ORLANDO, FLA – A quick look at the season-to-date statistics for the Orlando Solar Bears told a story, a story that personified the team’s season to date: third periods were dangerous. In the previous eight games, the Solar Bears had been outscored 10-5 in the final twenty minutes by their opponents.
All that changed for the good Thursday night as a three goal third period propelled Orlando to a 4-1 victory over the Elmira Jackals in front of an announced crowd of 4,737 at the Amway Center. Mike Ullrich, C.J. Severyn and Scott Tanski scored the trio of tallies in support of goalie John Curry’s 35-save performance.
“I thought we had a good first ten minutes of the first period and then we slowly started turning the puck over a little bit and started playing on our heels a bit. In the second period, I don’t think was our best,” Solar Bears head coach Vince Williams said. “I think when we elevated our level of hard and winning some more battles and moving our feet and letting the puck do the work and getting in on the forecheck, we certainly saw a lot different results.”
The win may have come at a cost as Ullrich was rammed hard into the boards by Elmira defenseman Mathieu Gagnon with just under two minutes left. Ullrich needed help getting to his skates and off the ice while Gagnon drew the attention of several Solar Bears including Ian Slater and newcomer Francis Verreault-Paul before leaving the game with a major penalty and a game misconduct beside his name on the score sheet. No information regarding Ullrich’s status was available following the game.
The Solar Bears (4-4-0-1), coming off of four days of rest and practice, had much more early jump in their skates than the Jackals who had played in southwest Florida on Wednesday night and didn’t arrive in Orlando until after 5 pm. The sluggishness led to an early power play for the home team and the visitors paid a price.
Andrew Johnston started the play when he fed the puck to Tyler Murovich who made a beeline toward goalie Maxime Clermont and the Elmira net. Murovich fired and Clermont made the save but the Orlando forward kept coming and knocked the rebound into the back of the net. The goal was Murovich’s first as a member of the Solar Bears.
It turned out to be the lone score of the opening period as Clermont and Curry took control of the game. While Orlando’s offense tapered off over the back half of the frame, Elmira’s picked up, keeping Curry much busier than he was in the first ten minutes.
With the way Curry has been dialed in of late, facing 14 shots in a period is just another day at the office for him.
“I just thought it was another game. It was tough at times. I thought we played well at times
and they obviously got some momentum and got some shots on the board,” Curry said. “For the most part I thought we played well. I didn’t feel like I had to really play out of my mind by any means. (Give) credit to the guys. They’re (Elmira) a tough, desperate team.”
That tough, desperate team tied the score early in the second period thanks in part to a momentary lapse by the Orlando defense. Curry made a save on a shot from Danny Hobbs but Artem Demkov, left alone in front, scooped up the rebound and lifted a backhander into the top of the net. The rest of the period was a defensive struggle that ended with the score still tied at the second intermission.
The game unraveled for Elmira (2-5-0-0) during the first half of the final frame. It began when Bryce Aneloski rushed the puck into the Jackals end and made a brilliant cross-crease pass to Ullrich who had an open net to steer the puck into just 58 seconds in. Curry also picked up an assist on the play.
At the 8:33 mark, Verreault-Paul, playing in his first game since signing with the Solar Bears on Tuesday, fed a pass to Severyn who drifted into the high slot and unleashed a shot that hit the top corner behind Clermont. Just over a minute after that, Scott Tanski cleaned up the rebound of a Zach Yuen shot, putting a backhander into the back of the cage.
For Verreault-Paul, who was seeing his first game action in about six or seven months, getting back into the flow was exciting.
“I really missed the hockey. It’s been over six months (that) I haven’t played a game,” Verreault said. “The first period I was kind of rusty but after that I felt pretty good.”
As the clock wound down, Elmira’s level of frustration grew, leading to some testy exchanges after whistles. It all led to Gagnon hitting Ullrich and Verreault-Paul immediately jumping in to defend his teammate.
Following a week that saw several roster changes including Kory Nagy being called up to The Toronto Marlies and the release of Mat Sisca, Williams said that he was pleased with how the team responded, especially on offense.
“We need to generate more shots. We need to be harder to play against and we need more energy and we have to start scoring a little bit more,” Williams said. “We had what 45 shots, 18 in the third period and almost all of them were in the middle of the house – right in the middle of the slot. That’s a tough place to play so that’s what we want, that’s what we need from these guys.”
The Solar Bears are now off until they host the Toledo Walleye for a pair of Military Appreciation weekend games on Sunday afternoon and Veterans Day Monday night.
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