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Solar Bears Week in Review: South Division Showdown

Orlando faces off against first place Florida, and takes 4 out of 6 points from the defending Eastern Conference champs.

Otto Somppi, shown here during his time with the Syracuse Crunch of the AHL, had quite a week with the Orlando Solar Bears.
Scott Thomas Photography

The 2018-19 ECHL regular season is down to its final few weeks, and every game is becoming crucial for the Orlando Solar Bears as they get into playoff position. The team was put to the test this week. They took on the second best in the ECHL—and the only team ahead of them in the South Division—the Florida Everblades. With a retooled lineup thanks to two AHL returnees, and despite losing their #1 goaltender to callup, Orlando responded with two out of three wins for the week.

Wednesday, 2/27: Orlando 6, Florida 2

The first of three between the in-state rivals kicked off Wednesday night at the Amway Center.

Special teams played a role in the first period, as both squads exchanged goals late. John McCarron picked up a shorthanded goal with 4:46 to go in the period to give the visitors the early 1-0 advantage. Trevor Olson responded for the Solar Bears during a 5-on-3 opportunity, scoring his 13th of the season at the 18:08 mark to tie the game at 1.

Both sides again exchanged goals in the second. Florida took their one-goal lead back 6:17 into the period on a goal from Michael Neville. Orlando responded 1:14 later with Zach Frye’s third of the season for a 2-2 deadlock.

The Solar Bears’ offense came to life in the third, as the team scored 4 unanswered. Dylan Fitze gave Orlando their first lead of the night at the 1:58 mark with his 9th goal of the season. Otto Somppi added his fourth just over 90 seconds later for a 4-2 lead. Cody Donaghey then added his 12th at the 6:48 mark for a 5-2 advantage. Mathieu Foget finished off a huge win for the Solar Bears with an empty netter, his 15th.

In his first start since January 20th, rookie Corbin Boes got the win in net, stopping 26 of 28 shots. Olson and two others each had a pair of assists, and all but four skaters each registered a point.

3 Stars:

3. Corbin Boes (ORL) 26 saves

2. Dylan Fitze (ORL) 1 goal, 1 assist

1. Trevor Olson (ORL) 1 goal, 2 assists

Thursday, 2/28: Roster Moves!

In between games, Orlando had quite a few transactions.

One may have noticed that goaltender Martin Ouellette was a scratch for Wednesday’s contest. There was a good reason why: on Thursday, he was recalled to Syracuse for the third time this season.

Orlando also gained two forwards from extended AHL stints:

-Troy Bourke rejoined the Solar Bears after being recalled to the Crunch in mid-December. In his second stint in Syracuse, Bourke appeared in 21 games, with a goal and 5 assists.

-Brent Pedersen was released from his PTO with Manitoba and returned to Central Florida. He appeared in 27 games for the Moose, with 4 goals and 1 assist.

With Bourke and Pedersen returning to the fold, rookie forward Liam Bilton, who appeared in two games for Orlando, was traded to Florida for future considerations.

Friday, 3/1: Orlando 7, Florida 2

With a new-look roster, Orlando headed south to Estero on Friday night for the second game of the three-game set with the Everblades.

After a scoreless first period, Orlando’s offense broke out in the second. Somppi kicked off the scoring with a sweet lacrosse style play for his fifth goal of the year at the 3:24 mark for a 1-0 lead.

Seriously, see for yourself why ESPN gave this the #1 SportsCenter play of the night honors:

Pedersen made his presence known in his first game back from the AHL, scoring twice in a span of 3:10, with the second goal coming on a power play, to extend the Solar Bears’ lead to three.

Neville got the Everblades got on the board 4:09 into the third with his 10th of the season on a power play. Orlando answered with a pair of goals—Fitze picked up his 10th at the 6:16 mark, then Somppi scored his second of the game on a power play for a 5-1 advantage. The Everblades cut the Orlando lead to three thanks to a goal from veteran defenseman Ernie Hartlieb, who had come out of retirement for a one game appearance thanks to a shortage of players on the Florida roster.

Olson continued the Orlando offensive onslaught with his 14th on a power play to make it a 6-2 game. Bourke finished off the Everblades with his first goal since returning from Syracuse with 52 seconds to go in the contest for the 7-2 final score.

Clint Windsor, who took Ouellette’s place in the Solar Bears goaltending corps, made his first appearance since January 19th and picked up his second win, stopping 29 of 31 shots. Pedersen had a huge game in his return from Manitoba, adding three assists for a 5 point night, the second highest individual game output for an ECHL skater this season. Bourke added a pair of helpers, and 12 Orlando skaters had at least a point in another well balanced attack.

3 Stars:

3. Ernie Hartlieb (FLA) 1 goal

2. Otto Somppi (ORL) 2 goals

1. Brent Pedersen (ORL) 2 goals, 3 assists

Saturday, 3/2: Florida 4, Orlando 2

It was back to Orlando on Saturday night for Military Appreciation Night at the Amway Center.

Nathan Perkovich got the Everblades on the board early in the first with his 16th of the season for a 1-0 advantage. Orlando tied the game late in the period on Foget’s 16th of the season.

Pedersen gave the Solar Bears a 2-1 lead early in the second with a power play goal, his third goal in two days and 10th of the season.

The Everblades took over the contest midway through the period and never looked back. Blake Winiecki tied the game at the 9:59 mark with a power play goal. Derek Sheppard then added a shorthanded tally with 5:45 remaining in the middle frame for a 3-2 lead.

Perkovich game Florida an insurance goal early in the third with his second of the night. The Everblades had an opportunity to break the game open after Patrick Bajkov was awarded a penalty shot, but he was denied by Boes. The final period also saw a combined 36 penalty minutes, thanks to a fight breaking out at the 12:52 mark.

Speaking of Boes, he took the hard luck loss in net, finishing with 44 saves. Foget and three other skaters had one assist each.

3 Stars:

3. Steven Lorentz (FLA) 1 assist

2. Derek Sheppard (FLA) 1 goal, 1 assist

1. Nathan Perkovich (FLA) 2 goals

Playoff Update:

After taking 2 of 3 from first place Florida this week, Orlando keeps their hold on second place in the ECHL’s South Division, two points ahead of third place Jacksonville and 17 points behind the first place Everblades. South Carolina sits in fourth place, but Atlanta and Norfolk are not far behind, as just four points separate the three teams.

In Other News:

A schedule change to note:

-With the ECHL Trade Deadline looming on March 7th, Orlando made another roster move, trading forward Corey Kalk to Wichita on Sunday.

This Week:

Another big test for the Solar Bears this week, as they fly north to St. John’s for a weekend three game series against Newfoundland, who sit in first place in the ECHL’s North Division by seven points over old friend Adirondack.