As the calendar turns to November, the Orlando Solar Bears are looking at quite a busy schedule, playing 15 games in the next 30 days.
However, with five regulars currently filling in the lineup in Syracuse, and six others going up to San Jose due to the Sharks’ COVID protocol situation over the last week, the Solar Bears’ roster has become quite sparse. The BEAR minimum you could say. (Fine I’ll show myself out)
With all hands on deck, including some help from the SPHL, Orlando was only able to snag one out of four points against South Division rival Norfolk.
News of the Week
-With just one active goaltender on the roster, the Solar Bears went shopping for help in the net and signed Alex Dubeau to a standard contract on Tuesday. The Quebec native spent 2020-21 with South Carolina, going 16-4-5 with a 2.84 GAA and .907 save percentage. He has previous ECHL experience with Fort Wayne and Brampton and had started this season in AHL training camp with Laval.
He is also a client of former Lightning farmhand Nick Riopel.
✍ | D O N E • D E A L— (@Riopel_N) November 2, 2021
Congrats to client Alex Dubeau (@ALDubeau31) for signing with the Orlando Solar Bears, #ECHL affiliate of the Tampa Bay #Lightning.
Let’s do this Dubz! #Propulsion #DUBEAUtiful pic.twitter.com/4e35pMHbX8
-On Wednesday, forward Aaron Luchuk was named the Warrior Hockey ECHL Player of the Month for October. In 3 games, he had four goals and four assists, including a hat trick on Halloween in a Solar Bears victory over Jacksonville. This is the second time Luchuk has earned this honor—he was named player of the month for April 2021.
-Orlando lost another forward to an AHL recall, as Joseph Garreffa was summoned to San Jose on Wednesday. Garreffa becomes the fifth Solar Bear to join San Jose in three days, due to COVID issues with the Sharks organization.
-With the roster down to just four defensemen, Orlando brought in Andrew McLean from the SPHL on Friday. The Michigan native is in his second pro season after spending 2020-21 with Knoxville, appearing in 38 games with 4 goals and 13 assists. He had rejoined the Ice Bears for this season and had one goal in three games. He has previous ECHL experience, getting in one game with Norfolk in 2019-20 upon finishing his collegiate career with Wisconsin-Stevens Point of the WIAC.
With just 14 skaters in the lineup, Orlando headed north to Virginia to start a two-game set against the Admirals.
Norfolk took a 1-0 lead 6:39 into the opening period off a goal by Daniel Brickley. Orlando tied the game up during a 4-on-3 power play chance with 5:13 remaining in the first, as Michael Brodzinski picked up his first of the season.
The Admirals jumped ahead for good in the second, taking a 2-1 lead on the first goal of the season for Chris Ordoobodi. Chase Lang added the insurance goal 1:02 into the third for the final 3-1 margin.
Brad Barone took the loss in net, stopping 26 of 29 shots. Luchuk and Hrabik each extended personal point streaks to four games with assists.
Another Solar Bear was summoned to San Jose before Friday’s contest, as Krystof Hrabik became the sixth player to rejoin the Barracuda. To fill the void, Orlando brought in two new forwards: Logan Fredericks, who has 2 goals in four games for Roanoke in the SPHL; and Canon Pieper, who had appeared in two games for ECHL expansion Iowa, with one assist.
Dubeau made his Solar Bears debut on Friday, as Orlando looked to get a split of the two-game set with the Admirals.
Norfolk took a 1-0 lead 1:43 into the contest on a goal by Noah Corson. The Solar Bears responded hugely, scoring the next four unanswered. Luke McInnis scored his first of the season at the 7:03 mark to tie the game at 1.
Luke McInnis ties it for us with his first of the season! pic.twitter.com/JZZdvHprH9— Orlando Solar Bears (@OrlandoHockey) November 5, 2021
Pieper made a great first impression in his Solar Bear debut, putting Orlando ahead 2-1 midway through the first.
Peep this goal from Canon Pieper, who has given us the lead! pic.twitter.com/1QG8PFCCLS— Orlando Solar Bears (@OrlandoHockey) November 6, 2021
Luchuk added his 5th goal with 2:41 remaining in the period for a 3-1 lead.
Luke Boka, in his second pro game, made it 4-1 with 36 seconds remaining in the first with his first professional tally.
Norfolk switched goaltenders to start the second and started to rally. In a 9 second span, Alex Berardinelli and Anthony Gagnon picked up goals to cut the lead to 4-3. Ian Parker gave Orlando a two-goal cushion at the 6:46 mark with a power play tally, his first as a professional.
A first goal to remember — Ian Parker's first pro goal helps us match our season-high for goals by the end of the second! pic.twitter.com/fFJlVtQ3qk— Orlando Solar Bears (@OrlandoHockey) November 6, 2021
Norfolk cut the lead to 5-4 with 3:07 remaining in the second on Corson’s second goal of the evening.
The Admirals finished off their rally midway through the third, tying the game at 5 with 9:20 remaining in regulation on a Carter Robertson goal. The game would carry over into overtime, where the hosts finished off the comeback. With Luchuk in the box on an elbowing call, Darien Craighead scored his third on the ensuing power play to give Norfolk the come from behind win.
Dubeau stopped 37 of 43 Admirals shots. Luchuk added two assists.
Some good news and bad news for the Solar Bears came in a pair of transactions on Monday:
-Good: forward Tyler Bird was released from his PTO and will return to Florida. He appeared in 4 games for the Crunch, posting one assist.
-Bad: With an apparent injury to rookie goaltender Hugo Alnefelt in Friday’s loss to Utica, Dubeau has been signed to a PTO, and he will back up rookie sensation Amir Miftakhov, who under normal circumstances would be getting minutes in Orlando. Now both ECHL goalies are in the AHL. Local EBUG Ryan Novalis will back up Barone for the time being.
Orlando returns home to face Jacksonville on Tuesday, then they hit the road for a 5-game swing through the South Division, starting in Estero on Wednesday, then heading north to Jacksonville on Friday. The team then heads to South Carolina for a weekend pair on Saturday and Sunday.