Solar Bears even up series after Game 4 win


Danny Morales / Valencia Voice

Solar Bears goalie Garret Sparks saved 37 shots on 40 attempts on Thursday night.

ORLANDO, Fla. — It turns out home ice was exactly what the Orlando Solar Bears needed to get back into the ECHL’s East Division Semifinals.

Brady Vail scored two goals and Garret Sparks stopped 37 shots to lead Orlando to a 4-3 victory over the Florida Everblades on Thursday night in front of 5,364 at the Amway Center.

After trailing the best-of-seven series 2-0 heading into Game 3 at home on Tuesday, the Solar Bears evened up the series after two consecutive home wins.

“It’s always good to win the games at home,” Vail said. “We’re going to have to get one in their [arena] it’s going to look like so hopefully we got the same energy Saturday. The fans were definitely behind us tonight so hopefully [they’re loud on] Saturday again. It really pushes us when the crowd is into it.”

The Solar Bears scored first in the game on a goal by forward Marshall Everson at the 4:03 mark of the first period. The Everblades then tied it up at one all later in the first period when Mike Little scored his first goal of the postseason.

Everblades forward Nicolas Deschamps dropped in his third goal of the series at the 8:07 mark of the second period to give Florida a 2-1 lead. The Solar Bears countered on a Brett Findlay goal just 46 seconds before the second intermission to tie the game at two.

Vail then went to work in the third period to score both of his goals in the contest to put the Solar Bears up for good. Vail’s first goal occurred while the Solar Bears were in a penalty kill.

“I don’t know what got into him in the third period,” Solar Bears head coach Vince Williams said. “He was flying. Sometimes when they’re going, you just got to let them go. He jumped on that pretty quick. Ben Johnson did a good job, too. Both are guys that can skate and can track well. That’s one of their biggest assets is their skating.”

The Solar Bears responded to Tuesday’s effort of attempting only 19 shots on goal by putting up 33 shots on Thursday night. Florida held a 15 to 12 shot advantage after the first period before the two teams were tied at 25 shots each after the second period.

The two teams resume play on Saturday for the final home game of the series for the Solar Bears before the matchup shifts back down to Estero for Games 6 and 7, if necessary.

“You just got to get some rest and digest everything,” Williams said on not looking ahead. “Wake up tomorrow and see how we feel and just get ready. You can’t look past Saturday, we haven’t done it all year.”

Game 5 will begin Saturday night at 7 p.m. at Amway Center.