Coming off a perfect weekend on at the Amway Center, the Orlando Solar Bears hit the road this week for a three-game swing through Florida and Georgia before returning home on Sunday. After an unexpected roster move with a key member of the team leaving for greener pastures overseas, the Solar Bears were unable to keep up the momentum of last weekend. However, they found it again upon returning home, managing to extend a home ice win streak.
-The three goalie rotation was reduced to two on Monday. Zachary Fucale, who had been mysteriously recalled to Syracuse the day before, was released from his AHL contract. He has signed with Munich EHC of the DEL in Germany. Fucale leaves behind a 10-8-3 record, a 2.36 GAA, .928 save percentage, and four shutouts, including in his last start on February 14th. Unless something changes in the organization, Clint Windsor and Mike Condon will be the goalie tandem for the rest of the season.
-Additionally, with Orlando’s defense getting healthy, rookie Brandon McMartin was released from his standard contract. He did not dress for a game after signing with the Solar Bears on February 8th.
-Oleg Sosunov added to his frequent flyer miles on Wednesday, as the Crunch reassigned him to the Solar Bears for the fourth time this season.
-On Friday, Orlando signed college free agent forward Danny Hanlon to a standard contract. Hanlon comes to the Solar Bears by way of Wilfrid Laurier University of the OUAA in Ontario, where in 28 games he set career highs of 11 goals and 10 assists.
-With injuries hitting the Crunch roster, Tyler Bird was signed to a PTO on Saturday. He made his AHL debut on Sunday afternoon in a 3-2 road loss to Springfield.
The three-game road swing began on Wednesday night in Estero, as the Solar Bears and Everblades met for the ninth time this season.
Orlando found themselves down 1-0 6:38 into the contest on a Lukas Craggs goal. That deficit did not last long, as the Solar Bears rattled off three straight scores against Everblades goaltender Ken Appleby. Mikhail Shalagin tied the game at 1 67 seconds later with his 7th goal of the season. On the Solar Bears’ first power play of the night, Cody Donaghey put Orlando ahead 2-1 with his 3rd at the 10:04 mark. Just over two minutes later, Johno May added his 15th for a 3-1 lead after the first 20 minutes.
The Everblades took over the game in the second and did not look back. Justin Auger’s 23rd of the season at the 7:26 mark brought Florida back to within a goal. Hunter Garlent then tied the game at 3 with his 12th just over four minutes later. The Everblades finished the comeback with 5:24 remaining in the period, taking a 4-3 lead on Blake Winiecki’s 23rd of the season.
Florida continued the offense in the third, as Hugo Roy scored an insurance goal 1:21 into the frame for a 5-3 lead. Michael Huntebrinker then finished off the scoring with 10:43 remaining with his 13th of the season on a power play.
Windsor took the loss in net, stopping 30 of 36. Tayler Thompson added two assists.
3. Cam Maclise (FLA) 2 assists
2. Michael Huntebrinker (FLA) 1 goal, 1 assist
1. Blake Winiecki (FLA) 1 goal, 2 assists
The road trip headed north to Georgia on Friday, as the Solar Bears and Gladiators faced off for the second time in 5 days.
The teams exchanged goals late in the first period. Bird’s fifth of the season at the 14:07 mark gave Orlando a 1-0 advantage. That lead lasted all of 1:20, however—Scott Conway scored on a power play for a 1-1 tie.
The Gladiators took over the game in the second with a pair of goals against Windsor. Samuel Asselin’s 24th of the season put the hosts ahead 2-1 at the 4:42 mark. Eric Neiley added an insurance goal with 7:29 to go in the period for a 3-1 lead.
Tristin Langan brought the Solar Bears back to within 3-2 with 11:34 remaining with his 13th goal, but Orlando was unable to get that tying marker, dropping their second straight game.
Windsor was busy in between the pipes, stopping 44 of 47 in the loss. Bird and Alexander Kuqali had the lone assists.
3. Luke Nogard (ATL) 2 assists
2. Scott Conway (ATL) 1 goal, 1 assist
1. Eric Neiley (ATL) 1 goal
Last stop of this week’s road trip? Jacksonville, as the Solar Bears looked to improve upon an 8-1 season series record against the IceMen.
Jacksonville took a 1-0 lead on an Adam Dauda goal 7:23 into the contest. The hosts then blew the game open in the second with a three-spot against Mike Condon, who was making his fourth start since joining Orlando. Wacey Rabbit’s 6th of the season at the 3:45 mark doubled the IceMen lead. Mike Hedden and Bobby Lynch then added goals 2:25 apart later in the period for a 4-0 advantage.
Meanwhile, the Orlando offense was simply unable to get anything past Jacksonville netminder Adam Carlson. He stopped all 30 Solar Bears shots in his first shutout of the season.
Condon finished with 28 saves on 32 shots, and saw his Solar Bears record drop to 0-3. With the third straight loss, Orlando fell back into fourth place in the division.
3. Adam Dauda (JAC) 1 goal, 1 assist
2. Mike Hedden (JAC) 1 goal, 1 assist
1. Adam Carlson (JAC) 30 saves, SHO
Orlando hoped to finish off another busy week on a good note, returning home for a Sunday afternoon matchup against the Admirals.
Things got started in a hurry for the Solar Bears in the first, as Langan scored his 14th goal 49 seconds after puck drop for an early 1-0 lead. May then added his 16th of the season at the 10:27 mark for a 2-0 advantage.
The offense continued to roll in the second against Norfolk goaltender Sean Romeo. Kuqali scored twice in a span of 5:30 to extend the Orlando lead to four. Eric Drapluk then added his first of the season with 3:11 remaining in the period for a 5-0 lead.
Windsor was coasting along with much needed offensive help, but lost his shutout bid halfway through the third on a J.C. Campagna goal. He finished with 36 saves on 37 shots for his 13th win of the season. Langan lead all skaters with a four-point outing, adding three assists. Trevor Olson had two helpers.
The win extended the Solar Bears’ home streak to four, and with a Greenville regulation loss to Atlanta, Orlando jumped back into third place in the South by a point over the Swamp Rabbits.
Full highlights from the afternoon can be found here:
FOUR IN A ROW AT HOME!— Orlando Solar Bears (@OrlandoHockey) February 24, 2020
Catch today's highlights: pic.twitter.com/93nW06Owfz
3. Eric Drapluk (ORL) 1 goal, 1 assist
2. Clint Windsor (ORL) 36 saves
1. Alexander Kuqali (ORL) 2 goals
It’s another 3-in-3 weekend for Orlando as the calendar turns to March.
On Friday, the Solar Bears head back to Atlanta for the second time in 7 days. The team returns home on Saturday to host Newfoundland, then the Everblades pay a visit on Sunday afternoon.