created a turnover. He then raced into the Wings end, turned past a defender, made a beautiful fake to get Kalamazoo goalie Jordan Binnington to go down and tucked the puck into the net. It was Aneloski’s fifth goal of the season.
Catenacci provided the only scoring of the second period as once again defensive effort turned into a score. This time it was Catenacci on the forecheck in the Kalamazoo end that caused a turnover. Catenacci then drew the puck around Binnington and lifted a backhander into the top corner for his fourth goal since joining the Solar Bears.
While that was going on, Reichard was turning away everything he was seeing. As he had done in his previous starts, the Celina, Ohio native was making the key saves and letting his teammates do their jobs.
“The guys are playing really well in front of me. I can’t say enough good things about them,” Reichard said. “The way our forwards are backchecking and tracking guys and the defensemen eliminating second opportunities when I give up rebounds and stuff like that and the team effort blocking shots. I can’t say enough about those guys.”
When C.J. Severyn followed his own shot and deposited the rebound behind Binnington for his tenth goal of the season just 29 seconds into the final period, Orlando looked like it had a comfortable three goal lead. Kalamazoo had other ideas and trimmed the lead to two on a score by Justin Taylor at the 1:50 mark.
Former Solar Bear Chris Lawrence scored his second goal in as many games against his one-time employers with seven minutes left in regulation to pull the Wings within one. Whatever designs the visitors had on evening the score were dashed as the Solar Bears defense clamped down, allowing Kalamazoo just two shots on net in the remaining time.
Asked about the win streak after the game, head coach Vince Williams pointed to the team concept and used the win as a perfect example.
“It’s the buy in (to the concept). Some guys were really good tonight and some guys struggled. The guys that maybe struggled were the guys that have been rolling with us. It’s not going to be everyone’s night every night,” Williams said. “When the guys accept that in the sense where they hold themselves accountable but they feed off each other’s successes. You have to spread it out. The good thing is with the type of group we have right now, they’re sharing in each other’s successes. It’s going to take everybody, not just one guy or one line.”
Round two of the weekend trio of battles is set for Saturday night at 7 pm at the Amway Center.
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