The Orlando Solar Bears couldn't cash in on 20 minutes of solid hockey Tuesday and dropped Game 3 of the ECHL Divisional Finals, 3-2 in overtime, to the rival Florida Everblades.
Florida got the winning goal on the power play 4:08 into extra time to take a 2-1 series lead. Games 4 and 5 of the series will be Thursday and Friday at the Amway Center.
The Solar Bears couldn't make s 2-0 lead earned in the first period hold up, and when Janne Tammela took a major penalty for kneeing Florida's Michael Downing two minutes into the overtime, the Everblades had the edge they needed to take the win. They only needed about half of the five minutes of power-play time to do it when Patrick McCarron redirected a shot from the face-off circle past Orlando goalie Connor Ingram.
Coach Drake Berehowsky said it didn't matter his team played with great intensity the first 20 minutes; they didn't the last 40.
"We played one period, then stopped playing the game we wanted," he said. "I didn't like the last penalty call because specialty unit will win this series. We'll be sure to watch the video with the guys so they can learn from their mistakes. They'll see the turnovers they committed."
After a split of the first two games down in Southwest Florida, getting the win in Game 3 was critical. The Solar Bears got the message early, aggressively sending three forwards toward the net. It worked; they pounded out 20 shots in the first period, getting goals from Zach Frye, who buried a nifty pass from Jonne Tammela just two minutes into the game, and Hunter Fejes, who stole an Everblades pass and fired a wrist shot into the roof of the net for his sixth goal of the playoffs.
After a scoreless second period, it took Florida less than four minutes midway through the third period to erase the lead. Blake Winiecki sent a shot off the glass that bounced back into the crease, unluckily off Ingram's back and into the net at the 5:35 mark, and then at 9:14 Nate Perkovich poked a close-range shot past him.
Fejes said things went the Solar Bears way because they played a physical brand of hockey the Everblades couldn't hang with.
"Then everything collapsed, we let up on the gas," he said. "This stings real bad but we'll be better for it. We believe in each other."