After kicking off 2020 with a tough loss to Brampton, the Orlando Solar Bears hit the road to begin a 6-game road trip through four South Division cities.
First stop? Norfolk. A city that 8 years ago was the toast of the AHL as current Lightning organizational players Tyler Johnson, Ondrej Palat, Alex Killorn, Cory Conacher, and a cast of others rode a record 28-game winning streak to a Calder Cup championship. Now, it’s a different story in Virginia, as the Ads find themselves at the bottom of the ECHL standings.
With a newly named ECHL All-Star and a swap of forwards with Syracuse, the Solar Bears managed a split of their weekend series, and held on to the fourth playoff spot in the South Division.
-On Thursday, forward Alexey Lipanov was recalled to Syracuse, looking to make his first AHL appearance since the 2017-18 season. In 22 games for the Solar Bears, Lipanov had 7 goals and 7 assists. While Lipanov was going north, forwards Jimmy Huntington and Peter Abbandonato headed south to Orlando.
-Friday, with Alex Volkov getting recalled to the Lightning, Huntington went right back up to Syracuse.
ECHL All-Stars: Brodzinski Gets the Nod
On Monday, the ECHL revealed the rosters for the league’s annual All-Star Classic, to be held in Wichita, Kansas, on January 22nd. Orlando defenseman Michael Brodzinski was chosen as the Solar Bears’ representative for the Eastern Conference squad. He currently leads all Orlando skaters in scoring with 4 goals and 18 assists in 34 games.
The first of two between the Solar Bears and the Admirals kicked off at the Scope on Friday night.
This game was all Orlando from the beginning, as the Solar Bears put up three goals in the first 20 minutes of the contest. Jake Coughler opened the scoring at the 4:10 mark with his fourth goal of the season. Trevor Olson doubled the lead just over three minutes later with his 7th of the year. Tristin Langan then added his 9th less than a minute later for a 3-0 Orlando advantage.
After a scoreless second, the Solar Bears continued to add to their lead in the third. Just 27 seconds into the period, Tayler Thompson scored his second of the year for a 4-0 Orlando lead. Langan finished off the offensive onslaught four minutes later with his second of the game.
Clint Windsor took care of everything else in net, earning his third shutout of the season with 25 saves, including this one:
In a well-balanced attack, Coughler and five other skaters had one assist each.
3. Jake Coughler (ORL) 1 goal, 1 assist
2. Tristin Langan (ORL) 2 goals
1. Clint Windsor (ORL) 25 saves, SHO
Let’s head into the locker room for some postgame comments:
24 hours later, the teams met again for the second of the two-game series.
This time, it was Norfolk getting off to a good start in the first 20 minutes, putting up 3 goals on Windsor. Zack Philips put the Admirals ahead 1-0 5:03 into the game with his 7th goal of the season. J.C. Campagna doubled the Norfolk lead just under three minutes later with his 5th. Artem Ivanyuzhenkov, who appeared in one game for Orlando earlier this season, gave the Admirals a 3-0 lead at the 13:43 mark with his second goal of the year.
Norfolk added two more unanswered goals early in the second. Josh Holmstrom (7th) and Charlie O’Connor (7th) scored within the first 3:48 of the period for a commanding 5-0 lead, sending rookie Chase Perry in from the bullpen in relief of Windsor.
The goaltending change woke up the Solar Bears’ offense. Abbandonato scored his first ECHL goal at the 6:29 mark to break up the Admirals’ shutout bid. With Brodzinski serving a high-sticking call, Colby McAuley scored shorthanded with 5:58 remaining in the second for a 5-2 game. Exactly one minute later, Johno May scored his 10th to cut the Norfolk lead to two after 40 minutes of play.
Norfolk shut down Orlando’s rally early in the third, taking a 6-3 lead on a power play goal by Johnny Coughlin.
Before getting the hook, Windsor stopped just 6 of 11 shots in just under 24 minutes. Perry finished with 12 saves on 13 shots in relief. Kevin Lohan had the lone assist.
3. Josh Holmstrom (NOR) 1 goal, 1 assist
2. Michael McNiven (NOR) 30 saves
1. Charlie O’Connor (NOR) 1 goal, 1 assist
Orlando has a busy week on the road leading up to the ECHL All-Star Break with four games in five days.
The Solar Bears head to Atlanta on Wednesday and Friday for a pair against the Gladiators. Saturday, the team heads south to Jacksonville to visit the IceMen. Finally, on Sunday afternoon, Orlando heads to South Carolina to face the Stingrays.