‘Twas the week before Christmas, and all through the arena...
The Orlando Solar Bears were looking to go into the Christmas break on a high note after a very busy first few weeks of December, with three games on the schedule. By the end of the week, the team took two out of three, saw their offense finally awaken, and...did somebody say goalie fight?
-The Solar Bears’ offense took a hit on Tuesday, as forward Hunter Fejes, who recently returned to the roster after a PTO with Manitoba, left the team to join EHC Linz of the EBEL in Austria. Orlando suspended Fejes from the roster in order to keep his ECHL playing rights, should he choose to return to North America.
-On Friday, Orlando signed forward Eddie Matsushima to a standard player contract. He comes to the Solar Bears by way of the SPHL’s Pensacola Ice Flyers, where in 17 games he had 7 goals and 12 assists. This is Matsushima’s first full pro season after spending four years with the University of Wisconsin-River Falls.
-Goaltender Zachary Fucale became one of three goalies chosen to represent Team Canada for the Spengler Cup, to be played in Davos, Switzerland. The tournament begins on Thursday and runs through New Years Eve. This will be Fucale’s third trip to the Spengler Cup in his career.
The Solar Bears returned to the Amway Center for their last home game prior to the Christmas break on Wednesday, hosting the Mavericks.
Mikhail Shalagin put the Solar Bears on the board 4:53 into the contest with his 5th goal of the season for a 1-0 lead.
Kansas City tied the game at 1 just under four minutes later, as Tad Kozun scored shorthanded. Johno May gave Orlando the one goal lead back with 8:20 remaining in the first on his 3rd goal since joining the team, and 7th overall on the year.
Kansas City made a goaltending switch to begin the second period. Starter Tyler Parsons got the gate after stopping 12 of 14 shots, and Nick Schneider took over. May greeted him with his second goal of the night, a power play tally, at the 4:46 mark for a 3-1 Solar Bears lead.
Less than 2 minutes later, the Mavericks cut the lead to 3-2 on a power play goal by Rocco Carzo. Alexey Lipanov gave the Solar Bears a 4-2 lead with his 5th goal at the 14:27 mark.
The third period saw a lot of back and forth between both sides, with a combined six goals scored. Ivan Kosorenkov got things going for Orlando early, picking up his 4th at the 2:37 mark for a 5-2 lead. Kansas City then rallied with three unanswered tallies against Solar Bears goaltender Clint Windsor. Terrence Amorosa scored his second of the season at the 5:46 mark to cut the lead to 5-3. David Dziurzynski then made it 5-4 just over three minutes later with his 6th. Finally, the Mavericks completed the rally and tied the game at 5 with 8:36 to go in regulation on Zach Osburn’s fifth. However, Orlando was not done just yet—they took a 6-5 lead with 4:40 remaining on Rich Boyd’s second of the season.
Boyd sealed the win for the Solar Bears with 1:20 left on an empty netter.
Windsor picked up the win, despite only stopping 29 of 34 Mavericks shots. Ten Orlando skaters recorded at least one point, lead by Boyd’s two goals and two assists.
3. Kevin Lohan (ORL) 0 points (shrug)
2. Johno May (ORL) 2 goals
1. Rich Boyd (ORL) 2 goals, 2 assists
It was back to North Charleston, where the Solar Bears and Stingrays met for the second time in 10 days.
Much like the third period on Wednesday, there was quite a bit of scoring in Friday’s first period, as the teams combined for five goals. Tristin Langan got the Solar Bears on the board 4:38 in with his 7th. South Carolina tied, then took a 2-1 lead on goals by Dan DeSalvo 32 seconds apart. Orlando responded with two goals 57 seconds apart by Chris LeBlanc and Shalagin to take a 3-2 lead after 20 minutes.
South Carolina rallied in the second period and took the lead back. DeSalvo finished off the hat trick 6:34 in to tie the game up at 3. Matthew Weis gave the Stingrays a 4-3 lead with 4:10 to go in the period with his fifth.
Orlando re-tied the game at 4 1:59 into the third on LeBlanc’s second of the night shorthanded, after Dylan Fitze was assessed a 5 minute major and game misconduct. The Stingrays took the lead back for good less than two minutes later on a goal by Jordan Klimek. Andrew Cherniwchan added a shorthanded goal with 8:40 remaining for an insurance marker. With the win, the Stingrays improved to 6-0-1-0 against the Solar Bears in the season series.
Fucale stopped 28 of 34 in the loss. May added two assists.
3. Mark Cooper (SC) 3 assists
2. Max Novak (SC) 4 assists
1. Dan DeSalvo (SC) Hat trick
The Solar Bears headed south to Georgia to take on the Gladiators, their last game before the holiday break.
Before anyone was likely settled in their seats, Thomas Frazee scored 12 seconds into the game for a 1-0 Atlanta lead.
Not even settled in for a long winter's nap yet pic.twitter.com/zhHv14nG7l— Atlanta Gladiators (@atlgladiators) December 22, 2019
The second period got off to a good start for the visitors. Jimmy Lodge tied the game at 1 at the 1:32 mark with his third goal of the season. Atlanta took a 2-1 lead just over 6 minutes later on a goal by Logan Nelson. After that, it was all Solar Bears, as they scored the next seven unanswered. In a span of 88 seconds, Lipanov, Michael Brodzinski, and Boyd all scored power play goals for a 4-2 Orlando lead after 40 minutes. The teams also combined for 22 penalty minutes in the second.
Moving to the third, where there were more Orlando goals and more penalties on both sides. In a span of 1:09, with a near continuous man advantage, LeBlanc and Langan each picked up power play tallies to extend the lead to 6-2. Then, at the 8:52 mark, things escalated. Which lead to...the main event at center ice.
Once the smoke cleared, Lohan and Windsor were both tossed out of the game, Trevor Olson got 4 minutes for roughing, and Matsushima got 7 minutes for tripping and fighting. Atlanta starting goaltender Sean Bonar was also tossed, along with teammate Josh Thrower. In all, 80 minutes in penalties were handed out.
The fight did not slow down the Orlando offense. Fitze picked up a shorthanded goal 11 seconds after the game resumed for a 7-2 lead. Marcus Crawford finished off the scoring with 4:19 remaining with his first of the season for the final 8-2 margin.
Windsor stopped 24 of 26 and was credited with the win, although you could say he had two wins with the fight. Fucale went 7 for 7 in an impromptu tuneup for the Spengler Cup. Brodzinski finished with a franchise record 6-point night, adding 5 assists. The 5 assists and 6 points are both the second highest total for an ECHL skater this season. Orlando also set a team record with five power play goals, the highest in the league this season to date. The combined 118 penalty minutes are also an ECHL season high.
3. Alexey Lipanov (ORL) 1 goal, 1 assist
2. Chris LeBlanc (ORL) 1 goal, 2 assists
1. Michael Brodzinski (ORL) 1 goal, 5 assists
After a four day break for Christmas, the Solar Bears close out the 2019 portion of their schedule with a pair of divisional matchups. On Thursday, Orlando returns home to host Jacksonville. The team then heads back to South Carolina on Saturday to visit the Stingrays.