Solar Bears lose back-to-back against first place Gladiators

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Fernando Medina/OSB

ORLANDO — The Orlando Solar Bears lost to the Gwinnett Gladiators for the second straight night on Thursday by a score of 4-3 at the Amway Center. Orlando had played Gwinnett three times in eight days, losing all three games to the Gladiators.

“They’re a good team what can you say. They play hard, they do things right,” said Solar Bears head coach Drake Berehowsky after the game. “I don’t think they’ve seen the best of us yet.”

“We’ve got to go back, hit the drawing board again, and keep going at it.”

Orlando was down early for the second straight night after Gwinnett jumped to an early lead thanks to a goal by Gladiators’ forward Evan Bloodoff, the goal came less than six minutes into the game.Gwinnett would add another goal to their lead less than a minute later when defenseman Justin Weller scored his first goal of the season for the Gladiators.

“You always want to score the first goal,” said Orlando captain Ryan Cruthers. “It’s hard when you’re playing catch up all the time.”

The Solar Bears would cut the Gladiators lead to one when Ryan Ginand scored a shorthanded goal with 13 minutes left in the first period, but Orlando would go back to trailing by two after ECHL scoring leader Casey Pierro-Zabotel put the puck in the back of the net on a powerplay with five minutes left in the first period.

Olivier Fortier would bring the Solar Bears back within one when he scored his fourth goal of the season less than four minutes into the second period, but that was as close as Orlando would get to catching up with the Gladiators.

Pierro-Zabotel later scored his second goal of the night to make the score 4-2 in favor of Gwinnett.

Ryan Ginand added another goal for the Solar Bears with less than two minutes left in the third period, but Orlando was not able to send the game into overtime.

Ginand has three points on the night, making him second on the team in scoring behind last month’s ECHL player of the month Nick Petersen. Petersen entered the game with the ECHL scoring lead, but would lose the scoring lead to Pierro-Zabotel after his two goal performance.

“We’re always trying to be positive no matter what happens,” said Berehowsky. “When we win we don’t get too high, when we lose we try not to get too low.”

The Solar Bears will go into their off day on Friday, riding a three game losing streak, before facing off against the Elmira Jackets at home on Saturday night.With the loss, Orlando is now 5-4-2-1 for the season, and currently sit in third place in the ECHL’s South Division.

“It’s a long season, and you’re going to have these spurts,” said Cruthers. “But we still got a point yesterday, so at least we’re grabbing points where we can.”

The Gladiators will return to the Amway Center on Sunday to play the Solar Bears for the fourth time in two weeks. Orlando is 0-3 against Gwinnett so far this season, with one loss coming in overtime on Wednesday.