Solar Bears rally for OT win over Atlanta

Orlando wins 3-2

© LAKANA

ORLANDO, Fla. - The Orlando Solar Bears (40-25-4-1) rallied from a 2-0 deficit to force overtime before Colby McAuley scored in the extra session to lift Orlando to a 3-2 win over the Atlanta Gladiators (31-28-8-3) on Thursday night at the ARS.com Rink at Amway Center.

The Gladiators took a 1-0 lead at 11:40 of the first period when Justin MacDonald settled the puck off the glass at the right side of the net and found Nolan LaPorte in front, who stuffed a shot past Connor Ingram for a power-play goal.

Atlanta made it 2-0 after a shot from the right point caromed off the end boards to the left circle where Brett McKenzie hammered a shot past Ingram at 15:11 as the goaltender was getting back in position.

The Solar Bears restored some momentum in the second period after successfully killing a 5-on-3 penalty sequence with Mathieu Foget and Akim Aliu in the penalty box, thanks in part to a huge block from Tayler Thompson.

Orlando then got on the board at 18:16 while on the man advantage when Alexei Lipanov’s shot from the left circle rebounded off goaltender Sean Bonar, allowing Chris LeBlanc to sweep in his 10th of the season to cut Atlanta’s lead in half.

The Solar Bears tied the game at 2-2 early in the third period when Mitch Hults fed a drop-pass to Alexander Kuqali at the left circle. and The defenseman then skated in before roofing a shot over the blocker of Bonar at the 2:03 mark for his second of the season and his first since joining Orlando in a mid-season trade.

LeBlanc had a chance to put Orlando ahead late in the third period as he drove wide up the left flank before cutting across the slot, but Bonar made an impressive glove save to keep the score tied, eventually forcing overtime.

McAuley won it for the Solar Bears with less than half a minute in the extra frame after Ingram made a pad save on Matt Lane that allowed LeBlanc to carry the puck out on a counterattack. LeBlanc fed the puck ahead to McAuley in the neutral zone, who made his way into the attacking end before swinging through the right circle and snapping the game-winner past Bonar at 4:33 for his 14th of the season.
Ingram earned his fourth consecutive victory for Orlando with 22 saves on 24 shots against; Bonar took the overtime loss for Atlanta with 35 stops on 38 shots against.

THREE STARS

1) Chris LeBlanc – ORL
2) Colby McAuley – ORL
3) Alexander Kuqali – ORL

NOTABLES:

•    Orlando has improved to 85 points for the season, giving the Solar Bears the second-highest regular season point total in franchise history, following the 91 points achieved by the club during the 2013-14 season. The team also reached the 40-win plateau for the second time in franchise history, a mark previously achieved by the 2013-14 squad (43 wins total).
•    The Solar Bears earned their eighth win when trailing after two periods this season, which leads the ECHL.
•    The victory was Orlando’s eighth earned in overtime this season, which leads the Eastern Conference and is tied with Kalamazoo, Idaho and Fort Wayne for the most in the ECHL.
•    The Solar Bears finished their nine-game regular season series with the Gladiators with a 6-3-0-0 record to win the head-to-head series.
•    LeBlanc’s goal and assist extended his point streak to five games (3g-4a).
•    Hults’ assist on Kuqali’s goal extended the forward’s assist streak to three games (3a).
 

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