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Solar Bears snap losing skid with first home win

Posted on Wednesday, November 22, 2017 at 12:00 pm

By Ken Jackson
Sports Editor

It took eight tries and over a month, but the Orlando Solar Bears finally have their first win on home ice at the Amway Center.

Latvian Martins Dzierkals’ two goals in his first game in Orlando gave the home boys a lead it wouldn’t surrender, and goalie Cal Heeter made it stand up with 33 saves as Orlando defeated the Jacksonville Icemen, 4-1 on Tuesday.

The Orlando Solar Bears’ Max Novak takes a face off against the Jacksonville Icemen’s Garet Hunt in Orlando’s 4-1 win Tuesday at at the Amway Center.
Orlando Solar Bears/Fernando Medina

Tuesday was the team’s first game since a wild 7-6 comeback on the road Sunday  against the Greenville Swamp Rabbits in which the Solar Bears scored four third-period goals to dig from a a 6-3 deficit. This win streak snapped a seven-game winless streak.

Orlando (3-8-2) took a 2-1 lead into the second intermission against Jacksonville (2-9-1) Tuesday thanks to Dzierkals’ second goal nearly midway through the second period. Heeter made it stand up with his most solid start of the season.

“It’s been a tough start to the year, me and the team and a whole, but we’re starting to find a rhythm and jell more as a team,” he said. “Tonight we played solid and controlled rebounds. It’s a long season but if we can do that for 60 minutes we’ll be better down the stretch.”

Despite the solid game, Orlando’s first win in regulation (it’s other two came in overtime), Coach Drake Berehowsky said the Solar Bears can be even better.

“I think we’ve played better games, our guys have been battling out of a lull,” he said. “The guys were real positive coming in (Tuesday morning) from a humbling experience. They guys have stayed positive and stuck together through this whole thing.”

Dzierkals joined the team during a recent road trip, and his impact has been immediate, scoring three goals in the last two games. Tuesday was his first game in Orlando — coincidentally, the Solar Bears’ first home win.

“It was exciting, this arena is one of best I’ve ever played,” the 20-year-old said. “I’m enjoying playing for Orlando, and being here. It’s my first time in Florida and I really like it. I heard they’d had trouble winning at home, but this is a team of good guys and today things turned out the way they should.”

Berehowsky said the team is fortunate to have the Latvian.

“We’ve been looking for a spark and ‘Zerks’ is an offensively gifted player,” he said. “It’s fun watching him create offensively.”

Orlando is back in the Amway Center on Saturday at 7 p.m. and Sunday at 1:30 to take on the South Carolina Stingrays.