ELMIRA, NY – As late season games go, Saturday’s visit by the Orlando Solar Bears to the First Arena and the Elmira Jackals may not have meant much in the standings. It could however be seen as a tone setter for the fans of the team on the outside looking in on the playoff race.
Elmira’s Andrew Rowe scored the game winning goal 33 seconds into overtime as the Jackals edged the Solar Bears 6-5, keeping Elmira in the number four spot in the Eastern conference standings. As it turned out, the Solar Bears may have been the bigger winners based on the simple fact that the game went into extra time.Rowe’s goal, set up by Matt Carter, was the third Elmira shot on Orlando goalie Patrick Killeen in the extra period. It capped off a wild final twenty-six minutes that saw the visitors come back from being down two goals and the home team jump back in front twice more only to have the score knotted again. Through it all, the Solar Bears showed a resolve that exceeded its 8-20-2-0 road record.
The Solar Bears (26-29-3-3) looked like they were in trouble in the early going as the Jackals jumped them for two goals and double digit shots in the first thirteen minutes of the opening period. Orlando did survive over a minute of five-on-three power play time that Elmira had but when Jordon Southorn and Jordan Pietrus beat Killeen in a span of four minutes, the host team had a two goal lead.
Instead of allowing the Jackals to go in for the kill, the Solar Bears dug their collective heels in and began to fight back. It started when Killeen stoned Kevin Harvey with a huge save. Not too long after that, Orlando’s Justin Levac broke up an Elmira offensive foray and moved the puck to Ryan Cruthers who eventually set up C.J. Severyn who beat Jackals netminder Maxime Clermont to trim the margin to 2-1.
Elmira (34-21-3-4) held that lead until the 12:42 mark of the middle period when Jean Bourbeau fired a Carter pass home after the Jackals had crashed Killeen’s net. Solar Bears head coach Drake Berehowsky and Killeen both protested, claiming goaltender interference but the goal stood. The Solar Bears needed a response and it came quickly when Dale Mahovsky, who was playing in just his second game since February 2nd, jumped on the rebound of a Scott Tanski shot and beat Clermont at the 13:50 mark.
As the third period opened, none of the 3,823 at the First Arena had no idea of the offensive shootout that was about to come. It started 3:22 into the stanza when Levac fed Cruthers who got Clermont to commit before making a move and depositing a backhander into the net to tie the score at three. Just over four minutes later, the Jackals jumped back in front when Rowe set up Brandon Blandina for a short-handed goal off an odd-man rush.
Elmira held the lead for five minutes before the Solar Bears again evened the scoreboard, this time in somewhat controversial fashion. With Orlando buzzing around the Elmira net, a wild scramble ensued in the crease area. All of a sudden, the Solar Bears started celebrating but referee Chris Pitoscia made no signal. After talking to the goal judge, Pitoscia signaled goal with the credit going to Mahovsky.
Undeterred by the tying score, the Jackals moved back in front when Chaz Johnson wired a wrist shot into the top left corner of the net with less than six minutes left in regulation. Once again facing a deficit, Orlando got a chance to pull even again when Rowe was called for tripping. On the ensuing man advantage, Solar Bear forward Rob Mignardi was in the right spot to redirect a pass past Clermont at the 16:52 mark for what would be the final goal of regulation. Despite a furious push by the Jackals in the final seconds, the score remained tied, setting the scene for Rowe’s heroics in the overtime.
Orlando will finish its northeast corridor trip Sunday afternoon when they visit the Trenton Titans for a 3:05 p.m. face-off.
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