Last night, the Orlando Solar Bears defeated the Brampton Beast 3-2 at The Powerade Centre in Brampton. It was the first time these two teams have every played against each other. The Beast are affiliated with the Montreal Canadiens, and the Solar Bears with the Maple Leafs. To play up the connection to that rivalry, the teams wore jerseys specially designed for the series, both with colours inspired by their NHL affiliate clubs.
Not in the lineup was Max Nicastro, who was traded earlier in the day by the Marlies. Solar Bears' Coach Anthony Noreen had to make a few line-up changes to accommodate the sudden move, but it was not something he was concerned with managing.
"That's one of the things that, for me, moving up to this level you get accustomed to. When it's only one it's pretty easy. There's been days where it's been four or five, those are the tough ones."
The first period was a story of goal tending, with the Bears' Ryan Massa, and the Beast's Jordan Ruby having to make some tough saves on solid scoring chances. Despite the Solar Bears having strong puck possession and sustaining significant pressure towards the end of the first period, it ended 0-0.
Noreen has previously said it's important the team is playing playoff hockey now.
"I thought our first ten minutes, I thought our start was really strong," he said. "I thought we certainly set the tone; got a ton of grade A chances [but they've] gotta put the puck in the net."
He believes when real playoff hockey comes the team will not have that many scoring chances, so it is imperative to turn as many as possible into goals or "it was a 0-0 game and next thing you know you're down 2-1, and you're having to come from behind."
Noreen was referring to a chaotic few minutes in the second period. Eight minutes in, Matt Rupert picked up his eleventh goal of the season, but the lead didn't last long. Four minutes later the Beast's Jordan Henry answered back, putting the puck past Massa. The Beast followed up quickly when Ryan Schwartz took a tripping penalty. Mike Hammond was well positioned in front of the net, and picked up a pass, picking up their second goal in only 55 seconds.
The Beast's lead didn't last long. 57 seconds later T.J. Foster had a quick breakaway which he turned into a goal. He then picked up an assist on the game winning goal by Patrick Watling. In all seven different Solar Bears picked up points on the three goals.
In the third period the Beast's game was slowed down, as they were hampered by penalties, including a double minor by for high-sticking by Dalton Thrower. Through the whole game the Solar Bears had 12 minutes of power play time. Coach Noreen acknowledged the Beast were good at killing penalties, but was concerned they couldn't score on any of them.
"Our power play had a chance to put the game away a couple times, we've got to put the game away. Especially that 4 minute [double minor], I thought we certainly needed to score on that," he said.
The Beast pulled their goalie in the dying minutes when James Martin took a penalty, but the Bears successfully killed off their two man advantage. The game ended 3-2, and with a possible new rivalry born.
If you haven't yet been to an ECHL game before, why not give it a try tonight and get a rare chance to see these particular Leafs' prospects? You may also get a chance to at a free hot dog from the hot dog cannon!
Hot dog cannon at the .@BramptonBeast game. Yes. I mean that literally. That thing shoots hot dogs into the crowd. pic.twitter.com/3Ld3CI1XMW— Pension Plan Puppets (@PPPLeafs) March 11, 2016
Don't forget about our bet with Eyes on The Prize. If the Solar Bears win tonight's game, they will have to change their Twitter logo! Game 2 starts at 7:15 PM.