MAITLAND, Fla. – The Idaho Steelheads (36-22-5) rode strong on special teams to take a 4-1 win over the Orlando Solar Bears (34-22-5) on Sunday evening from RDV Sportsplex Ice Den. With the win, the Steelheads have clinched a spot in the 2019 Kelly Cup Playoffs and continue their streak of postseason appearances to 22-straight seasons without missing a postseason in franchise history.
The Steelheads opened up with the first two goals of the evening starting at 4:33 of the first period when forward Henrik Samuelsson tapped in a cross-ice pass from the left wall into an open goal mouth to take the 1-0 lead. On their first penalty kill, the Steelheads converted thanks to a turnover caused by forward A.J. White to find forward Will Merchant open in front of the net at 10:38, doubling the lead to 2-0. The Solar Bears answered at 13:34 with a goal from defenseman Cody Donaghey to cut the lead in half, 2-1.
For the first time this season, the Steelheads scored their second shorthanded goal in a game, but it came in the second period. At 5:21, forward Elgin Pearce led into the offensive end and sniped a shot from the high slot to double the lead again at 3-1. Special teams control continued for the Steelheads at 16:28 when defenseman Charlie Dodero found forward Steve McParland off the left post for a one-time touch into the net to spread the lead to 4-1.
With no scoring in the third period, the Steelheads cruised their way to a 4-1 win and force a rubber match on Tuesday. Steelheads goaltender Tomas Sholl (22-11-0) turned aside 36 of 37 shots in the win, while Solar Bears netminder Connor Ingram (3-2-0) stopped 20 of 24 shots in the loss.
The Steelheads and Solar Bears finish their three-game stretch on Tuesday, Mar. 19 at 5:00 p.m. MT from Amway Center. Coverage begins at 6:45 p.m. MT on 1350 AM KTIK and ECHL.TV.
The Steelheads return to CenturyLink Arena on Wednesday, Mar. 27 at 7:10 p.m. against the Rapid City Rush. Single-game tickets and season ticket packages are on sale, with full-season packages starting as low as $300 per seat. Contact the Idaho Steelheads at 208-383-0080 for more information or log on to idahosteelheads.com.