Kissimmee, FL — The Orlando SeaWolves played their first competitive game, fighting back from a two-goal deficit and taking the game to overtime at Silver Spurs Arena with the game knotted at 4-4 after regulation. No one could find the net in a 10-minute overtime period and the game went to a shootout, where the St. Louis Ambush handed the SeaWolves an opening night loss by winning the shootout, 2-1, to claim a 5-4 victory.
Former Orlando City player Luke Boden scored the first SeaWolves goal in a competitive game with a power-play strike early in the second period and he added two assists. Lewis Neal, Gordy Gurson and Dylan Hundelt also scored for Orlando but St. Louis got two goals from Mario Marcos and one each from Antonio Manfut and Jerjer Gibson.
“You come in and you go down 3-1 and then you’ve got the character to pull it back and then go 3-3,” said Head Coach Tom Traxler after the game. “You go down again and the character to pull it back, 4-4. From a character standpoint I’m really proud of the players. Proud of the leadership that they showed inside the group. No, it’s not the result we want and we have some things that we need to clean up. We’ll get to work on that on Monday.”
Orlando controlled play early, keeping possession in the St. Louis end but not able to find clear-cut scoring opportunities. Boden got the first shot on goal of the game, forcing a good save by Casey Clark.
Marcos scored the game’s first goal after a turnover by Orlando’s Eduardo Cruz gave St. Louis an odd-man rush. The SeaWolves nearly recovered, but the Ambush ended up with a 2-v-1 down low and Marcos finished at the 8:10 mark in the first period. That’s how the quarter ended and the SeaWolves had nothing to show for a good start.
They didn’t have to wait long to get something going in the second, however. St. Louis’ Zach Reget was shown a blue card early in the second for contact above the shoulder/elbow and Orlando went on the power play. Gurson fired a ball off the boards on the right side and Turner jumped over the ball, leaving it for Boden to run onto and slot home at the 1:23 mark. Gurson got the assist.
“It was nice, obviously from a personal point of view,” Boden said of scoring the team’s first goal. “But it was disappointing to lose after we worked so hard to get back from 3-1. To lose in such a manner as we did, it’s tough to swallow.”
The Ambush regained the lead at the 6:11 mark after a turnover deep in the Orlando end. Marcos ended up with the ball and slid a pass for Antonio Manfut to slam home. Manfut opened his St. Louis account and restored the lead for the visitors at 2-1.
Things got worse for Orlando as the second period went on. Gurson was injured on a SeaWolves attack. As he ran onto a ball to produce a scoring chance, Clark came off his line and the two players collided. The captain had to be carried off the field and hopped off to the locker room. He returned to the bench area before halftime but without a right shoe and with his ankle taped. He was able to return after halftime, however.
“Just a bruise, basically,” Gurson said. “They just looked at it to make sure nothing was broken, nothing was too bad, so I ended up getting to come back on in the second half. I just ended up getting a touch on it before (Clark) got a touch on me and we just went shin to shin.”
Orlando lost another key player moments later. Goalkeeper and assistant coach Piotr Sliwa got caught out of his area and turned the ball over in the corner. He scrambled to get back to block the shot by Marcos but couldn’t get it done, allowing the third St. Louis goal at the 11:57 mark. Sliwa left the game with a hamstring injury and had to be helped off the field. He was replaced in goal by Rainer Hauss.
That was it for the scoring in the first half, and the Ambush took a 3-1 lead to the break. St. Louis held a 7-6 advantage in shots. Orlando had four penalty minutes to two for St. Louis, and the Ambush had more fouls, 9-3. St. Louis was 0-for-2 on the power play and Orlando was 1-for-1.
Gurson pulled the SeaWolves within a goal at the 2:07 mark of the third period, slotting home from a tight angle on the right side off an assist from Rapha Tobias.
That was all the scoring for the third quarter and the SeaWolves entered the fourth period down, 3-2. Orlando killed their third penalty of the game and came close to equalizing on a shot by Sandoval that hit the left part of the goal frame. Boden jumped on the rebound but fired over the goal. That was the best opportunity for the SeaWolves to equalize in the third.
Another former Orlando City player knotted the game early in the third period. Neal took a pass from Boden and fired home on the power play at the 2:38 mark to tie the score at 3-3.
That tie score didn’t last long at all. St. Louis came right back and scored through Gibson’s goal just 25 seconds later. Hauss appeared to misplay a ball off the boards and it popped out in front for Gibson to finish, putting the visitors back in front, 4-3.
The SeaWolves pushed for an equalizer and came close a few times, but couldn’t beat Clark. Then they turned around and scored a goal from distance out of nothing. Dylan Hundelt sent one on frame that took a slight deflection and went in to make it 4-4 at the 10:43 mark, leaving just 4:17 on the clock in regulation.
TIED UP AGAIN! Dylan Hundelt from deep!!! | 4-4 pic.twitter.com/tZcXNbY19X— Orlando SeaWolves (@MCOSeaWolves) December 1, 2018
Luiz Mota nearly played the hero for the SeaWolves moments later, getting down the right on a break but he fired his shots off the boards just wide of goal. Hauss made a big save 1:18 to play to deny St. Louis, then Eduardo Cruz saw his point-blank shot saved by Clark in the final seconds. The game headed to overtime tied at 4-4.
“Defensively, we need to be simpler,” Traxler said. “I thought at times we overindulged a little bit and it got us in trouble. I think it cost us three goals tonight.”
Neither team could find the net in the extra 10 minutes. Hauss made another big stop in the extra session off a deflected shot. Richard Schmermund beat Clark but got only the glass a few minutes later. St. Louis then got the last good opportunity when Zach Reget hit the crossbar.
St. Louis finished with a 14-12 advantage in shots and 17 fouls to Orlando’s 10. The SeaWolves were 3-of-3 on the power play and killed all three of St. Louis’ man advantages.
“Usually if you can score that many times on the power play, you walk away successful. Tonight we didn’t,” said Traxler. “So that’s one thing that we don’t need to toy with too much.”
The game went into a best-of-three shootout to decide things.
Orlando got off to a good start in the shootout with Pepe Junqueira missing wide for St. Louis and Schmermund burying his chance as the first SeaWolves shooter. Manfut beat Hauss to square things and then Tyler Turner missed for Orlando. Clayton Matheus beat Hauss as the third St. Louis shooter, forcing the SeaWolves into a must-score situation. Gurson took the attempt for Orlando and faked his shot, then went wide before Clark stopped him to give the Ambush the win.
Gurson wasn’t happy after the game, as he felt Clark touched the ball outside his area.
“In my opinion it was out of his box and it hit his hand,” Gurson said. “It’s part of the game. Refs make mistakes. As professionals you’ve just got to move on and keep going.”
The SeaWolves will be back in action on Dec. 14 at home against the Baltimore Blast, the MASL champions for the last three seasons. The game starts at 7:35 p.m. ET at Silver Spurs Arena.