As much as we love having the normalcy of watching live hockey again, this week was a reminder that yes, we are still dealing with a pandemic.
Wednesday night was supposed to be the start of a three-game set between the Orlando Solar Bears and Greenville Swamp Rabbits at the Amway Center. However, the Solar Bears released the following statement about 7 and a half hours before puck drop:
This marks the first time this season Orlando has had to postpone a game due to safety protocols. Every ECHL team, with the exception of Rapid City, has had to call off at least one game since the league returned to play in mid-December.
Prior to Wednesday, the Solar Bears added two more forwards, Ben Thomson and Tyler Bird, to the Commissioner’s Exempt List, joining teammate Nikita Pavlychev, who has yet to be reinstated. Forward Dylan Sadowy joined the list on Thursday.
Friday and Saturday’s contests against Greenville had planned to go on, then the Solar Bears released the following early Friday afternoon:
Due to safety protocols for both Orlando and the Swamp Rabbits—Greenville currently has 5 players on the Commissioner’s Exempt List—the rest of the week’s slate was postponed.
This week was a not-so-friendly reminder—as the parent club, the Tampa Bay Lightning, have had to deal with after games against Dallas were postponed earlier—that we are still dealing with a nearly year-long pandemic, and although things are starting to look a little better with the vaccine, we still have to be careful when it comes to protecting one’s health.
In Other News...
There was one player transaction to report this week, as the Solar Bears inked forward Zack Andrusiak to a standard contract on Friday. Andrusiak comes to Florida for his second professional season, after spending his rookie year with Idaho. In 51 games for the Steelheads in 2019-20, the native of Armstrong, BC had 10 goals and 13 assists. Prior to turning pro, Andrusiak played three full seasons in the Western Hockey League, splitting time between Prince Albert, Seattle, and Everett, winning a WHL postseason title in 2016-17 with the Thunderbirds.
Very Early Stats Update
Orlando may only have played a dozen games so far, but it’s never too early to take a look at their progress so far!
-Special teams are a classic good news/bad news situation. Good—despite the team’s overall power play ranking in the middle of the pack among the 13 active ECHL teams with 14.6 percent, they currently rank second behind Jacksonville with a 23.1 percent success rate at home. The penalty kill could use some work, however, as the Solar Bears rank last overall at 72.9 percent. Although, one could argue that 7 of Orlando’s 12 games were against the number one ranked power play, Florida. Special teams have also allowed four shorthanded goals, the second worst behind Rapid City’s 6.
-Orlando ranks 13th in goals against per game with 3.67, and their 2.92 goals for puts them in eighth.
-One individual highlight among the non-Lightning prospects has been defenseman Mark Auk, a waiver wire pickup from Rapid City on January 5th. He currently ranks second among all ECHL blueliners in points with 11, all assists. Dating back to his last two games with the Rush prior to joining the Solar Bears, Auk is currently on a 7-game point streak.
-Despite being recalled twice for two training camps, forward Ryan Lohin, who is currently on recall in Syracuse, leads the Solar Bears with five goals scored. Captain Chris LeBlanc is the active goals leader with 3.
This Week’s (Tentative) Schedule:
Barring any future postponements, Orlando has three games on the schedule this week to close out the month of January.
Wednesday, the Solar Bears will head back to Estero to visit the Everblades. The team will then head north to Greenville on Friday to play the Swamp Rabbits, then return to the Amway Center on Sunday afternoon to host South Carolina.