ORLANDO, Fla. - Orlando forward Michael Neal is the younger brother of Pittsburgh Penguins' forward James Neal, who is nicknamed "The Real Deal." Thursday night, it was the younger Neal who turned out to be pretty real, as his five-point night (two goals, three assists) led the Solar Bears to a 7-2 victory against the Wheeling Nailers at Amway Center.
The first period was jam packed with goals, as the two teams combined to light the lamp five times. Orlando jumped out to the early lead, scoring three times in a span of 2:57. Mike Liambas opened the scoring, backhanding in the rebound of Neal's initial shot. 1:18 later, it was Neal's turn to have the fun, as he took the return feed of a give-and-go pass with Liambas for a 2-0 lead. Dan Gendur added a third goal, 39 seconds later, as Wheeling called timeout.
Midway through the first period, the Nailers began to turn things around, beginning with a power play. Zach Hansen took a pass from Chris Higgins, and blasted it through from the middle of the blueline, beating John Curry on the glove side. Then, with 49 seconds remaining, Hansen cashed in with another marker on the man advantage. Peter Delmas started the play from his own zone, sending Hansen all the way in, where he scored his fourth goal in three games.
The Solar Bears grabbed control of the game during the second period, when they put three more goals on the board. Ryan Blair picked up the first of those three, when he skated down the left side of the ice, and scored from the bottom of the circle. Less than five minutes later, Neal netted his second of the night, picking up a loose puck in the slot, and slipping a backhander past Delmas' left arm. Then, under three minutes after that, Dale Mahovsky completed the second period scoring, burying the rebound of his initial shot.
Scott Tanski added one more goal in the final stanza for Orlando, who won their first head-to-head game against the Nailers.
Former Nailer John Curry grabbed the win for the Solar Bears, stopping 36 of the 38 shots he faced. Delmas was saddled with the loss, allowing six goals on 21 shots, before turning the net over to Scott Darling, who made 14 saves on 15 shots.
The Nailers and Solar Bears will collide again at 7 Saturday night.
Wheeling2 0 0 - 2
Orlando3 3 1 - 7
1st Period-1, Orlando, Liambas 2 (Neal), 5:28. 2, Orlando, Neal 2 (Liambas, Tanski), 7:46. 3, Orlando, Gendur 14 (Dries), 8:25. 4, Wheeling, Hansen 3 (Higgins, Torquato), 9:15 (PP). 5, Wheeling, Hansen 4 (Delmas), 19:11 (PP). Penalties-Tanski Orl (tripping), 8:50; Gendur Orl (high-sticking, high-sticking), 16:46.
2nd Period-6, Orlando, Blair 1 (Martin, Neal), 4:28. 7, Orlando, Neal 3 (Mahovsky, Blair), 9:10. 8, Orlando, Mahovsky 6 (Neal, Blair), 12:03. Penalties-Severyn Orl (tripping), 9:23.
3rd Period-9, Orlando, Tanski 7 9:34. Penalties-Levens Orl (delay of game), 2:07; Liambas Orl (interference on the goalkeeper), 11:39.
Shots on Goal-Wheeling 14-18-6-38. Orlando 11-14-11-36.
Power Play Opportunities-Wheeling 2 / 6; Orlando 0 / 0.
Goalies-Wheeling, Delmas 7-4-0-1 (21 shots-15 saves); Darling 8-5-0-1 (15 shots-14 saves). Orlando, Curry 14-10-2-0 (38 shots-36 saves).
Referees-Don Jablonski (18).
Linesmen-Ken Radolinski (63), Camden Nuckols (32).