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Solar Bears Week in Review: To the Midwest!

Orlando heads north for the week and picks up a pair of wins.

Syracuse Crunch Alexey Lipanov (36) playing against the Binghamton Devils in an American Hockey League (AHL) preseason game at the Floyd L. Maines Veterans Memorial Arena in Binghamton, New York on Sunday, September 29, 2019. Syracuse won 6-2.
Scott Thomas Photography

It’s just another busy week in the life of the Orlando Solar Bears. Another four-game week saw the team finish up a brief post-All Star homestand then hit the road to West outposts Cincinnati and Wheeling to close out January. It was a good showing, as the Solar Bears went 2-1-1-0 and held on to fourth place in the ECHL’s South Division.

Monday Pregame Roster Shakeup

Prior to Monday’s game, the Solar Bears and Syracuse made some moves:

-After spending two days with the Crunch, goaltender Zach Fucale was returned to the Solar Bears. To make room on the roster, fill in goaltender Stephen Klein was released.

-Forward Jimmy Huntington found himself on the move again, returning to Syracuse after a five-day stay in Orlando. He swapped places with Alexey Lipanov, who did not dress for the Crunch after being recalled on January 9th.

Monday, 1/27: Orlando 3, Jacksonville 2

A busy week began with a rare Monday night game, as the Solar Bears closed out their homestand with a visit from the IceMen.

Jacksonville found themselves down a goaltender just seven seconds into the contest. Starter Adam Carlson was tossed for purposely shooting the puck into the spectator area, and Ben Halford took over in net. After a dramatic beginning, things settled down, and the teams exchanged goals midway through the first. Alexis D’Aoust put Jacksonville on the board first at the 11:04 mark with his 11th of the season. Tristin Langan tied the game just over three minutes later with his 12th goal (Trevor Olson had originally been credited but scoring was later changed).

Jake Coughler gave Orlando a 2-1 lead at the 2:44 mark of the second with his 8th of the season.

Coughler came through again in the third, scoring his second of the game for a 3-1 Solar Bears lead. Chase Lang brought the IceMen back to within a goal with 9:39 remaining in regulation, but Jacksonville could not get that tying goal.

Fucale got the win, stopping 40 of 42 shots, including this gem:

Let’s look at it from another angle:

How good was this save? ESPN took notice.

Langan and Michael Brodzinski each added two assists.

3 Stars:

3. Zach Fucale (ORL) 40 saves

2. Jake Coughler (ORL) 2 goals

1. Tristin Langan (ORL) 1 goal, 2 assists

Tuesday Moves

Langan received a well-deserved callup to the San Jose Barracuda. Additionally, forward Jimmy Lodge, who had left the team earlier this month to pursue an overseas opportunity, was reinstated to the roster, then traded to Toledo for future considerations.

Wednesday Moves

For the second straight day, San Jose came calling, recalling defenseman Marcus Crawford. In this case, Crawford was reassigned to Kansas City (San Jose does not have an official ECHL affiliate). Additionally, Oleg Sosunov was placed on injured reserve effective January 18th.

Wednesday, 1/29: Cincinnati 2, Orlando 1

The Solar Bears headed north to Ohio, as they started a three-game Midwestern trip against the best team in the Central Division, the Cyclones.

Cincinnati got off to a fast start in the opening period. On their first power play of the night, Brady Vail scored his 6th of the season for a 1-0 lead 1:50 into the contest.

Olson tied the game up at 1 just over three minutes later with his 13th goal of the season.

After a scoreless second, the Cyclones took the lead in the third on a John Wiitala goal with 9:16 remaining in the game.

The Solar Bears could only manage 5 shots on goal in the third, and saw their winning streak end at 4 games.

Clint Windsor took the hard luck loss, stopping 24 of 26 shots. Johno May and Peter Abbandonato had the lone assists.

3 Stars:

3. Brady Vail (CIN) 1 goal

2. Michael Houser (CIN) 21 saves

1. John Wiitala (CIN) 1 goal

Friday, 1/31: Wheeling 3, Orlando 2

Next stop, West Virginia. The Solar Bears and Nailers started a two-game set on Friday night.

Lipanov got the Solar Bears on the board 10:58 into the opening period with a power play goal, his 8th of the season. Wheeling tied the game at 2 with 5:09 remaining in the second on a Ryan Scarfo goal, then jumped ahead 2-1 3:05 into the third on a shorthanded goal by Cam Brown.

On a 5 minute power play with 10:40 remaining, Olson picked up his 14th goal to re-tie the contest. However, Wheeling had the last laugh in this one, as Brown scored his second of the night, this time on a power play, with 4:09 to go to clinch the win for the Nailers.

Fucale took the hard luck loss in net, stopping 23 of 26 shots. Four Solar Bear skaters chipped in one assist each.

3 Stars:

3. Myles Powell (WHL) 2 assists

2. Alex D’Orio (WHL) 34 saves

1. Cam Brown (WHL) 2 goals

Saturday, 2/1: Orlando 5, Wheeling 2

The host Nailers looked for a two-game sweep of the weekend on Saturday night.

It was Country Roads Night in Wheeling, where not only was there a mechanical bull...

...but give the Nailers props for attempting to recreate the SNL Cowbell skit. You are no Christopher Walken, sir.

Now back to the regularly scheduled recap.

Orlando took a 1-0 lead 6:06 into the game on Olson’s 15th goal of the season. Wheeling responded with goals from Renars Krastenbergs and Spencer Trapp in a 6:47 span to take a 2-1 lead. Rich Boyd then tied the game at 2 with 1:03 remaining in the period with his 5th of the season.

Lipanov picked up a power play goal for the second straight game with 4:19 remaining in the second to put the Solar Bears ahead 3-2. Orlando then put this one away in the third, as Taylor Cammarata picked up a power play tally 4:42 into the period. Cody Donaghey then sealed the win with an empty netter with less than 3 minutes remaining.

Windsor stopped 31 of 33 shots for his 10th win of the season. Five skaters had one assist each.

And the postgame hat goes to:

3 Stars:

3. Spencer Trapp (WHL) 1 goal

2. Rich Boyd (ORL) 1 goal, 1 assist

1. Alexey Lipanov (ORL) 1 goal

This Week:

It’s another busy week for the Solar Bears, as they return to all South Divisional matchups with four games on tap.

On Wednesday, the road trip ends in Estero, as Orlando visits the Everblades. The team will return to the Amway Center on Thursday for a two-game set against South Carolina that concludes on Friday. After a Saturday off, the team will host Florida on Sunday.