DULUTH, Georgia - The Solar Bears came back from a 3-1 second period deficit to take a 4-3 lead into the third, but could not hold on as the Gladiators collected the 5-4 win at the Arena at Gwinnett Center on Thursday night.
A strong start to the first period helped Orlando get on the board first. After killing off an early penalty, the Solar Bears used a power play of their own to take the 1-0 lead. D Ryan Blair moved the puck to D Alain Goulet who blasted a shot towards the front of the net. Gladiators G Louie Domingue made the stop, but F Scott Tanski batted the puck out of mid-air to give the Solar Bears the advantage at 10:50 of the frame. Gwinnett struck back later in the period, as F Doug Jones polished off a great individual effort by ringing a turn-around shot off the left post and into the net with 2:46 remaining to tie the game at 1-1. The two sides skated into the first intermission locked in the 1-1 score.
Early in the second frame, the Gladiators took their first lead of the contest. F Alex Belzile took the puck into the bottom of the right circle and found F Justin Bowers all alone on the left post for a one-time shot at 2:33 to put Gwinnett ahead 2-1. Gwinnett increased their lead to 3-1 when Bowers collected his second straight goal, this time banking a rebound off the body of Orlando G Patrick Killeen at 12:04 of the period. The Solar Bears came storming back, as F Ryan Berard deflected a shot from D Jason Cohen and then scooped the ensuing rebound into the back of the net to bring Orlando to within one just 42 seconds later. F Dale Mahovsky knotted up the contest for Orlando when he slammed home a rebound on the power play after a one-time blast from Goulet was kicked out by Domingue. With just 16 seconds left in the second stanza, D Michael Wilson finished off the scoring when he found himself all alone in the slot after a pass from F Michael Neal, and he tucked the shot into the bottom left corner to put the Solar Bears ahead 4-3 after 40 minutes of action.
The Gladiators locked up the score at 4-4 just past the halfway point of the third period. F Yuri Bouharevich fired a wrist shot into the top corner of the net at 11:30 to tie the game. Gwinnett completed the comeback when F Andy Brandt found a loose puck after a mad scramble in front of the Orlando goal and just had enough of an angle to slip the puck underneath the crossbar with 3:24 left in the frame to lift Gwinnett to a 5-4 win over Orlando.
Three Stars: 1. A. Brandt (GWT); 2. J. Bowers (GWT); 3. S. Tanski (ORL)
Power Plays: ORL: 2/2; GWT: 0/1
Shots: ORL: 26; GWT: 43
F Brett Hartung, who hails from Tallahassee, Florida, made his Solar Bears debut tonight... F Ryan Berard scored his first pro goal in the second period. It was assists by D Jason Cohen and F Michael Lysyj, who each picked up their first pro points on the play... Orlando and Gwinnett have now had eight of their 10 meetings decided by just one goal... By going 2-for-2 on the power play tonight, Orlando went 100% on the power play for a single game for the first time this season... The Solar Bears have allowed just one power play opportunity against only one other time this season. It previously happened on November 22 at Gwinnett.