Solar Bears down rival Everblades in Greg Miller’s return

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Bryce Brimhall / Valencia Voice

Patrick Watling scored his third goal as a Solar Bear in Saturday's win over Florida.

Greg Miller scored a goal in his first game back to Orlando in over three weeks as the Solar Bears defeated the in-state rival Florida Everblades 3-1 in front of an announced attendance of 8,799 in the Amway Center on Saturday.

In a game where the Solar Bears “Ugly Sweater” jerseys were gaining a lot of hype through social media it was the return of two players, specifically forward Scott Tanski, that had the fans excited for Orlando’s first game back home since December 15.

Miller’s goal opened up the scoring 5:10 into the opening period when he followed up a Jacob Cepis shot off the goalie and put it into the net for his first goal since returning to the Solar Bears from the AHL’s Portland Pirates.

“I think the most important thing about Greg Miller is his leadership,” said Solar Bears interim head coach Danny Brooks following the game. “His ability in the locker room to settle things down and his ability to play the 200-foot game, he’s a great defensive player, he’s one of the guys that’s out there at the end of  the game to win the draw, he blocks shots, he does all the intangibles extremely well,

“He’s a big piece to our puzzle, there’s no question about it.”

Despite outshooting Florida 16-9 during the opening period Orlando went into the first intermission tied 1-1 after Alex Aleardi scored a power play with 1:56 remaining in the period.

The Solar Bears came out in the second period and had 21 shots on net, including a go-ahead one-timer goal from Patrick Watling with 4:50 remaining in the period. Orlando extended their lead 52 seconds after the Watling goal when Cepis scored his fourth goal of the season to make the lead 3-1 over Florida going into the locker room for the second intermission.

Mike Aviani cut Orlando’s lead to 3-2 when he scored a shorthanded goal for Florida 3:25 into the third period. Aviani’s goal was the eighth shorthanded goal the Solar Bears have given up this season which puts them at the top of the league in that category.

“We need to tighten up a little bit in that area,” said Brooks after the game. “But I think the most important thing is we stayed composed.”

The win was the Solar Bear’s fifth at home this season and was also shown live on WKMG Local 6 in Orlando, marking the first of three games the team will have televised locally this season.

“I think it’s great for people to be able to watch us who don’t know who the Solar Bears are and they got to see a great and exciting hockey game.” said Orlando goalie Kent Patterson about the game being televised locally.

Patterson earned his fifth win of the season and made 34 saves on 36 attempts in a short notice start after Garrett Sparks was called up to the Toronto Marlies during the week.

Orlando’s record improved to 15-13-3 for the season with the win and puts them in a three-way tie for fourth in the ECHL’s East Division with 33 points.

The Solar Bears face-off against the Everblades again on Sunday at 6 p.m. at the Amway Center, which will be Orlando’s final game before the New Year.