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Solar Bears Week in Review: Home Cooking

Orlando takes five of six points on home ice, and fights cancer too.

Otto Somppi, shown here playing for the Syracuse Crunch this past December, was returned to Orlando this past week.

The homestand—and the playoff push—continued for the Orlando Solar Bears this week, with three more matchups against two South Division foes. After a wild overtime loss and a two-game sweep during Orlando’s Hockey Fights Cancer weekend, the Solar Bears carry a five game point streak (4-0-1-0) into a very important week.

News and Notes:

-On Monday, Orlando added its second collegiate signing in as many weeks, bringing in forward Liam Bilton on a standard player contract. The 24-year-old native of Winnipeg joins the Solar Bears after finishing his fourth season with the University of Manitoba, where he scored six goals and added five assists in 26 games for the Bisons. To make room for Bilton on the roster, forward David Mazurek was released after making just one appearance.

-This week on the Orlando-to-Syracuse shuttle, forward Otto Somppi was re-assigned to the Solar Bears for the second time this season. He had appeared in two games for Orlando in early December, picking up a goal and an assist before rejoining the Crunch on December 10th.

Thursday, 2/21: Norfolk 7, Orlando 6 (OT)

On the ice, the Solar Bears homestand continued with a rare Thursday night game against the Admirals.

If you like lots of goal scoring, well, this game was for you.

The teams combined for five first period goals. Darik Angeli got things started quickly for Norfolk, with a goal 29 seconds after opening puck drop for a 1-0 advantage. The visitors doubled their lead at the 3:00 mark on Jake Wood’s 11th goal of the season. Corey Kalk then got Orlando on the board 2:19 later with his 9th. The Admirals restored their two-goal lead with 2:35 remaining in the period on a power play tally by Don Oliveri. Then, with 1:04 remaining and the Solar Bears already on their third penalty kill, a nice shorthanded breakaway goal by Trevor Olson drew Orlando back to within one.

Somppi picked up the only goal in the second period, tying the game at 3 late in the middle stanza with his second ECHL goal of the season.

In the third period, Defense was definitely optional. Six combined goals were scored:

-Kelly Klima put the Admirals back up by a goal at the 6:49 mark with his 13th goal of the season.

-Olson and Jackson Playfair then scored 22 seconds apart for a 5-4 Solar Bears lead with 10:15 remaining.

-Norfolk re-tied the game at 5 less than two minutes later on a Chris Crane goal.

-Klima then added his second of the game with 3:41 to go in regulation for a 6-5 Norfolk lead.

-With 1:40 remaining, Cody Donaghey came through in the clutch, scoring his 11th of the season for a 6-6 tie.

In overtime, the Admirals only had one shot—and it counted, as Eric Roy’s fourth goal of the season 1:19 into the extra frame finished off a highly offensive Norfolk win.

Martin Ouellette played the entire game and took the loss, stopping 26 of 33 shots. Tayler Thompson added three assists, while Zach Frye added two helpers.

3 Stars:

3. Trevor Olson (ORL) 2 goals

2. Kelly Klima (NOR) 2 goals, 3 assists

1. Eric Roy (NOR) GW OT goal

Saturday, 2/23: Orlando 5, Greenville 3

Hockey Fights Cancer weekend kicked off on Saturday at the Amway Center, as the Solar Bears hosted the Swamp Rabbits in the first of a two-game set.

Playfair continued a strong beginning to his pro career, scoring his third goal 1:35 into the contest for a 1-0 Orlando lead. Greenville tied the game at one at the 10:51 mark on a Thomas Ebbing goal, his 10th of the season.

The teams exchanged goals 1:19 apart in the second to extend the deadlock. Frye’s second of the season gave Orlando the lead briefly at the 6:11 mark, but the Swamp Rabbits responded with a shorthanded goal from Brendan Harms.

It took just 16 seconds early in the third for the Solar Bears to put this game away. Playfair’s second of the game, followed by Olson’s 11th of the season, put Orlando ahead 4-2 at the 6:11 mark of the third. Johno May’s 20th of the year less than a minute later drew Greenville back to within a goal, but Mike Monfredo scored his seventh of the year at the 7:53 mark for the final 5-3 margin.

Ouellette rebounded nicely from Thursday night’s overtime loss, stopping 21 of 24 shots. Somppi added two assists.

3 Stars:

3. Kevin Lohan (ORL)

2. Otto Somppi (ORL) 2 assists

1. Jackson Playfair (ORL) 2 goals

Sunday, 2/24: Orlando 3, Greenville 2

About sixteen hours after the final whistle in Saturday’s game, the Solar Bears and Swamp Rabbits met for the rematch.

Orlando found themselves shorthanded early in the opening period, as a kneeing major on Thompson gave the Swamp Rabbits a five minute power play. Greenville took advantage, taking a 1-0 lead on a Dylan Vander Esch goal.

The Solar Bears recovered from a chippy first period—a combined 51 penalty minutes were handed out—to take the lead in the second. Goals by Somppi (3rd) and Alex Schoenborn (8th) in a span of 2:22 turned a one goal deficit into a 2-1 Orlando lead.

Olson added his 12th of the season with 4:22 remaining in regulation to give Orlando an insurance goal. That ended up becoming a game winning goal, after Greenville got to within 3-2 with 1:11 to go in regulation after an Austen Brassard goal. The Swamp Rabbits were unable to get the equalizer in the last minute, and the Solar Bears finished off the two-game sweep, extending their point streak on home ice to 8 games.

Ouellette picked up his 18th win of the season, stopping 29 of 31 shots. Schoenborn added two assists.

3 Stars:

3. Otto Somppi (ORL) 1 goal, 1 assist

2. Martin Ouellette (ORL) 29 saves

1. Alex Schoenborn (ORL) 1 goal, 2 assists

Kelly Cup Playoff Picture:

With five out of six points earned this week, Orlando improves their record to 29-19-4-0 and 62 points. They sit in second place in the ECHL’s South Division, 17 points behind first place Florida, and two points ahead of third place Jacksonville. While Florida has a stronghold on first place, the other three playoff spots are wide open, with five teams—Orlando, Jacksonville, South Carolina, Atlanta, and Norfolk—separated by nine points in positions 2-6.

This Week:

It’s a big week for the Solar Bears as the calendar turns to March. They get three chances to gain some ground on first place Florida. The Everblades visit the Amway Center on Wednesday night, then the teams head to Estero on Friday before returning to Orlando on Saturday.