After taking two out of three against Norfolk last week to start their season-long 9 game road trip, the Orlando Solar Bears found themselves in a similar situation this week: three straight road games against a division opponent.
This time, it was South Carolina playing host. Unlike last week, the Solar Bears were only able to take two of a possible six points, and now find themselves in the middle of the pack in the ECHL’s South Division as the first half comes to an end.
A Little Roster Shuffling...
Before Orlando headed north for the weekend, there were a few roster moves during the week:
-Another backup goaltender was brought in, as Clint Windsor was signed to a standard contract on Tuesday. The 25-year-old native of Hamilton, ON, comes to Orlando by way of Denmark, where he appeared in 10 games for the Metal Ligaen’s Herlev Eagles.
-Orlando and Syracuse also swapped defensemen: Matthew Spencer was recalled by the Crunch, while Oleg Sosunov was sent down to the Solar Bears.
-Forward Ryan Lough, who had appeared in 14 games for Orlando, announced his retirement on Wednesday after accepting a non-hockey job opportunity.
The first round of the three-in-three weekend between the Solar Bears and Stingrays got underway on Friday night in North Charleston.
Projected Lines:— Orlando Solar Bears (@OrlandoHockey) January 18, 2019
Boes in goal
: https://t.co/fV1V8amhMz pic.twitter.com/Glwww6STwe
This game was all South Carolina from the beginning.
Forward Tad Kozun scored the first two goals of the night, one late in the first period and then again 3:24 into the second, for a 2-0 Stingray lead. Matt Pohlkamp expanded the lead to 3-0 with his 12th of the season at the 7:59 mark, chasing Orlando starter Corbin Boes in favor of Windsor.
Orlando did manage to get on the board with 3:04 left in the contest, as Colby McAuley scored his 5th goal unassisted to cut the lead to 3-1. Unfortunately, Cameron Askew then added an empty netter with less than 2 minutes remaining to seal the win for South Carolina.
Windsor stopped all 13 shots he faced, while Boes stopped 11 of 14 and was tagged with the loss.
3. Cameron Askew (SC) 1 goal, 2 assists
2. Angus Redmond (SC) 38 saves
1. Tad Kozun (SC) 2 goals
You can watch the video highlights, courtesy of the Stingrays, at your own risk here.
Less than 24 hours later, it was back to the rink for Game 2 of the three-game series.
Projected Lines:— Orlando Solar Bears (@OrlandoHockey) January 19, 2019
Windsor in goal
: https://t.co/fV1V8amhMz pic.twitter.com/sFwG32TuCY
After a strong debut in net the night before, Windsor got the nod between the pipes for Orlando.
Unlike the night before, the Orlando offense came alive in this one. Dylan Fitze got the scoring started early, picking up his 6th of the season 91 seconds after puck drop for a 1-0 lead. McAuley doubled the lead 1:10 later with his second goal of the weekend. Jonne Tammela then joined the party at the 4:38 with a power play marker, his 9th of the season.
The Solar Bears were not done pouring it on the Stingrays as the game went into the second. Michael Brodzinski scored his 6th goal at the 1:49 mark for a 4-0 lead. Stingrays goaltender Angus Redmond, who had helped shut the Solar Bears down just the night before, was lifted after that fourth goal in favor of Gordon Defiel. Sosunov greeted Defiel with his first ECHL goal less than 90 seconds later for a commanding 5-0 Orlando lead.
Put Jonne Tammela on the hands team with this beautiful behind-the-back assist to help set up Oleg Sosunov’s first as a Solar Bear! Orlando up 5-1 after two! pic.twitter.com/QctVVgs5YN— Orlando Solar Bears (@OrlandoHockey) January 20, 2019
The Stingrays were not about to let this deficit ground them, as they scored the next three unanswered. Christian Horn put the Stingrays on the board late in the second period with his 7th goal of the season. Pohlkamp (on a power play) and Grant Besse then added goals 1:39 apart early in the third to cut the Orlando lead to 5-3.
Chris LeBlanc stopped the bleeding and restored a three goal lead at the 9:14 mark:
We’re just gonna nominate Chris LeBlanc to star alongside George Clooney, Brad Pitt and Matt Damon in the next Ocean’s 11 movie, because that was straight THIEVERY. pic.twitter.com/XDWC97l7gx— Orlando Solar Bears (@OrlandoHockey) January 20, 2019
Kozun then added his 11th goal with 7:38 remaining in the third to cut the Orlando lead back to two. Alex Schoenborn then sealed the win for Orlando with his 3rd with 2:34 remaining in the contest.
Lost in all the offense was Windsor, who picked up his first Orlando win with 36 saves. LeBlanc added three assists for a four point night, while Tammela added two helpers. All but 5 skaters registered at least a point.
3. Grant Besse (SC) 1 goal, 1 assist
2. Jonne Tammela (ORL) 1 goal, 2 assists
1. Chris LeBlanc (ORL) 1 goal, 3 assists
It was a Sunday mid-afternoon matinee for the rubber match of the three game series. Boes was back in net for Orlando.
Projected Lines:— Orlando Solar Bears (@OrlandoHockey) January 20, 2019
Boes in goal
: https://t.co/fV1V8amhMz pic.twitter.com/ji42imKkV4
In the opening period, South Carolina was first on the board at the 4:58 mark, as Besse picked up a shorthanded goal. Tammela responded just over three minutes later, tying the game up with his 10th tally of the season. The Stingrays took the lead back at the 11:06 mark with Kevin McKernan 6th goal of the season. Orlando again responded to tie the game, as Mathieu Foget scored his 12th shorthanded just under two minutes later.
We can score shorthanded too, y’know! Matthieu Foget knots it up at 2-2! pic.twitter.com/8apnqcRes1— Orlando Solar Bears (@OrlandoHockey) January 20, 2019
The seesaw pattern continued into the second. Tim Davison’s third of the season at the 12:17 mark again gave the Stingrays the one goal lead. Tammela again responded, scoring his second of the day 56 seconds later for a 3-3 tie.
Tammela ties it at 3-3 with his second of the afternoon! pic.twitter.com/yJIjHPboKp— Orlando Solar Bears (@OrlandoHockey) January 20, 2019
Early in the third, the Stingrays had a chance to continue the pattern when Jordan Samuels-Thomas was awarded a penalty shot...but was denied by Boes. South Carolina did eventually get that go-ahead goal. With 3:20 remaining in regulation, veteran forward Josh Gratton scored his first of the season to put the Stingrays up 4-3.
Things escalated quickly in the last 2:34 of the contest, as tensions from the weekend boiled over and the teams combined for 38 penalty minutes in two incidents. Orlando took the brunt of those minutes, as separate boarding and cross-checking majors on Fitze and Cody Donaghey found the Solar Bears down two men. Gratton took advantage and scored his second of the game with 16 seconds remaining to seal the win.
Boes finished with 27 saves on 32 shots. Tammela added a first period assist for a three point day, while four others had one assist each.
3. Jonne Tammela (ORL) 2 goals, 1 assist
2. Josh Gratton (SC) 2 goals
1. Angus Redmond (SC) 39 saves
South Carolina again provides the video highlights here.
It’s All-Star Break time in the ECHL, and the Solar Bears get the week off to rest. They return to the ice on Saturday in Atlanta to face the Gladiators.