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Solar Bears Week in Review: Sliding into the Holidays

Orlando may have struggled this week, but at least the jerseys looked good.

Martin Ouellette, seen here warming up with Syracuse this past Saturday, was recalled after Connor Ingram was injured Friday night.
Scott Thomas Photography

It was a busy week for the Orlando Solar Bears, as they prepared for their last week prior to the Christmas break with four games. The four games on their slate included a three-in-three set against one of their in-state rivals.

First period struggles, a teddy bear toss, a viral Christmas jersey, and an insane (but ultimately short) comeback against said rival were just the tip of the iceberg in a week where Orlando only managed three out of eight points. Those points keep them in fourth place in the ECHL’s South Division as the holidays begin.

Monday, 12/17: South Carolina 5, Orlando 2

A busy week began on Monday night, as the Solar Bears hosted the Stingrays.

After a scoreless opening period, the visitors got on the board in the second with a pair of goals against Orlando goaltender Martin Ouellette. Matt Pohlkamp opened the scoring at the 7:21 mark with a power play goal, his 8th of the season. Andrew Cherniwchan then doubled the South Carolina lead with 3:35 remaining in the period with his 11th.

Orlando began their comeback in the third. Michael Brodzinski’s 5th of the season on a power play cut the Stingrays lead in half to 2-1.

Cherniwchan restored the two goal Stingrays lead with his second of the night at the 7:22 mark of the third. The Solar Bears responded once again, as Mathieu Foget’s 8th made it a 3-2 game with 8:16 remaining.

South Carolina put the game away late with a pair of empty net goals 1:33 apart.

Ouellette finished with 21 saves on 24 shots. Four skaters had one helper each.

3 Stars:

3. Angus Redmond (SC) 29 saves

2. Jonathan Charbonneau (SC) 2 assists

1. Andrew Cherniwchan (SC) 2 goals

Thursday, 12/20: Florida 4, Orlando 2

A three-in-three stretch prior to the Christmas break began on Thursday evening as the Solar Bears began their three game set with their friends to the south, the Everblades.

It did not take very long for the Everblades to get on the board. Just 32 seconds after puck drop, Zach Nastasiuk scored his 8th of the season for a 1-0 lead. Justin Auger doubled Florida’s lead late in the first with his 4th of the year, unassisted.

Orlando found themselves in a 3-0 hole 7:26 into the second period after Ben Masella’s third goal of the season. But, like on Monday night against the Stingrays, they began to chip away at the deficit. Curt Gogol picked up his third goal with 7:44 remaining in the period to cut the Everblade lead to 3-1.

Mitch Hults then added his 2nd of the season on a power play early in the third to bring Orlando to within one goal. Unfortunately, the Everblades shut them down the rest of the way, and added an empty net goal from John McCarron late to seal it.

Ouellette stopped 36 of 39 in the hard luck defeat. Oleg Sosunov and three others added assists.

3 Stars:

3. Martin Ouellette (ORL) 36 saves

2. John McCarron (FLA) 1 goal, 2 assists

1. Ben Masella (FLA) 1 goal

Friday, 12/21: Orlando 4, Florida 3 (OT)

For the final home game at the Amway Center before Christmas, the Solar Bears were feeling...festive.

For the annual Teddy Bear Toss game, the team was decked out in these sweet Santa suit jerseys. Fans had the opportunity postgame to bid on them.

For the third straight game, the Solar Bears found themselves in a multiple goal hole after the first period. McCarron scored twice in a span of 8:21 in the opening period to single-handedly put Florida ahead 2-0.

But, something special did happen during the first period. You may want to grab some tissues.

Back to game action, where once again Orlando began to chip away at the Florida lead. Hults cut the deficit to 2-1 5:09 into the second period with his 3rd goal of the season.

And with that goal...TOSS. THOSE. BEARS.

A total of 8,362 bears were collected, and will be donated to various charities around central Florida.

Hults gave the home crowd more to cheer about, as his second goal of the period at the 12:59 mark tied the game up at 2.

Trevor Olson gave Orlando their first lead all week midway through the third period, as his third of the year gave the Solar Bears a 3-2 lead. The Everblades tied it up with 4:31 to go in regulation on a Nathan Perkovich goal, his 10th of the season.

It was on to overtime, where Dylan Fitze gave everyone an early Christmas present with the game winning goal 1:57 in to give the Solar Bears a much needed win.

Ouellette stopped 25 of 28 shots in the win, then got the call to return to Syracuse after Connor Ingram was injured in the Crunch’s shootout win over Lehigh Valley earlier in the evening. LeBlanc and Foget each had two assists.

3 Stars:

3. Chris LeBlanc (ORL) 2 assists

2. Dylan Fitze (ORL) 1 goal, 1 assist

1. Mitch Hults (ORL) 2 goals

Saturday, 12/22: Florida 6, Orlando 5 (OT)

It was off to Estero to finish off the three game set between the Solar Bears and the Everblades, and the last game before a well deserved rest for Christmas.

With Ouellette off to Syracuse for at least the next 2 weeks, Corbin Boes took over in net. Orlando brought in goaltender Charlie Millen via a trade with the Reading Royals to fill the backup role. With Millen en route, Bobby Fowler was signed as an emergency backup for the evening.

Unlike the last three games, the Solar Bears got off to a good start in the opening period. Cody Donaghey scored his 5th exactly three minutes into the contest for a 1-0 advantage.

That lead evaporated in the second, as the Everblades scored the next three goals unanswered. Nastasiuk tied the game at 1 midway through the second with a power play goal, his 9th of the season. Derek Sheppard and Matt Finn then scored 43 seconds apart to put Florida ahead 3-1.

Orlando was not about to go away quietly, as a fierce comeback was about to begin. First, a goal by Ryan Lough at the 18:09 mark of the second cut the Everblades lead to 3-2.

Then, the Solar Bear offense went into overdrive. In a span of 53 seconds early in the third period, Orlando turned a 3-2 disadvantage into a 5-3 lead:

-At the 4:05 mark, Donaghey scored his second of the night.

-Captain Mike Monfredo joined the party 29 seconds later with his third goal of the year.

-24 seconds later, LeBlanc added his fourth goal.

Then just as you thought this game couldn’t get any more crazy...well...

The Everblades recovered from that three goal outburst with their own rally. At the 12:29 mark, Sheppard scored his second of the game for a 5-4 contest. McCarron then added his 14th on a late power play with 1:28 remaining in regulation to tie the game at 5.

For the second straight night, the two teams headed to overtime. With 1:43 remaining, Auger scored the game winner, and Florida just escaped with the extra standings point.

Boes finished with 39 saves on 45 shots. Brodzinski added two assists.

3 Stars:

3. Justin Auger (FLA) 1 goal, 1 assist

2. Matt Finn (FLA) 1 goal, 2 assists

1. Derek Sheppard (FLA) 2 goals, 1 assist

Transactions:

DELETE: F Hunter Fejes, signed to PTO by Manitoba 12/18

DELETE: F Brady Shaw, traded to Fort Wayne 12/18

ADD: F Mike Robinson, signed to SPC 12/21

DELETE: G Martin Ouellette, recalled by Syracuse 12/21

ADD: G Charlie Millen, acquired from Reading 12/22

ADD/DELETE: F Justin Kea, acquired by Fort Wayne 12/18; traded to Toledo 12/22

This Week:

After a league mandated holiday break, Orlando gets back to work with a visit to Jacksonville for a two game set against the IceMen on Thursday and Friday. The two teams then head to Orlando on Saturday to finish off the 2018 portion of the schedule.