The Orlando Solar Bears played a three-in-four set of games all against the Wheeling Nailers last weekend. One win raised hopes, but then the team continued their disappointing play at home in the 3rd game of the series.
Orlando opened the series against Wheeling with a 5-2 victory. Mike Monfredo and Max Novak led the way with three points, while J.J. Piccinich scored two power-play goals. Max Novak added the fifth goal for the Bears and Cal Heeter stopped 22 shots on his way to the win.
Sunday’s contest was a 9:30 am start to accommodate a concert originally scheduled during Hurricane Irma. Slow starts have been an issue for the Bears all season, and Orlando seemed to sleepwalk through the first period sporting the Nailers to a 3-0 advantage in the first period until Joe Perry’s goal with one second remaining on the period cut the lead to 3-1. Wheeling eventually ballooned the lead to 5-1 before the Bears attempted to mount a comeback. Tayler Thompson, Chris Crane, and Sam Jardine added goals, and Joe Perry added a second of the morning to cut the lead to the ultimate final score of 6-5 for the Nailers.
Monday’s contest saw the team play a scoreless first period, which was an improvement over recent starts for Orlando. Joe Perry nearly opened the scoring for the Bears as a shot got past Wheeling goaltender Adam Morrison, the puck was nearly across the goal line, but “all of the puck did not cross all of the line” according to the video review, much to the consternation of the home crowd.
Orlando seemed irritated with the Nailers play throughout the series, and this was another penalty-filled affair, with 16 penalties called during the game. Hunter Fejes, acquired earlier in the season from Wheeling was particularly frustrated with the Nailers, and during a line change on a stoppage of play, skated close to the Wheeling bench and faked jumping into their bench. He received a face wash from Jeremy Beirnes for the effort. Fejes was assessed an unsportsmanlike conduct minor, and no penalty was called on Beirnes for his part in the confrontation. This seemed to set both teams on edge for the balance of the contest.
With less than 45 seconds remaining in the game, another altercation at the Solar Bears goal saw Bears Captain Sean Zimmerman pull Wheeling’s Cam Brown to the ice. Brown retaliated with a slash to Zimmerman, and Bears Kyle Rankin jumped into the scrum. All three players were issued misconduct penalties, and Solar Bears Head Coach Drake Berehowsky was issued an unsportsmanlike conduct minor for disputing the decision, and a game misconduct for abuse of officials.
We spoke with Sean Zimmerman after the game Monday, and he expressed concern with the effort from all of the guys in the room. The answer has to come from the individuals on the team. You can watch Zimmerman’s media availability below:
Sean Zimmerman - PostgamePosted by Orlando Solar Bears on Monday, February 12, 2018
“You know what, when I look at our game it’s never what the other team is doing, it’s what we’re not doing. You look at our first game against them we did everything the right way, and Sunday, we go back to our old ways. It’s a season full of the same things, the same story over and over, and it’s not gonna change unless we change. It’s that simple. Tonight we have a great first period, and come out in the second period and go down three nothing like that…we can’t, it’s tough to come out of a three to nothing hole. We come out in the third period and do our best, but we can’t give teams three to nothing leads.
Zimmerman was asked what he can do to change the mindset. “It’s a culture problem. When you have the same thing happen over and over again it’s…you can’t really talk about it I mean it’s something that has to come in. It’s gotta be passion, it’s gotta be you care, it’s gotta come within some of the guys, and you can’t hold guys hands through the whole thing. They have to come to the realization that, I mean, if you want to make it to the next level, nobody is going to do it for you, you have to do it for yourself. I mean that’s…with all the teams in the league, one team does it right and wins it, the other teams like to talk about it. So, I mean, I’m not sure what the next step forward is but something has to happen.”
Zimmerman was asked if this is something the Bears’ veterans need to address in the locker room, apart from the coaches: “It’s all been said. By the coaching staff, by us in the locker room. That’s the most frustrating part is we know what we have to do; and we still revert back to making turnovers, not intense enough. It’s all been said. Everything’s been said. I came in after the second period, I hate coming to the locker room and being pissed off, it’s just I don’t know what else has to be done. You can’t say it anymore. At this point, it’s February, the middle of February, it’s all been said. We know how to play; we choose not to,
When asked if the players need to be more disciplined, to use as a building block. “Yeah, it’s discipline. Not only is it discipline in; penalty wise, it’s discipline in following the systems. Discipline in all aspects of the game. That’s the story of it. I can honestly say it’s all been said, it has to come, guys have to look themselves in the mirror, and be like, all right, every guy. It’s everyone. And until we, until every guy does that, I don’t see us fixing it, it’s not going to fix itself. It doesn’t automatically just turn around. So, it’s frustrating. I don’t know how else to put it.
Photos from the game February 11th:
The start of a tough month
Orlando began February with a revisit to both South Carolina and Atlanta, the same foes they faced the previous weekend, the results were similar. Orlando struggled offensively against the South Carolina Stingrays, losing 6-2. The next night in Duluth Georgia, facing the Gladiators, the offense returned with a 6-0 victory. Orlando had two goals from Josh Winquist, and single goals from Max Novak, Hunter Fejes, J.J . Piccinich, and Martins Dzierkals.
The Bears returned home for 10 of the next 11 contests at home, with a single road game in Estero to face the Everblades. The home stand began against Florida on Wednesday evening and saw Florida mount a comeback to take a 3-1 victory. J.J Piccinich opened the scoring in the 2nd period for Orlando but the Blades potted three in the third period for the win.
Drake Berehowsky’s post game comments: “I think it’s always hard when you’re on the road for a long time and you come back home I thought we played well in the first two periods, and then we started to get a little , our puck management wasn’t as good as I wanted it to be, and they came back and bit us. Skap’s (Mackenzie Skapski) has been playing great, he’s giving us an opportunity to win every night. We have to be better. We have to play a full 60 minutes of hickey and we didn’t do that tonight. Sometimes I think I’ve got guys who have to have to look in the mirror and realize it’s no good enough yet, and we need more from them. “
Drake was asked about the inconsistent offense, and the problems scoring goals against South Carolina, yet the team seems to score more proficiently against Atlanta (on the previous two road trips: “I don’t have an answer for that. All I know is that we’re not shooting enough, and that’s something we’re trying to get into the guys and make sure they understand that. You shoot the puck more, the more opportunities you have, and we’re not putting enough pucks at the net, we’re not getting enough second and third opportunities from those original shots, and we’ve gotta get better at that. We just have to keep working and stressing those things. “
So far this season Orlando’s longest winning streak is three games, their longest losing streak is nine games. When Orlando scores first, they are 13-4-1-0, When they give up the first goal, they are 8-18-4-1. When they allow, 0, 1 or 2 goals their record is 19-3-2-0.
Orlando continues the home stand with games against the Worchester Railers Thursday, Friday and Saturday. Saturday is the annual Hockey Fights Cancer game, ans they will be wearing special jerseys for the occasion.