It’s been a slow start to the season for the Orlando Solar Bears. Despite boasting the #1 penalty kill in the ECHL, and solid goaltending that ranks them among the league’s best, the team’s offensive woes have put the Solar Bears towards the bottom of the South Division.
Additionally, struggling against in-state rival Florida, who the Solar Bears have faced for half of their schedule thus far, has not helped their cause. But a win at the end of the week against another Sunshine State opponent may help get the team back on track with a Western road trip looming.
It was a very busy week for Orlando on the transaction wire:
-On Monday, forward Jake Coughler was signed to a standard contract. He began the year overseas in Slovakia, appearing in 11 games for HC Dukla Trencin and picking up 4 points (2 G, 2 A).
-With Scott Wedgewood returning to Syracuse after serving as Tampa Bay’s third goaltender during their trip to Sweden, Zachary Fucale was reassigned to Orlando on Tuesday after serving as backup to Spencer Martin. To make room, goaltender Kevin Entmaa was released.
-In a three-team trade with Tulsa and Worcester on Thursday, Orlando acquired defenseman Eric Drapluk from the Oilers, and sent forward Jake Marchment to the Railers in exchange for defenseman Jake Bolton, who was then sent to Tulsa. Drapluk, a native of Pembroke Pines, has three assists in 13 games for the Oilers this season.
-On Friday, the team signed forward Lucas Kohls to a standard contract. Kohls began the season with Wheeling, where he had three assists in four games with the Nailers.
-Saturday, the Solar Bears signed rookie defenseman Rich Boyd to a contract. Boyd made his pro debut with Maine at the end of last season, appearing in a pair of games after completing his collegiate career at the University of New Hampshire. He was on Maine’s preseason roster, making one appearance, but was released.
Other Team News:
-Congratulations to rookie goaltender Clint Windsor, who was named the Warrior Hockey ECHL Goaltender of the Week for the week ending November 10th. With both regular goaltenders in Syracuse, Windsor stepped up in the starters’ role and finished the week with a 1-1-1 record, a 1.95 GAA, and a .946 save percentage.
How did Windsor learn the news? Solar Bears head coach Drake Berehowsky had a big announcement to make at Tuesday’s practice.
: After this morning's practice, Coach Berehowsky broke the news to the team that Clint Windsor had been named the @warriorhockey ECHL Goaltender of the Week.— Orlando Solar Bears (@OrlandoHockey) November 13, 2019
More reaction from practice to come. pic.twitter.com/D5uoWxxN7D
-Another week, another schedule change. On Tuesday, the team announced two game date adjustments: the December 8th game against Atlanta will now be played the night before, on Saturday the 7th; and a March 5th Thursday night game against Greenville will now be played the night before, on Wednesday, March 4th.
For the third time in 7 days, the Solar Bears found themselves in Estero, as they tried to avoid another loss to the Everblades.
Things got off to a good start for the visitors in the opening period, as a late power play goal by Tristin Langan, his second of the season, put Orlando ahead 1-0. Then, the Everblades took over the game in the second with a 3 goal outburst against Windsor and never looked back. Blake Winiecki tied the game at 1 at the 3:40 mark with his 6th of the season, then Michael Downing’s second goal of the year six minutes later put Florida ahead 2-1. Michael Huntebrinker then added his 6th goal late in the period for a 3-1 lead.
The Everblades tacked on two more goals late in the third in a span of 23 seconds for the final 5-1 margin, sweeping the 3-game home series against the Solar Bears.
Windsor finished with 32 saves on 36 shots. Cody Donaghey and Mikhail Shalagin had the lone assists.
3. Ken Appleby (FLA) 23 saves
2. Alex Tonge (FLA) 2 assists
1. Michael Downing (FLA) 1 goal
Before embarking on a 4 game road trip, Orlando made a quick trip home to the Amway Center to take on—who else—Florida, hoping to break a four game losing streak (0-3-0-1) against the Everblades.
The team exchanged goals within 14 seconds of each other in the opening period. Florida got on the board first with another goal from Huntebrinker to take a brief 1-0 lead. Hunter Fejes tied the game up shortly thereafter:
Much like the night before in Estero, the Everblades used a big second period to put the game away. Cam Maclise scored his third of the season at the 6:18 mark for a 2-1 Florida lead. Zach Magwood then added his second of the year just over four minutes later for a two goal advantage. John McCarron then sealed the game late in the third with an empty-netter, extending Orlando’s losing streak to four games.
Fucale finished with 31 saves on 34 shots in the loss. Ivan Kosorenkov had the lone assist.
3. Michael Huntebrinker (FLA) 1 goal, 1 assist
2. Cam Johnson (FLA) 22 saves
1. Cam Maclise (FLA) 1 goal, 1 assist
For the first time since November 5th, Orlando faced an opponent not named the Florida Everblades, as their four game road trip began in Jacksonville against the Icemen.
It was Marvel Night in Jacksonville, and the teams wore specialty jerseys—the Icemen wore Spiderman, and Orlando sported Black Panther. Wakanda Forever!
After a scoreless first, the Solar Bears scored twice in the middle frame against Icemen goaltender Michael McNiven, who had been reassigned to Jacksonville earlier in the week by Montreal after starting the season in Adirondack. While on their fourth penalty kill of the game, Alexey Lipanov picked up a shorthanded goal, his fourth of the season, for a 1-0 lead. Late in the period, on another penalty kill, Fejes picked up his own shorthanded goal for a 2-0 advantage.
Late in the third, Orlando sealed it on—you guessed it—a shorthanded goal off the stick of Trevor Olson into the Jacksonville empty net, putting an end to their 4 game losing streak and earning their first road win of the season in six tries. The three shorthanded goals by the Solar Bears are a season high for the ECHL.
Fucale stopped all 25 Icemen shots for the win, the first shutout for an Orlando goaltender this season.
3. Michael McNiven (JAX) 34 saves
2. Alexey Lipanov (ORL) 1 goal
1. Zachary Fucale (ORL) 25 saves, SHO
Let’s go to the Solar Bears locker room for some postgame reaction:
For the first time all season, Orlando gets to play opponents that are outside of the South Division! The team heads west for the week, starting in Idaho on Wednesday night. Then it’s off to Utah for a two game weekend set against the Grizzlies.