BY: Cristiano Simonetta, Catherine Morrison
SAVANNAH, GA – Nolan Valleau scored 4:51 into overtime as the Savannah Ghost Pirates (14-20-4-1) defeated the Orlando Solar Bears (20-11-3-2) 3-2 at Enmarket Arena on Thursday night.
Although Savannah could not capitalize on an early power play six seconds into the game, they were able to build off the momentum a few minutes later. Ross Armour recorded his sixth goal of the season at 3:15. Keltie Jeri-Leon stole the puck in the high slot and ripped a shot on net, and the rebound kicked directly to Armour, who made no mistake on the second chance.
Orlando tied the game with a goal from Jake Stevens at 9:27.
Sixteen minutes into the second period, Savannah was given a golden opportunity to take the lead following two back-to-back penalties committed by the Solar Bears, leading to a Ghost Pirates 5-on-3 power play. Nolan Valleau shot the puck from the right point over the shoulder of Orlando’s netminder Brandon Halverson to give Savannah a 2-1 lead. Valleau’s goal was his second of the season.
“The power play, it feels great to get that one off our backs … we’ve been practicing it an awful lot,” Ghost Pirates head coach Rick Bennett said. “[Assistant Coach] Alex Loh has been patient with the groups, and tonight, he was rewarded for his work. The guys just executed, and that’s the name of the game.”
Jeri-Leon added an assist on Valleau’s goal as he finished the night with two points. Jeri-Leon has recorded seven points in seven games since being acquired from the Rapid City Rush via trade.
“I think it’s a great group of guys; it made it really easy for me to fit in here,” Jeri-Leon said. “The coaches have gone over systems with me, and we’ve played good hockey. Tonight, it was great to get a good result.”
Orlando equalized the game 30 seconds into the third period on a power-play goal from Jesse Jacques as the Solar Bears continued to stick around.
Neither club could break through before the end of regulation, and the game was sent to overtime.
The Ghost Pirates controlled the majority of play in overtime, and Valleau made his mark once again, this time with a wrist shot from the left circle to win the game 4:51 into the extra frame. Valleau's third goal of the season marked the first time he's recorded two goals in an ECHL game since October 16, 2018.
It was the first time in franchise history the Ghost Pirates had ever scored an overtime goal at Enmarket Arena.
“It’s exciting to score at that time of the game; it’s hard to believe that that’s the first time someone’s scored in overtime like that in this building,” Valleau said. “It felt good.”
Savannah went 1-for-5 on the power play and 2-for-3 on the penalty kill. Michael Bullion made 26 saves and notched his 10th win of the season.
Thursday’s game marked the first 912 Night of the season as the Ghost Pirates wore specialty uniforms honoring the Savannah area.
“I’ve heard lots of great things about this place,” Jeri-Leon said. “I’ve played with some guys who played here, and they said they sell out every night, the fans are crazy, it's such a loyal fan base, and it’s blown my expectations.”
The Ghost Pirates return to Enmarket Arena on January 26 to face the Jacksonville Icemen at 7:30 p.m. For ticket information, go to GhostPiratesHockey.com!