EVANSVILLE, IND – Some nights everything goes your way and then there are others when nothing goes right. The response to a bad night says a lot about future success. Saturday night at the Ford Center, the Orlando Solar Bears were facing just that situation and they responded in the best way possible.
Paced by the third multi-goal game of the season by Scott Tanski and three points from Taylor Matson, the Solar Bears avenged a bad loss with a 5-2 win over the Evansville IceMen. The victory put an end to a two-game losing streak and kept the Solar Bears within three points of the top spot in the ECHL Eastern conference playoff race.
Having lost 7-1 to the IceMen just 24 hours before, the necessity to eliminate the horrible taste was hugely important. To that end, Orlando head coach Vince Williams altered his roster, inserting Tanski along with Connor Goggin and Zach Yuen – all of whom had sat out Friday – to change up his team’s look and attitude.
The reinsertion of Tanski paid immediate dividends three minutes into the first period. During a penalty kill, Tanski and Matson broke into the Evansville end on an odd man rush after a Matson steal at center ice. Matson waited until the right moment when he fed Tanski who one-timed the puck past IceMen goalie Garrett Bartus.
Evansville (27-23-3-7, 64 points) played a patient period and took advantage of an opportunity to tie the score late in the frame. With a little under five minutes left before the intermission, Kellen Tochkin ended up with the puck below the Orlando goal line. He attempted to make a pass to the slot but it never made it there, instead redirecting off the skate of a Solar Bears defender past goalie Cody Reichard into the net.
It looked like the rest of the stanza would be scoreless as the teams began to settle in on defense. That all changed with 1:08 to go before the break when Orlando (36-19-2-2, 76 points) took the lead back. It was a solo effort by Zach Harrison that did the trick as he started to make a move from the corner toward the front of the Evansville net. As the defense committed to block the cut, he quickly went around the other side of the net and tucked a backhander between the legs of a moving Bartus for his 14th goal of the year.
The score stayed at 2-1 until the later stages of the second period when the teams traded power play tallies. Orlando got its score first at the 14:02 mark when Tyler Murovich got the rebound of a Mike Duco shot and fed Tanski who found the back of the net. Evansville answered back four minutes later when Matt Krug, brother of Boston Bruins defenseman Torey Krug, lined up a blast from the point that ripped into the top corner past Reichard.
With the outcome still hanging in the balance, the Solar Bears got their third man advantage opportunity early in the third period and cashed in. Matson once again was on the giving end as he slipped a pass to Mickey Lang who pinged a one-timer into the top left corner of the net for his league leading 38th goal.
Reichard then became the focal point of the game as the IceMen pummeled him with 15 shots in the final twenty minutes. As he had done on several occasions, Reichard held the fort, knocking away everything that Evansville threw at him to maintain the lead on the way to a 25-save performance. Matson sealed the win with an empty net goal in the final minute to produce the final score.
Orlando will spend Sunday on the road before pulling into Kalamazoo, Michigan for a St. Patrick’s Day Monday game with the first place Wings.
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