ORLANDO, Fla. – The Orlando Solar Bears (36-25-7-3) clinched a spot in the 2017 Kelly Cup Playoffs as they held on for a thrilling 5-3 win over the Florida Everblades (45-21-2-3) in front of a sellout crowd of 9,555 on Fan Appreciation Night on Friday at the ARS.com Rink at Amway Center.
Click here for the box score.
The Everblades took an early lead just 29 seconds into the match when Kevin Raine fired a wrist shot from the blueline that beat Ryan Massa through a screen.
The Solar Bears drew level when Joe Perry knocked in his team-leading 35th goal of the season at 5:44 after Orlando successfully broke the puck out of their zone and Justin Buzzeo tapped the puck across the slot to the left side of Anthony Peters’ crease, allowing Perry to tap the puck over the goal line.
Milos Bubela pulled the Solar Bears ahead with a power-play goal at 9:11 after Eric Baier’s one-timer from the blue line was initially blocked, allowing Taylor Doherty to get a shot on goal. Doherty’s rebound bounced off the right leg pad of Peters to the left circle, where Bubela fired the puck into an open net.
Orlando extended its lead to two goals when Eric Faille flipped the puck across the slot towards Buzzeo as he drove the net and the puck caromed off an Everblades defender and into the net at 10:01.
Bryce Aneloski brought Florida back to within a goal while the Everblades were on the man advantage late in the frame, as he snapped a shot from the high slot past Massa’s left pad at 18:17.
Brendan O’Donnell evened the score to make it 3-3 at 8:18 of the second period as he snapped a shot between Massa’s shoulder and the left post.
Doherty pulled Orlando ahead for good with a power-play marker after he received a pass from Chris Crane, settled the puck on his stick blade and let loose a wrist shot that rippled into the top-right corner of the net at 10:52.
The Everblades pulled Peters for an extra skater late in the third period, but Crane sealed the game with an empty-net tally at 18:46 to send the Solar Bears back to the postseason.
Massa finished the night with 47 saves on 50 shots against to earn his 22nd victory of the season, breaking the single-season franchise record that he had shared with Garret Sparks’ 21-win effort in the 2014-15 campaign; Peters took the loss with 13 stops on 17 shots against.
1) Ryan Massa – ORL
2) Joe Perry – ORL
3) Eric Baier – ORL
The Solar Bears conclude the 2016-17 regular season on Saturday, April 8, when they face the Everblades at Germain Arena at 7 p.m.
While Orlando awaits the determination of its first round opponent in the 2017 Kelly Cup Playoffs, the team has announced that tickets for the best-of-seven South Division Semifinals will go on sale to the general public on Tuesday, April 11.
The Solar Bears will host the following dates of the South Division Semifinals:
- Game 3 – Thursday, April 20 at 7 p.m.
- Game 4 – Saturday, April 22 at 7 p.m.
- Game 5 (if necessary) – Sunday, April 23 at 4 p.m.
South Division Playoff Picture:
1st: Florida Everblades – CLINCHED DIVISION
2nd: Greenville Swamp Rabbits – CLINCHED SECOND PLACE
3rd: South Carolina Stingrays – 71 GP, 39-28-3-1 record, 82 points, 38 ROW
3rd: Orlando Solar Bears – 71 GP, 36-25-7-3 record, 82 points, 33 ROW
5th: Cincinnati Cyclones – ELIMINATED
6th: Atlanta Gladiators – ELIMINATED
7th: Norfolk Admirals – ELIMINATED
**Top four teams in each division qualify for the Kelly Cup Playoffs. First tie-breaker after points is ROW (Regulation + Overtime Wins)
The Solar Bears mobile app, presented by BB&T, gives Solar Bears fans everything they need right in their pocket. The app is also home to the brand-new Loyalty & Rewards Program, which provides Solar Bears fans with opportunities to accumulate points and redeem them for exclusive prizes. The app is FREE and available for both iOS and Android devices.
The Orlando Solar Bears are the proud ECHL affiliate of the NHL’s Toronto Maple Leafs and AHL’s Toronto Marlies, and play all of their home games at the ARS.com Rink at Amway Center, the 2012 Street and Smith’s Sports Business Journal Sports Facility of the Year.
Follow the Solar Bears at www.OrlandoSolarBearsHockey.com, Facebook, and Twitter (@OrlandoHockey) for all the latest news and updates. Stay in touch with Shades on Instagram by following SolarBearsHockey.
Season tickets, Corporate Flex vouchers, and Group tickets are a great way to entertain employees, co-workers, clients, friends and family. For more information on all of the Solar Bears ticket packages, call (407) 951-8200 or visit orlandosolarbearshockey.com/groups.
Officially licensed Orlando Solar Bears replica team jerseys, apparel, and headwear can be purchased online at orlandosolarbearshockey.com/shop.