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Solar Bears Week in Review: Close, but not close enough

Losses to Norfolk and South Carolina drop Orlando’s record to 0-3 to start the season.

A Week With The Orlando Solar Bears Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

It has not been a good start to the season for the Orlando Solar Bears. Three games into the new season, the team finds themselves in an 0-3 hole with a habit of falling behind early and not catching up in time. The Solar Bears have been outscored 11-6, and are just one of two ECHL squads—Jacksonville is the other—still waiting for their first win.

News and Notes:

After starting the season on a PTO with Manitoba, forward Hunter Fejes returned to the Solar Bears on Wednesday for a third season. He appeared in 12 games for Orlando in 2018-19, scoring 8 goals and adding 7 assists. He also had two separate PTO stints with the Moose (8 points in 42 games) and Rockford (no points in 7 games). To make room for Fejes on the roster, Pierre-Luc Mercier was released.

Friday, 10/18: Norfolk 3, Orlando 2

The Solar Bears returned to the ice on Friday night, finishing off a brief two-game homestand by hosting division rival Norfolk. With rookie Zach Sawchenko recalled to AHL San Jose, Zachary Fucale made his season debut in net.

After a scoreless first period, the visitors got on the board early in the second. With Jake Marchment serving a tripping call, Christian Horn scored on the ensuing power play for a 1-0 Admirals lead. Norfolk doubled the lead at the 7:58 mark of the third on Charlie O’Connor’s first goal of the season.

The Solar Bears cut the lead in half just over a minute later, as Chris LeBlanc scored his first of the season on a power play. Norfolk picked up an insurance goal on an empty-netter by Alex Rodriguez with 1:31 remaining in regulation. That goal would prove to be huge, as Orlando got to within 3-2 with 58 seconds on the clock on Cody Donaghey’s first of the year.

Fucale stopped 26 of 28 shots in the loss. The Solar Bears peppered Norfolk goaltender Brandon Halverson with 51 shots. Fejes and Tristin Langan each added two assists.

3 Stars:

3. Chris LeBlanc (ORL) 1 goal

2. Alex Rodriguez (NOR) 1 goal, 1 assist

1. Brandon Halverson (NOR) 49 saves

Saturday, 10/20: South Carolina 4, Orlando 2

On the road for the first time this season, the Solar Bears headed north to Charleston on Saturday night for a rematch with the Stingrays. Spencer Martin got his second start between the pipes.

The hosts got off to a good start in the first period. With Orlando’s Marcus Vela sitting for a double minor for high-sticking, it took Stingrays forward Mark Cooper 24 seconds in to pick up his second goal of the season for a 1-0 advantage. Ryan Lohin tied the game at 1 at the 15:27 mark of the period with his first as a professional. That tie lasted all of 1:10, as a Cameron Askew goal gave the Stingrays a 2-1 lead after 20 minutes of play.

Just 1:05 into the second period, the Stingrays increased their lead to two on a Dan DeSalvo goal, his first of the season. At the 12:24 mark, South Carolina jumped out to a 4-1 lead on a power play goal by Andrew Cherniwchan, his second of the year.

Chris LeBlanc picked up his second of the season with 4:30 remaining in the second to cut the Stingrays lead to 4-2. The Solar Bears only managed 5 shots in the third, and were unable to get any closer.

Martin finished with 34 saves on 38 shots, despite being pulled for all of 94 seconds in the second period in favor of Fucale, who did not face any shots before an equipment issue put Martin back in the game. Four skaters had one assist each.

3 Stars:

3. Dan DeSalvo (SC) 1 goal, 1 assist

2. Mark Cooper (SC) 1 goal, 1 assist

1. Andrew Cherniwchan (SC) 1 goal, 1 assist

This Week:

Orlando hosts Florida on Friday, then the team will head south to Estero on Saturday to complete a home-and-home with the 3-0 Everblades.