BRAMPTON, ON. — We are all well aware of the storied rivalry between the Montreal Canadiens and the Toronto Maple Leafs. The ECHL affiliates of each organization, the Brampton Beast and the Orlando Solar Bears, respectively, had the chance to play out that rivalry this past weekend. The two teams squared off for a three-game series in Brampton for games that were filled with action and intensity.
It was the first time in the short history of the Beast that the Solar Bears made the long trek to the Powerade Centre from Orlando. Earlier this season Brampton dropped all three games against the baby Leafs after travelling to Florida.
Habs prospect Zach Fucale started the first game in the series on Thursday night. Thanks, in part, to his stellar goaltending, the Beast held the lead through the first half of the game.
In the opening period Brampton failed to register a shot on goal until past the halfway mark of the period. Once the offence perked up, the Beast fired 10 shots towards Solar Bears starter Ryan Massa. Despite being outshot 21-10 in the period, the Beast held a 2-0 lead at the first intermission.
Beast forward Connor Crisp was by far the best player on the ice for Brampton registering his 12th goal of the season. Crisp’s net front presence and strong play along the boards were constant headaches for the Solar Bears defencemen.
The game had a nasty edge to it all night with players from both teams chirping at each other. The Beast penalty-killers were tested but defended well allowing one short-handed goal on seven Orlando power-play opportunities.
Orlando scored three unanswered goals in the third period to take the game by a 5-3 score.
On Friday night, the two teams continued their dislike for each other but for the most part stayed out of the penalty box. This game had a much better flow and an abundance of end-to-end action. The teams were evenly matched on the ice and on the score sheet.
Nothing was decided after 60 minutes as the teams headed to overtime tied 2-2. With glorious chances at both ends, Beast starter Zach Fucale and his counterpart Ryan Massa were spectacular, neither willing to yield the winning goal in overtime. To the dismay of the hometown crowd, the Solar Bears prevailed 3-2 in a shootout.
On Sunday afternoon, the Beast were looking to notch their first victory in franchise history against the Solar Bears. Ryan Massa and Zach Fucale got the starts again, making it all three games in this series for both goaltenders.
The Beast held the balance of the play through the opening 20 minutes but trailed 2-1. The chippy play returned in the final game of the series as their seemed to be a scrum after every whistle. By the middle of the third game it appeared like the Beast simply ran out of gas dropping a 7-2 decision.
The Beast have one of the best penalty kill units in the ECHL. The steady stream of penalties in this series was certainly an issue but Brampton killed 13 of 15 opportunities by the the Solar Bears. The Beast even picked up a shorthanded goal in Sunday’s game by Brandon Marino.
Brampton lost all three games to the Solar Bears this weekend bringing their head-to-head record this season to 0-5-0-1. The Beast remain winless in franchise history versus Orlando with a 0-8-0-1 mark.