After a rough week against the top two teams in the ECHL’s South Division, the Orlando Solar Bears returned home for a 3-in-3 weekend against two of the bottom teams in the South. With a little roster retooling and two third period comebacks, Orlando not only swept all three games, but they even moved up in the playoff hunt, surpassing Greenville for third place with 21 games to go in the regular season.
Wednesday was quite a busy day for roster turnover:
-With injuries and callups continuing to affect the Syracuse roster, forward Alexey Lipanov was recalled to the Crunch for the second time this season.
-The Solar Bears acquired Mitch Vandergunst from Allen to complete an October trade. However, he was released the next day.
-The depleted defense received a boost, as Kevin Lohan returned from San Diego after a brief PTO, and Orlando signed Zane Schartz to a standard contract.
-On Friday, rookie forward Tristin Langan returned to Florida after appearing in 4 games for San Jose in his first AHL stint.
-Prior to Sunday’s afternoon game, Zachary Fucale was recalled to Syracuse. The Crunch are currently in a stretch of 4 games in 6 days.
The 3-in-3 weekend began on Valentine’s Day, as the Solar Bears welcomed the Admirals for the first of two.
Here's tonight's starting lineup! pic.twitter.com/gvitdx843Y— Orlando Solar Bears (@OrlandoHockey) February 15, 2020
The Solar Bears jumped out to a 1-0 lead 8:50 into the contest on Alexander Kuqali’s first goal of the season. Johno May picked up his 14th of the year on Orlando’s second power paly of the night 3:56 into the second to double the lead, then Schartz scored in his Solar Bear debut with 8:28 left in the period for a 3-0 advantage.
Just as the third period got underway, Tayler Thompson showed he was over any sappy Valentine’s posts. Probably.
Memo to self: do ***NOT*** step into the rumble pit with Tayler Thompson. pic.twitter.com/94dJhHC5qS— Orlando Solar Bears (@OrlandoHockey) February 15, 2020
Dylan Fitze finished off Orlando’s offensive attack with a highlight reel goal, his third of the season, at the 7:31 mark of the third for a 4-0 lead.
Zach Fucale had all the offense he needed, as he stopped all 34 Norfolk shots in his 4th shutout and 10th win of the season. Six Orlando skaters each had one assist.
Let’s go to the Solar Bears locker room to find out who gets the coveted game hat:
3. Dylan Fitze (ORL) 1 goal
2. Tayler Thompson (ORL) 1 assist, center ice fight victory
1, Zachary Fucale (ORL) 34 saves, SHO
The two teams were back at it 24 hours later, as the Solar Bears looked to get the two-game sweep of Norfolk.
Here's tonight's starting lineup! pic.twitter.com/4RHghcLokO— Orlando Solar Bears (@OrlandoHockey) February 15, 2020
It was a fast start for Orlando in the opening period, as Jake Coughler scored his 11th goal 1:11 in for a 1-0 lead. Norfolk tied the game at 1 at the 11:10 mark on a goal by Sebastian Vidmar, but Coughler responded with his second of the period just over five minutes later for a 2-1 Solar Bears advantage after the first 20 minutes.
The Admirals got to Mike Condon in the second with three unanswered goals. Johnny Coughlin tied the game at 2 at the 7:24 mark with his 9th of the season. J.C. Campagna gave the visitors a 3-2 lead exactly four minutes later with his 10th. Finally, with 4:42 to go in the second, River Rymsha made it 4-2 Norfolk, spelling the end of the night for Condon in favor of Clint Windsor.
It would take some last minute magic for the Solar Bears to rally in the third. With two Admirals serving penalties, Michael Brodzinski came through in the clutch. He scored twice in a span of 24 seconds with less than a minute remaining in regulation to tie the game at 4.
On to overtime, where for the second time in two weeks, Taylor Cammarata came through with the game winning goal, completing a near miraculous comeback for the Solar Bears. The second point put Orlando in a tie for third place in the South with Greenville.
Windsor picked up his 11th win in relief, stopping all 11 shots in just under 25 minutes of work. Condon stopped 23 of 27 before getting the hook.
If you have about 10 minutes to spare, here’s your highlights:
Did you try to beat the traffic last night before the game was over?— Orlando Solar Bears (@OrlandoHockey) February 16, 2020
Big mistake. pic.twitter.com/G49bjMejmH
3. Taylor Cammarata (ORL) 1 goal, 1 assist
2. Jake Coughler (ORL) 2 goals, 2 assists
1. Michael Brodzinski (ORL) 2 goals, 1 assist
To finish off the weekend, Orlando welcomed the Gladiators, who started the day 8 points behind the Solar Bears for the last South playoff spot, for an afternoon matinee.
Just like the night before, it did not take long for Orlando to get things started in the first. Trevor Olson scored his 17th goal of the season 1:19 after puck drop for the early 1-0 advantage. Atlanta tied the game up with 7:25 to go in the period on Avery Peterson’s 12th of the year.
Atlanta jumped ahead 2-1 5:50 into the second period on a goal by Joel Messner. But much like the night before, Orlando rallied in the third. Exactly one minute into the final period, Coughler’s 13th of the season—and third goal of the weekend—tied things up at 2.
Rich Boyd then put the hosts ahead 3-2 just over three minutes later with a power play goal. Fitze then picked up an insurance marker with 6:25 remaining. Brodzinski then finished off the weekend sweep with an empty netter, his third goal in two days, with under 2 minutes remaining.
Windsor stopped 37 of 39 shots in his second win of the weekend. Olson and Johno May each added two assists.
You can find all the highlights here:
*Beats the Gladiators for a 3-in-3 weekend sweep*— Orlando Solar Bears (@OrlandoHockey) February 16, 2020
Don't say it.
Don't say it.
Don't say it.
Don't say it.
Don't say it.
Solar Bears pick up a 5-2 win — catch the highlights here! pic.twitter.com/WvLjjpCZp5
3. Clint Windsor (ORL) 37 saves
2. Johno May (ORL) 2 assists
1. Trevor Olson (ORL) 1 goal, 2 assists
It’s another busy 4-game week for the Solar Bears, with the next three away from Amway Center. On Wednesday, Orlando heads south to Estero to take on the Everblades. Friday, it’s north to Atlanta to visit the Gladiators, then to Jacksonville on Saturday night. Finally, the Solar Bears return home on Sunday afternoon to host Norfolk for the third time in 9 days.