Solar Bears fall back-to-back games, lose to Gladiators 3-2

ORLANDO – Eddie Levens scored his first professional goal on Thursday, but it wasn’t enough for the Solar Bears as they lost 3-2 to the Gwinnett Gladiators on Feb. 21 at the Amway Center.

Levens who is a resident of Clermont, FL had played in 28 games for Orlando before putting in his first goal as a Solar Bear.

“I think my mom and little brother were here today,” said Levens about scoring his first goal in his hometown. “It’s nice to have someone there supporting you, knowing that they’re there rooting you on all the time.”

Evan Bloodoff gave Gwinnett an early 1-0 lead over Orlando when he scored his 15th goal of the season with 18:07 left to play in the first period.

The puck looked to have been hand-passed to Bloodoff, but it was not called by the referees and the goal stood.

The Solar Bears went into the second period trailing the Gladiators 1-0, but Orlando outshot Gwinnett 6-5 during the opening period.

Ryan Blair tied the game at 1-1 when he scored a powerplay goal off of a pass from Chris Lawrence, four and a half minutes into the second period.

Levens gave the Solar Bears a 2-1 lead when scored his goal as a pro, thanks to a pass into the crease from Justin Levac with 3:26 remaining in the second stanza.

“I saw an opportunity,” said Levens about his goal. “I’m not really a goal scorer, I try to make the most of what the situation had an I got a lucky bounce, great pass by one of my teammates, luckily able to tip it in for the goal.”

“It seemed easy,” said Levens about his goal from the Levac pass. “I felt he did all the work, if it wasn’t for him making eye contact and me calling for it, and if it wasn’t for that, it probably never happened, but he made a great pass.”

The Gladiators tied the game at 2-2 when Joey Haddad scored on a powerplay less than three minutes into the third period.

Andy Brandt gave Gwinnett a 3-2 lead two minutes after Haddad tied the game, when he scored his ninth goal of the season on a Doug Jones assist.

Orlando spent the final 15 minutes of the third period trying to score the equalizing goal, but couldn’t manage to get one past Jody O’Neill.

“You want to make the puck into the net,” added Levens. “Anything can happen when you drive, so you’ve always go to make sure you got to work hard, you got to make sure to trust your teammates to get the puck to you and see what happens.”

With the loss Orlando’s record falls to 24-27-2-3. The team now sits in a tie for 11th place in the Eastern Conference, while being seven points back of the eighth and final playoff spot.

“I thought we played great today honestly,” said Levens after the game. “I felt our team dominated most of the game, it’s just I feel that we just have to get more shots and more opportunities.”

The Solar Bears next game will be on Friday, Feb. 22 against the Gwinnett Gladiators at 7:00 p.m. at the Amway Center.