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Solar Bears Den: Quality over Quantity

With the fewest skaters possible, Orlando heads west.

Fernando Medina/Orlando Solar Bears

After the first half of their six-game road trip started with a thud, the Orlando Solar Bears hoped that the second half was better, as they headed outside the ECHL’s South Division for a visit to two Mountain Division teams in Allen and Tulsa.

However, reality was quick to catch up with them, much like a handful of other ECHL teams. With a depleted roster, the team rose to the challenge, finishing their road trip on a high note with an interruption sandwiched in.

Transaction Wire:

-After a two-game stint, goaltender Hugo Alnefelt was recalled to Syracuse on Tuesday. He finished 0-2-0 with a 3.51 GAA and .886 save percentage.

-Also on Tuesday, Orlando dealt defenseman Pavel Vorobei to Indy for future considerations. He appeared in four games, going scoreless.

-On Wednesday, the team signed rookie forward Jake Transit to a standard contract. He comes to Orlando after appearing in 16 games for Ferris State of the CCHA, notching four goals and four assists.

-Prior to Friday’s contest, the ECHL announced that 7 Solar Bears had been placed on the Commissioner’s Exempt List for COVID protocols: forwards Tristin Langan, Steenn Pasichnuk, Dylan Fitze, Ian Parker, Canon Pieper, and Jackson Keane, and goaltender Brad Barone. Thomas Hodges was added as an EBUG.

-A familiar face to Solar Bears fans returned to the fold on Sunday, as the team signed defenseman Rich Boyd to a standard contract. He started the 2020-21 season in Orlando, appearing in 5 games and going scoreless before getting released in February. The Fort Myers native also spent 2019-20 with the Solar Bears, appearing in 38 games with 8 goals and 4 assists.

Game #23, Friday 12/17: Orlando 6, Allen 2

For the first time since the 2017-18 season, the shorthanded Solar Bears headed to Texas, where they started a two-game set on Friday against the Americans. And by shorthanded we mean the bare minimum allowed lineup:

The team exchanged goals late in the first period. Joseph Garreffa, who spent part of last season in Allen before joining the Solar Bears, burned his former team with his 4th goal of the season to put Orlando up 1-0.

The Americans tied the game at 1 ith 4:01 to go in the period on a goal by Jack Combs.

Garreffa put the Solar Bears ahead 2-1 2:38 into the second with his second goal of the evening.

Fabrizio Ricci then picked up a shorthanded goal with 1:38 to go in the period to put Orlando up 3-1.

The Solar Bears continued to pour on the offense in the third. Just nine seconds into the final frame, Luke Boka scored his 5th on a power play to extend the lead to three. Transit, making his pro debut, made it a memorable one with his first goal at the 16:19 mark for a 5-1 lead. Allen cut the lead to 5-2 with 2:19 to go, but Aaron Luchuk sealed it with an empty net shorthander with 12 seconds remaining.

Zach Emond stopped 34 of 36 shots for his fifth win of the season. Garreffa lead all skaters with four points (2 G, 2 A), Andrew McLean added three helpers, and Braydon Barker had two assists.

Saturday, 12/18: Game Postponed

Unfortunately, current events finally caught up to Orlando, as the ECHL announced late Saturday morning that the second game between the Solar Bears and Americans was postponed due to “League Health and Safety Protocols.” No make up date has been set.

Game #24, Sunday 12/19: Orlando 5, Tulsa 2

It was on to Oklahoma, as the Solar Bears made their first ever visit to Tulsa to face the Oilers. Again, they went with the bare minimum lineup.

The teams exchanged goals early in the opening period. Jordan Ernst put the Oilers ahead 1-0 6:02 into the game with his fourth goal of the season. McLean responded two minutes later with his first ECHL tally to tie the game at 1.

Transit continued the hot start to his pro career, scoring for the second straight game at the 3:25 mark of the second for a 2-1 Solar Bears lead. Tulsa quickly tied the game at 2 1:25 later on a power play goal by Jack Doremus. Boka then gave Orlando the lead back with his second goal in as many games with 5:33 remaining in the middle frame.

Michael Brodzinski and Luchuk added late empty netters to seal the win, and Orlando finished 2-3 on their two week road swing.

Emond stopped 40 of 42 Oiler shots. Barker and Kyle Topping had three assists apiece.

Upcoming:

As of now, Orlando will return to the Amway Center on Tuesday to host Atlanta on Teddy Bear Toss night. Also, the plan is to wear these literal fire jerseys:

After a few days off for the holiday, the Solar Bears will host Florida on Sunday.