The Kalamazoo Wings (24-24-4-1) may be in the land of sunshine and white sandy beaches, but they are staying focused on the task at hand as well as having some fun in the sun while in Orlando.
Kicking off the first of three games against the Orlando Solar Bears (23-22-2-5) on Friday, the K-Wings, specifically David Gilbert, came ready to play.
The K-Wings were able to take a 1-0 lead just 2:05 into the first period as Eric Kattelus fished the puck off the wall and snapped a cross-rink pass to Gilbert, who rifled a one-timer past Orlando goalie Rob Madore.
Just over one minute later, the K-Wings doubled their lead on a goal by Ludwig Blomstrand. A Dane Fox shot on goal was turned away by Madore but he wasn’t able to keep control of the puck as Curtis Valk swiped the loose puck and passed it to Blomstrand, whose shot slid past Madore for his 20th goal of the season.
Orlando hit the scoreboard for their first goal early in the second period. Patrick Watling pushed a pass to Eric Faille who lifted a shot over the stick-side shoulder of Martin.
Kalamazoo answered back eleven minutes later, as Gilbert picked up his second goal of the game. While attacking the crease of Madore. Gilbert struck again minutes later to give the K-Wings a 4-1 lead and a hat trick for Gilbert. It was Gilbert’s first professional hat trick since the 2012-13 season when Gilbert was a member of the Bloomington Blaze in the CHL.
Orlando continued to remain competitive in the second period, cutting the deficit just 38 seconds later.
The Wings were able to re-build their game-high three-goal lead as Fox, upon receiving a feed from Sacha Guimond, blasted a one-timer towards the Orlando goal. Ryan Massa, who relieved Madore after two periods of play, made the stop, but the pick ricocheted off his pads and arced over his head an into the goal. It was Fox’s team-leading 22nd goal and capped off the scoring for the night.
Game Notes: Kattelus appeared in his first game since January 17 at Quad City. Blomstrand and Alex Mallet each played in their 150th career ECHL game. Gilbert had the second hat trick of any Wing skater this season (first since Valk on 2/5 vs. Toledo). The Wings took a season-high 45 shots. Nick Bootland registered his 299th career win as head coach of the Kalamazoo Wings.
On Saturday night, Nick Bootland became the first head coach in Kalamazoo Wings history to win 300 career games with the franchise, as the Wings defeated the Orlando Solar Bears, 4-2 at the Amway Center.
On their first power play of the game, Eric Kattelus sent a pass to Lane Scheidl, who raced into the Orlando zone. Scheidl fired a quick wrist shot from the top of the circle that snuck through the pads of Ryan Massa.
Minutes later and working on yet another power play, Tyler Shattock controlled the puck from the left-side corner and looked to slip a backdoor feed to Kattelus. However, as the pass angled towards the goal, it went off the skate of an Orlando defender and in, giving the Wings a 2-0 lead.
Special teams continued to command the game in the second period as the Solar Bears scored their first of the night with the man-advantage towards the end of the period with Faille scoring for the Bears.
Early in the third period and leading by a goal, Curtis Valk boosted Kalamazoo’s lead to 3-1. Valk carried into the Orlando zone, slipped the puck through the legs of a defender and poked the puck towards the goal. As Massa attempted to stick the puck away from the crease, he knocked it off a teammate and the puck rolled over the line.
Six minutes later, Orlando pressured their way to within a goal. An initial shot from Faille was stopped by Joel Martin, but the play was never frozen as the puck slipped behind Martin, where Rylan Schwartz was able to finish.
Kalamazoo put the game away after Kattelus crashed the goal following a Massa save on a David Gilbert try. Kattelus pounded the loose puck over the scrambling Solar Bears’ defense and gave the Wings an insurmountable 4-2 lead.
Game Notes: The Wings have won five of their last six games. It was the sixth time that the Wings had two power play goals in a game. Faille had a goal disallowed 30 seconds into the second period after steering the puck in with a kicking motion.
The two teams wrap up their three-game series Monday night at 7 pm.
Looking ahead: The Kalamazoo Wings will host a “We Are Kalamazoo” game on Saturday, March 5, as they aim to raise proceeds for the Help Now! Fund, a collaborative effort between the Battle Creek Community Foundation, Kalamazoo Community Foundation, and the United Way of the Battle Creek and Kalamazoo Region, in support of the victims and their families of the tragedy last Saturday. The K-Wings will donate $2 from every ticket sold to the game in addition to a silent auction with memorabilia, goods, and services from local organizations and professional sports teams. All proceeds from the auction will also be donated to the fund.
Submitted by Mark McGlothlen