The Orlando SeaWolves fell behind three separate times and didn’t score a single goal in the first half. But Richard Schmermund’s second-half hat trick — plus an assist and a huge defensive play — led the SeaWolves to a 6-4 comeback win on the road against the Kansas City Comets. Orlando (7-8) snapped a season long three-game losing streak to creep closer to second-place Kansas City (9-8) in the South Central Division.
“First half I was trying to find my legs,” Schmermund said after the game. “Second half, I came out and good things happened.”
Thiago Freitas returned from a knee injury but Victor France was still out with a hamstring issue and defender Derek Huffman sat out the first match of his two-game suspension.
The Comets struck first in the opening quarter. SeaWolves keeper Piotr Sliwa made an initial save on a shot by Ignacio Flores off a Kansas City set piece. Unfortunately, Sliwa left a juicy rebound for Leo Gibson to head home at the 4:22 mark, putting the hosts on top, 1-0.
That turned out to be all the scoring in the opening period. The SeaWolves out-shot the Comets, 7-5, but had nothing to show for it. Freitas had a couple of good opportunities but he fired one shot right at the goalkeeper and trickled another effort weakly on goal. Gordy Gurson whiffed on a good scoring chance and Mario Alvarez fired wide on a counter attack.
Anthony Grant had Kansas City’s best opportunity to double the lead before the end of the first, but he too shot wide on the break.
Orlando had the first good chance of the second half when Edwin Rojas sent a blast on goal but Mark Saxby made a good reaction save to fight it off. About three minutes into the period, former Orlando City player Kevin Ellis fired a shot for the Comets but Sliwa made a big save. Ellis got a breakaway moments later and Sliwa again made a huge stop to keep it at 1-0.
Four and a half minutes into the second, Elmo Neto was set up on the doorstep but Saxby made a big save to keep Orlando off the board. A couple of minutes later, Sliwa made a pair of nice stops on Ramone Palmer and Bryan Perez, then Alvarez smashed a shot that Saxby kept out on the other end as the teams traded scoring chances.
The Comets finally doubled their lead with just 2:18 remaining in the first half.
In the Orlando offensive zone, Neto felt some pressure and tried to pass it back toward his own goal. The problem was the only player on the field near that end was Gui Gomes of Kansas City. Sliwa did well to deny Gomes on the breakaway but Ellis picked up the rebound, forced Sliwa to commit and sent his shot into the top of the net to make it 2-0 at the 12:42 mark. It was Ellis’ third goal in two outings against the SeaWolves.
Osvaldo Rojas sent a header just wide as the first half expired, and Kansas City led 2-0 at the break, out-shooting Orlando, 14-13. Neither team had a power play in the first half.
Schmermund brought the SeaWolves back to life in the early minutes of the third quarter. He scored just 2:07 into the third at even strength, putting his sixth goal of the year in past Saxby.
Moments later he broke up a 3-v-1 Kansas City break. Then, at the 3:50 mark, he leveled the game at 2-2 on a set piece, sneaking a shot between a two-man wall and Saxby, just inside the far post, with his seventh goal of the season.
Orlando had an opportunity to take the lead on the power play moments later. Gurson fired just wide from the left side and the best opportunity of the man advantage went wanting. The Comets killed off the power play from there. Freitas put a soft shot right at Saxby just seconds after the advantage expired.
Gomes nearly put Kansas City back on top in the closing minutes of the third, missing a shot just inches wide of the back post. The miss must have frustrated Gomes, who chopped down Freitas with a cheap, reckless challenge, putting Orlando on its second power play.
But the power play actually hurt Orlando. Freitas, playing injured, didn’t move well all night and when he turned it over at the top of the KC area and was easily outpaced by Palmer, who beat Sliwa to make it 3-2 with a shorthanded goal with just 11.1 seconds remaining in the quarter. Gurson put the ball in the net but the horn had just sounded and the goal didn’t count.
Orlando out-shot Kansas City in the third, 12-1, but still trailed the game. The SeaWolves held a 25-15 edge in shots and the Comets had 14 penalty minutes to none for Orlando, yet the hosts held the 3-2 advantage.
Kansas City started the fourth period by killing off the power play and then spent most of the first four minutes of the quarter in Orlando’s end. Orlando equalized against the run of play at the 4:10 mark. After a Comets turnover, Kevin Naranjo slipped a pass to Neto on the left and he fired a right-footed shot inside the far post to make it 3-3.
After the goal, Kansas City came right back after Orlando, getting a few good opportunities, one of which was cleared off the line after Sliwa was beaten. Drou Goff knocked it off the line just inches in front of goal.
But the Comets regained the lead anyway at the 6:42 mark. James Togbah took a pass from John Sosa in the middle third, ran right to left and sent a left-footed effort past Sliwa to make it 4-3.
But Orlando refused to go away. Schmermund slipped a pass to Gurson at the back post on a set piece and Gordy swept his 23rd goal of the season past Saxby to even things up at 4-4 at the 7:57 mark.
After Togbah fired over the Orlando goal on a decent opportunity, the SeaWolves finally grabbed their first lead of the game. It was Schmermund (who else?) again with a set piece blast that found a hole in the wall and fizzed just under the bar and into the net to make it 5-4 with 3:28 remaining in the game.
Ellis zipped a shot just wide moments later that could have tied the score and shortly after that, the Comets pulled Saxby for an extra attacker, with Sosa wearing the goalkeeper jersey. The strategy didn’t pay off, however, as Bobby Hurwitz — officially signed earlier today — put the ball into an empty net to open his Orlando account and give the SeaWolves a two-goal cushion with a minute to play.
From there, Orlando saw the game out and held on for a much-needed 6-4 win.
The SeaWolves were not only 0-for-2 on the power play, but also gave up a shorthanded goal. Still, Orlando won the shots battle, 36-25, and, more importantly, the game.
The SeaWolves won’t have long to savor the victory, as they’ll travel overnight to Milwaukee to play the first-place Wave (15-3) tomorrow afternoon at 2:05 p.m. ET.