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Solar Bears Very Busy Week in Review

Lots of overtime and viral Christmas tree jerseys highlight a near perfect week.

Syracuse Crunch Jimmy Huntington (15) on the ice against the Rochester Americans in American Hockey League (AHL) action at the Blue Cross Arena in Rochester, New York on Friday, October 4, 2019. Rochester won 3-2 in OT.
Scott Thomas Photography

When we last checked in on the Orlando Solar Bears, things didn’t look so good. The team had just been shutout by division rival South Carolina, and found themselves near the bottom of the league—and last in the South Division—in points.

One week later, a busy homestand saw the team win 3 out of 4 games, and jump from last place in the division into a playoff spot.

Roster Moves:

-On Tuesday, Oleg Sosunov headed back north to Syracuse after appearing in 3 games in his latest ECHL stint.

-Prior to Thursday’s game, rookie forward Jimmy Huntington was reassigned to the Solar Bears for the second time this season. In his last visit in late October, he had one goal and two assists in 3 games.

Monday, 12/2: Orlando 4, South Carolina 3 (OT)

For the second time in three days, the Stingrays and Solar Bears faced off in a rare Monday night showdown.

Before most fans at the Amway Center were likely in their seats, South Carolina took a 1-0 lead on a Jordan Klimek goal 59 seconds after puck drop. The visitors doubled their lead at the 9:01 mark on Andrew Cherniwchan’s 8th goal of the season.

Orlando cut the Stingrays lead in half with 5:34 to go in the first on Jake Coughler’s first goal of the year.

The Solar Bears tied the game at 2 on a Blake Kessel goal just four seconds into their first power play of the night.

Less than two minutes later, the Stingrays took a 3-2 lead on a power play goal by Jonathan Charbonneau.

Orlando tied the game at 3 53 seconds into the third on a Trevor Olson goal, his 4th of the season. South Carolina thought they had the game winning goal past Zachary Fucale with just 38 seconds remaining in regulation, but was waved off. The game headed into overtime, where Tristin Langan sent the Solar Bears faithful home happy with his 4th goal of the season 2:38 into the extra frame, giving Orlando a much needed victory and lifted them out of the South Division basement.

Fucale stopped 24 of 27 in the win. Colby McAuley and Michael Brodzinski each had two assists.

Let’s go to the locker room for some postgame comments:

3 Stars:

3. Jake Coughler (ORL) 1 goal, 1 assist

2. Tristin Langan (ORL) GW OT goal

1. Colby McAuley (ORL) 2 assists

Thursday, 12/5: Orlando 4, Jacksonville 3 (OT)

The homestand continued for the Solar Bears on Thursday, as the IceMen came south for a visit.

The teams exchanged goals in the opening period. Ryan Lohin put the Solar Bears on the board with just over 5 minutes to go in the first with his second of the season. Dajon Mingo tied the game up for Jacksonville with 8 seconds to go in the period.

Orlando took a 2-1 lead 11:05 into the second on a power play goal by Alexey Lipanov, his fourth of the season. The IceMen matched that with a power play goal of their own, tying the game at 2 exactly two minutes, courtesy of Pierre-Luc Mercier’s first of the year. Jacksonville took a 3-2 lead with 3:12 remaining on a Bobby Lynch goal, only to have the Solar Bears re-tie the game at 3 on Coughler’s second of the season just over a minute later.

After a scoreless third, it was off to overtime for the second straight game for Orlando. And also for the second straight game, the Solar Bears got the win, as Kessel scored the game winner with 2:16 remaining in the extra frame.

Fucale stopped 32 of 35 shots for the win. Defenseman Eric Drapluk added two assists.

Back to the Orlando locker room for post game reaction:

3 Stars:

3. Jake Coughler (ORL) 1 goal

2. Eric Drapluk (ORL) 2 assists

1. Blake Kessel (ORL) GW OT goal, 1 assist

Friday, 12/6: Orlando 3, Atlanta 1

The homestand continued 24 hours later for the Solar Bears, as the Gladiators came into town for the first of two.

After an early Solar Bears goal was disallowed, the teams exchanged goals within 17 seconds of each other in the first. Dante Hannoun got the visitors on the board first, only to have McAuley tie the game up with his second goal of the season.

Chris LeBlanc put the Solar Bears up by a goal 1:54 into the second period. Atlanta tried to re-tie the game, but goaltender Clint Windsor was not having it.

Jimmy Lodge added an insurance power play goal 59 seconds into the third to seal Orlando’s third straight win. Windsor took care of the rest, finishing with 43 saves on 44 shots. Brodzinski added two assists.

Postgame, Windsor had a few words:

3 Stars:

3. Jimmy Lodge (ORL) 1 goal

2. Michael Brodzinski (ORL) 2 assists

1. Clint Windsor (ORL) 43 saves

Those Jerseys Though...

Before we recap Saturday’s Teddy Bear Toss game, we need to talk about the Christmas tree jerseys. Prior to Friday’s game, the team revealed the specialty sweaters the players would be sporting for Saturday’s contest. Let’s just say...Clark Griswold was impressed?

Naturally, the jerseys went viral, as BarDown and other national media outlets picked up on the reveal.

Saturday, 12/7: Atlanta 3, Orlando 2 (OT)

The Solar Bears—and those jerseys—finished off a busy week with a rematch against Atlanta.

The Gladiators got off to a good start in the opening period against Fucale. Tommy Marchin put the visitors on the board at the 6:41 mark with his 11th goal of the season. Eric Neiley doubled the Atlanta lead with just under 5 minutes remaining in the period with his 6th of the year.

Orlando cut the lead in half—and sent the bears flying—7:26 into the second period, as Tayler Thompson scored his first of the year shorthanded.

Less than two minutes later, Langan tied the game up at 2 with his 5th goal.

After a scoreless third, the Solar Bears were off to overtime for the third time in four games this week. Unfortunately, the third time was not the charm. Neiley scored his second of the night with 2:36 remaining to prevent Orlando from going 4-for-4 on the week.

Fucale finished with 31 saves on 34 shots.

3 Stars:

3. Tommy Marchin (ATL) 1 goal

2. Tayler Thompson (ORL) 1 goal

1. Eric Neiley (ATL) 2 goals, 1 assist

This Week:

No rest for the weary, as Orlando hits the road for four straight.

The trip begins on Tuesday in South Carolina against the Stingrays. Then, it’s a ridiculously scheduled 3 in 3 weekend: the Solar Bears play in Greenville Friday night and Sunday afternoon, and head to Jacksonville Saturday in between. The distance between the cities? 387 miles, or 5 hours and 30 minutes. Welcome to the ECHL, folks.