Orlando, FL - The Solar Bears picked up a late third period goal to get back to within one, but it wasn't enough as Orlando dropped a 4-3 decision to the Gwinnett Gladiators at the Amway Center on Thursday night.
Gwinnett got off to a strong start in the first period, scoring twice in a 35 second span. At 5:53, F Evan Bloodoff used a burst of speed through the neutral zone to get a clean chance against G John Curry, and buried the opportunity to lift Gwinnett to a 1-0 lead. Then, at 6:28, a shot by D Justin Weller found the back of the net while Curry was down. Orlando answered just 26 seconds afterwards, as F Scott Tanski found F Ryan Ginand on the left side of the net. Ginand slammed home the pass from Tanski to collect the shorthanded goal. Before the end of the period, however, Gwinnett took advantage of a four-minute power play chance, with F Casey Pierro-Zabotel deflecting a shot from F Doug Jones as the Gladiators led 3-1 after one.
Orlando cut the score to 3-2 early in the second period. RW Kevin Baker powered the puck into the attacking end, drilled a shot off the post, and F Olivier Fortier finished the play by tapping the puck into the net 3:40 into the period. Gwinnett answered at 8:14, when Pierro-Zabotel slid out of the left corner and tucked home a backhand shot to restore Gwinnett's two goal lead going into the third period.
Late in the third period, Orlando brought themselves back to within one with 2:12 to play in the game. D Michael Wilson dumped the puck around the boards and Ginand deflected a shot from F Olivier Fortier for his second goal of the night. It would prove to be the only goal scored in the final stanza, as Gwinnett held on for a 4-3 win.