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Solar Bears Week in Review: IceMen Melted

Orlando sweeps a 3 game set against division rival Jacksonville, and moves up in the South Division standings.

Syracuse Crunch Jonne Tammela (17), show here congratulating Brady Brassart (19) for his goal against Utica Comets goalie Ivan Kulbakov (31) in American Hockey League (AHL) action, continues to excel with ECHL Orlando.
Scott Thomas Photography

After 31 days away from home, the Orlando Solar Bears finally returned to the Amway Center on Wednesday night, as they kicked off a three game set against in-state rival Jacksonville. One perfect week later, Orlando finds themselves just one point out of second place in the ECHL’s South Division standings.

News and Notes:

There was a trio of transactions on Tuesday:

-Defenseman Zach Frye was loaned to the Solar Bears from the San Jose Barracuda. Frye had appeared in 5 games for the Barracuda this season, with one goal and one assist. He had last appeared in a game for San Jose on January 4th.

-To make room, the Solar Bears traded defenseman Carter Struthers to Adirondack for future considerations. Struthers had appeared in 6 games for Orlando, going scoreless.

-Finally, after two appearances, forward Manny Gialedakis was released.

Later on Tuesday, Orlando announced the signing of veteran defenseman Akim Aliu. The native of Okene, Nigeria spent last season overseas with three different teams, appearing in a combined 21 games. In his last North American season in 2016-17, Aliu split time between Cleveland in the AHL, and Florida and Atlanta in the ECHL, appearing in 13 AHL games and 13 ECHL contests.

Wednesday, 2/6: Orlando 3, Jacksonville 2 (SO)

For the first time since a 4-1 win over South Carolina on January 6th, the Solar Bears were on home ice, with the first of three against the IceMen.

The two teams swapped goals within 50 seconds of each other in the first period. At the 5:38 mark, Garrett Ladd scored his seventh of the season for a 1-0 Jacksonville lead. Dylan Fitze responded with his seventh at the 6:28 mark for a 1-1 tie.

Garet Hunt put the IceMen ahead 2-1 early in the second with his fifth goal of the season.

Orlando came back to tie the game in the third, as Jonne Tammela scored his 12th with 15:48 remaining.

After a scoreless overtime, it was on to Orlando’s second shootout of the season. After the first three rounds went scoreless, Mike Robinson and Jacksonville’s Cody Fowlie each connected in round 4. Colby McAuley scored in round 5, then Martin Ouellette stopped Cam Maclise for the win.

Ouellette finished with 27 saves on 29 shots for the victory. McAuley and captain Mike Monfredo each had an assist.

3 Stars:

3. Martin Ouellette (ORL) 27 saves

2. Dylan Fitze (ORL) 1 goal

1. Colby McAuley (ORL) 1 assist, GW SO goal

Friday, 2/8: Orlando 2, Jacksonville 1

Game 2 of the 3 game set came on Friday night back at the Amway Center.

Orlando got all the offense they needed late in the first period. Fitze (8th) and Tammela (13th) scored 1:11 apart for a 2-0 Solar Bears lead.

Former Solar Bear Christophe Lalancette cut the Orlando lead in half with exactly 10 minutes remaining in the contest, but the IceMen were unable to produce the equalizer, giving the Solar Bears their second straight win.

Ouellette stopped 27 of 28 shots for the win. Four skaters had one assist each.

3 Stars:

3. Alexander Kuqali (ORL) 1 assist

2. Dylan Fitze (ORL) 1 goal

1. Martin Ouellette (ORL) 27 saves

Saturday, 2/9: Orlando 3, Jacksonville 2 (OT)

The Solar Bears headed north on Interstate 95 on Saturday to go for the sweep of Jacksonville.

Orlando’s special teams came through in the first period with a pair of goals. Cody Donaghey’s 10th goal of the season on the Solar Bears’ first power play chance gave the visitors a 1-0 lead 5:19 into the game. Michael Brodzinski doubled the Orlando lead at the 16:23 mark with a power play tally of his own. Hunt got the IceMen on the board late in the period with his 6th of the season.

Fowlie tied the game at 2 for Jacksonville 3:35 into the second period with his 11th of the season shorthanded.

After a scoreless third, the Solar Bears and IceMen needed overtime for the second time this week to settle things. This time around, a shootout was not needed. Tayler Thompson scored the game winner with 1:11 remaining in the extra frame to give Orlando the win and the sweep for the week.

Ouellette picked up his fourth win in his last five starts and 14th of the season, stopping 30 of 32 shots. Tammela added two assists.

3 Stars:

3. Garet Hunt (JAC) 1 goal, 1 assist

2. Martin Ouellette (ORL) 30 saves

1. Zach Frye (ORL) 1 assist (originally credited with GWG, but scoring changed)

With three straight wins over Jacksonville, the Solar Bears leap frogged over the IceMen into third place in the South Division. Orlando now sits just one point behind second place South Carolina, and 18 points behind first place Florida.

This Week:

Three games on tap for the Solar Bears this week.

On Wednesday, Orlando heads south to Estero to take on the Everblades. The Solar Bears return home on Friday to begin a six-game homestand, hosting Jacksonville on Friday and Manchester on Sunday afternoon.