Like many people traveling this week for Thanksgiving, the Orlando Solar Bears returned home from an extended road trip, celebrating the holiday with the beginning of a 5 game homestand. While the offense mostly struggled, the team salvaged their week with a big win against the ECHL’s best team.
The Solar Bears returned to the friendly confines of the Amway Center on Wednesday, hosting the Stingrays in a pre-Thanksgiving battle.
Jonne Tammela made his ECHL debut after being reassigned by Syracuse on Monday. To make room for him on the roster, forward Vincent Dunn was let go. Goaltender Hayden Stewart got his third start since joining the team.
It did not take long for the visitors to get things started. Forward Tad Kozun scored his second goal of the season 2:02 after opening puck drop to give the Stingrays the early lead. Brent Pedersen tied the game at one at the 5:36 mark with his 5th of the year, but sSuth Carolina took the lead back with 5:01 remaining in the opening period on a Grant Besse power play goal.
The Stingrays extended their lead to two at the 8:06 mark of the second with Cameron Askew’s first professional goal. Troy Bourke responded 18 seconds later with his fourth goal of the season, cutting the lead to 3-2, but Orlando was unable to come up with the tying goal after that.
Stewart finished with 31 saves on 34 shots. Brady Shaw added two assists.
3. Parker Milner (SC) 28 saves
2. Brent Pedersen (ORL) 1 goal, 1 assist
1. Cameron Askew (SC) 1 goal
The Solar Bears fell to the Stingrays tonight before heading into the Thanksgiving holiday. https://t.co/ZgWyMAzH6x— Orlando Solar Bears (@OrlandoHockey) November 22, 2018
After celebrating Thanksgiving, it was back to work on Friday night. The Solar Bears hosted the expansion Newfoundland Growlers for the first of two games. Newfoundland came in to the contest with the ECHL’s best record despite recently losing head coach Ryane Clowe for health reasons.
It was Marvel Night in Orlando. The Solar Bears were wearing special Black Panther jerseys:
Projected Lines:— Orlando Solar Bears (@OrlandoHockey) November 23, 2018
Boes in goal
: https://t.co/fV1V8a4GnZ pic.twitter.com/DQeBW7jcgM
The Growlers came to play in the first 20 minutes, outshooting Orlando 22-9 and taking a 1-0 lead on a Giorgio Estephan goal. Estephan picked up his second goal of the night on a power play 6:12 into the second to double Newfoundland’s lead. Scott Pooley added a shorthanded goal early in the third for a 3-0 lead. Meanwhile, Orlando was unable to get any offense going against Growlers goaltender Michael Garteig, who stopped all 25 Solar Bear shots.
Corbin Boes took the hard luck loss in net, stopping 38 of 41 shots.
3. Josh Kestner (NFL) 2 assists
2. Giorgio Estephan (NFL) 2 goals
1. Michael Garteig (NFL) 25 save shutout
24 hours later, the rematch, and it was Star Wars Night to boot!
Amway Center has gone to the Dark Side! https://t.co/netaOBm0My— Orlando Solar Bears (@OrlandoHockey) November 24, 2018
Once again, the Growlers were first on the board. Estephan scored his third in two games on a power play 6:11 into the opening period to give the visitors the early lead. Curt Gogol erased that 1-0 deficit all by himself, as he scored twice in a span of 1:59 late in the period for a 2-1 Solar Bear lead.
Newfoundland dominated the first half of the second period, scoring three straight goals. Brady Ferguson’s 10th tied the game at 2 at the 4:12 mark. Then, on back to back power plays, Pooley and Marcus Power scored 54 seconds apart for a 4-2 Growlers lead.
But—we’re going with the theme here—The Force was with Orlando after that.
42 seconds after Power’s goal, Shaw started the Solar Bear comeback, scoring his 10th to cut the lead to 4-3 after two periods.
The Solar Bears finished off the comeback early in the third period, as goals by Tammela (his first in an Orlando uniform) and Chris LeBlanc (2nd) in a span of 18 seconds gave the home team a 5-4 lead. Newfoundland was not done, however—Hudson Elyniuk re-tied the game with 12:39 to go in regulation.
It was on to overtime, where LeBlanc finished off the Growlers in style!
Boes picked up the win in net, stopping 25 of 30 shots. Pedersen added three assists, while Michael Brodzinski added two helpers.
3. Curt Gogol (ORL) 2 goals
2. Brady Shaw (ORL) 1 goal
1. Chris LeBlanc (ORL) 2 goals
***HUGE*** overtime win tonight for the Solar Bears over the league-leading Growlers: https://t.co/QPF9dzpNmF— Orlando Solar Bears (@OrlandoHockey) November 25, 2018
ADD: F Jonne Tammela, reassigned by Syracuse 11/19
DELETE: F Vincent Dunn, released from SPC 11/20
Orlando gets a slight breather this week, as only two games are on tap. They will kick off their December slate with a two game set at Amway Center against Norfolk, with games on Saturday night and Sunday afternoon. Saturday’s game will feature specialty jerseys for Alzheimer’s Awareness Night, while Sunday features a special 1:30 PM start time.