The long, strange trip for the Orlando Solar Bears finally came to an end this past weekend. The team finished a season-long 9 game trip with two games against division rivals Greenville and Atlanta. After a two game split, they finally return home to the friendly confines of the Amway Center.
-On Tuesday, the Solar Bears acquired defenseman Alexander Kuqali from Fort Wayne as the “future considerations” from a December 18th deal that sent forward Brady Shaw to the Komets. Kuqali had one goal and six assists in 36 games for Fort Wayne this season.
-Thursday, the Solar Bears and Syracuse swapped defensemen: Matthew Spencer returned to Orlando, while Oleg Sosunov headed north to rejoin the Crunch.
-With several forwards out due to either suspension or injury, the Solar Bears signed Manny Gialedakis to a standard contract prior to Friday’s contest. Gialedakis had appeared in 16 games for Norfolk earlier this season, picking up three assists.
Orlando headed north to Greenville on Friday night for Game 8 of the road trip to take on the Swamp Rabbits.
Projected Lines:— Orlando Solar Bears (@OrlandoHockey) February 1, 2019
Ouellette in goal
: https://t.co/fV1V8amhMz pic.twitter.com/g1WCyCBLfZ
The visitors got off to a good start against goaltender Chris Nell in the first, scoring twice in the game’s first seven and a half minutes. Mathieu Foget gave Orlando a 1-0 lead 4:32 into the contest with his 13th goal of the season. Alex Schoenborn’s fourth just under three minutes later doubled the Solar Bear lead.
Greenville came back to tie the game, thanks to the first two professional goals for Swamp Rabbits forward Kamerin Nault, appearing in just his fourth game after playing at the University of Manitoba. Nault’s first goal late in the second period cut the Solar Bears lead in half. His second tied the game up with 8:14 in regulation.
Orlando had an opportunity to jump back ahead after receiving a five minute power play, thanks to a cross checking major call on Greenville’s Dan Milan. At the very last second of that major...they did. Tayler Thompson, who had a fight of his own earlier in the period, scored the go ahead goal at the 18:40 mark, just as the major expired, to put the Solar Bears up 3-2.
Tayler Thompson and game-winning goals are starting to become a thing.— Orlando Solar Bears (@OrlandoHockey) February 2, 2019
No complaints here. pic.twitter.com/X7w6corDdv
Captain Mike Monfredo added an empty netter with 15 seconds remaining to seal the win for Orlando. Martin Ouellette picked up his eleventh win, stopping 39 of 41 Greenville shots, including this gem in the second:
Colby McAuley added three assists, while four others—including Kuqali in his Solar Bear debut—had one helper each.
3. Jonne Tammela (ORL) 1 assist
2. Kamerin Nault (GRN) 2 goals
1. Tayler Thompson (ORL) 1 goal
One last game on the road trip before returning home to Central Florida, as the Solar Bears visited Atlanta for the second straight Saturday.
Projected Lines:— Orlando Solar Bears (@OrlandoHockey) February 3, 2019
Ouellette in goal
: https://t.co/fV1V8amhMz pic.twitter.com/PWLseit23q
The Gladiators got off to a hot start against Ouellette in the first period, picking up a pair of goals. Nick Bligh’s 14th goal of the season put Atlanta ahead 1-0 7:46 into the contest. Joseph Widmar doubled the host’s lead late in the first with his second goal of the season.
Much like last weekend in the same building, Orlando rallied back. Mike Robinson’s third goal of the year at the 2:26 mark of the second cut the Gladiators’ lead to 2-1. Chris LeBlanc added a late power play goal, his 6th marker of the season, to tie the game at 2 after 40 minutes.
Atlanta took a 3-2 lead with 7:24 to go in the contest on Brian Cooper’s first goal of the season. But, the Solar Bears were not done just yet. On a power play, Schoenborn tied the game at 3 with 1:14 to go in regulation.
With 23 seconds to go, Monfredo took a cross checking call, and that minor penalty proved to be costly. Widmar scored his second of the game with 3.0 seconds remaining, giving Atlanta a literal last second victory.
Ouellette finished with 29 saves on 33 shots in defeat. Spencer added two assists.
The Solar Bears finished their road trip with a 5-4 mark.
3. Chris LeBlanc (ORL) 1 goal
2. Nick Bligh (ATL) 1 goal, 1 assist
1. Joseph Widmar (ATL) 2 goals
For the first time since January 6th, Orlando will come home to the Amway Center, with a pair of games against Jacksonville on Wednesday and Friday. Then, it’s back on the road on Saturday, as the Solar Bears visit the IceMen to complete a three game set.