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Solar Bears Den: Trick and Treat?

Orlando splits a pair to close out their brief October schedule.

ARE YOU NOT ENTERTAINED?—Aaron Luchuk, probably.
Fernando Medina/Orlando Solar Bears

It was a light weekend schedule for the Orlando Solar Bears to follow up a successful first game of the 2021-22 regular season.

There were plenty of goals, but an up and down showing resulted in a 1-1 mark for the week. Additionally, the team found themselves a little short on defense thanks to injuries and AHL callups.

Read on for the week that was in Orlando...

Defense on the Move

-The San Jose Barracuda swapped out defensemen with the Solar Bears, recalling Cole Moberg on Thursday, then reassigning Montana Onyebuchi to Orlando before Friday’s game.

-On Saturday, captain Kevin Lohan signed a PTO with Syracuse and made his AHL debut in the Crunch’s 3-2 overtime win against Lehigh Valley.

Game #2, Friday 10/29: Atlanta 5, Orlando 4

Orlando hit the road for the first time this season, heading north to Georgia to take on the Gladiators in a rematch of Opening Night.

The first period...yeah, the Solar Bears would like to request a mulligan, please.

Atlanta outshot their visitors by a 20-9 margin and put up three goals against rookie goaltender Zach Emond. It took 1:23 into the contest for the Gladiators to take the lead, going ahead 1-0 on a goal by Gabe Guertler. Derek Topatigh made it 2-0 Atlanta at the 5:11 mark. The Gladiators made it a 3-goal lead with 5:47 remaining in the first on a Hugo Roy tally.

Atlanta was not done adding to the lead going into the middle frame, taking a 4-0 lead with 6:50 remaining on a shorthanded goal by Mike Pelech. Orlando finally got on the board with 5:02 to go in the period, as Jake McGrew scored his first of the year on a power play to cut the lead to 3.

The Gladiators were not quite done on offense, taking a 5-1 lead fifty-nine seconds into the third on Roy’s second of the night, spelling an early exit for Emond in favor of Brad Barone. The switch may have awakened the Solar Bears, who launched a rally midway through the period. Jackson Keane scored his first as a pro at the 10:43 mark to cut the lead to 5-2. McGrew scored his second of the night 1:01 later to get Orlando to within 5-3. 49 seconds later, Krystof Hrabik scored his second of the season to cut the lead to 5-4. Alas, that was as close as the Solar Bears would get.

Emond stopped 28 of 33 shots in just under 41 minutes of work before getting the hook. Barone stopped all 6 shots faced and added an assist on Hrabik’s goal. Aaron Luchuk had two helpers in the loss.

Game #3, 10/31: Orlando 5, Jacksonville 4 (OT)

With Lohan off to Syracuse and an injury to Luke McInnis in Friday’s loss, Orlando found themselves down to four healthy defensemen for a Halloween home matinee matchup against the Icemen, who came in 2-0.

The teams exchanged goals midway through the opening period. Nick Bligh scored his first as a Solar Bear at the 10:13 mark for a 1-0 Orlando lead.

Jacksonville responded just 27 seconds later, tying the game at 1 on a goal by Abbott Girduckis.

The second period saw a lot of offense, most off the stick of Luchuk. He scored his first of the season just 29 seconds into the period, putting Orlando back up by a goal.

Again, the Icemen responded, tying the game at 2 at the 6:10 mark on a power play goal by Ara Nazarian. Jacksonville took a 3-2 lead with 9:14 remaining in the period on Jake Elmer’s third goal of the season. However, that lead was short-lived, as Luchuk singlehandedly put the Solar Bears back on top 4-3, scoring twice in 49 seconds to complete the hat trick.

All the Solar Bears had to do was hang on for the final 20 minutes to seal the win. However, Jacksonville was not done, tying the game at 4 on a shorthanded goal by Girduckis with 4:38 to go in regulation.

It was on to overtime for the first time this season, and it was a quick extra session. On the team’s first shot 32 seconds in, McGrew found the back of the net, picking up his third goal of the weekend to seal the win for Orlando.

Emond stopped 19 of 23 Icemen shots for his second win. Kyle Topping had three assists, while Luchuk lead all skaters with 4 points, adding an assist on the overtime winner. He also set a new Orlando hat trick record:

Four Solar Bears Recalled to San Jose

With the Sharks’ roster decimated due to COVID protocols—and a third of the Barracuda on recall to the parent club—Emond, McGrew, Topping, and Onyebuchi were recalled to San Jose’s AHL squad Monday evening, leaving the Solar Bears shorthanded going into next weekend.

Upcoming:

Orlando will head north to Virginia for a pair of games against Norfolk on Thursday and Friday night.