After a five-games-in-seven-days stretch last week, the Orlando Solar Bears got a breather as they kicked off the December portion of their schedule, with just a back-to-back weeknight set against in-state rival Jacksonville.
With some additional reinforcements coming down from the AHL, and a recent losing streak by the other in-state rivals the Everblades, the Solar Bears split the week with the Icemen and found themselves atop the ECHL’s South Division.
-Before Wednesday’s game, Orlando signed forward Griff Jeszka to a standard contract. The Wisconsin native comes to the Solar Bears by way of the SPHL’s Pensacola Ice Flyers, where in 11 games he had 7 goals and 5 assists. He was released along with forward Conor Landrigan on Friday.
-On Thursday, Orlando received forwards Kyle Topping and Steenn Pasichnuk from San Jose, while Syracuse reassigned defenseman Dmitry Semykin to the Solar Bears. Topping had two assists in 8 games for the Barracuda. Pasichnuk made one appearance for San Jose on November 24th, going scoreless. Semykin was scoreless in 8 appearances for the Crunch.
In addition, the team signed defenseman Pavel Vorobei to a standard contract. The 24-year-old will be making his North American debut after spending the 2020-21 season with Podolsk Vityaz of the KHL, where he had a goal and two assists in 25 games.
The Solar Bears started the month with a quick business trip north on Interstate 95 on Wednesday, paying a visit to the Icemen.
Zach Émond gets the start tonight, while Griff Jeszka makes his Solar Bears debut as our 10th forward.— Orlando Solar Bears (@OrlandoHockey) December 1, 2021
https://t.co/gs4DpdafNL via @flohockey
https://t.co/fV1V8a4GnZ | https://t.co/ov8kK302BP | @boltsradio
Well, this game was all Jacksonville from start to finish.
Derek Lodermeier kicked off the scoring 13:13 into the opening period with a power play goal for a 1-0 Icemen lead.
Jacksonville went off in the second, scoring three times on Solar Bears goaltender Zach Emond. Jake Elmer doubled the Icemen lead 3:09 into the second with his 4th goal of the season. Craig Martin made it 3-0 at the 9:33 mark with his sixth, then Jacob Panetta added his 2nd with 2:46 remaining in the period for a 4-0 Icemen lead.
Finally, to finish off the scoring, James Sanchez scored his 4th of the season at the 4:25 mark of the third for a commanding 5-0 lead.
Despite having six power plays—and outshooting Jacksonville 23-19—the Solar Bears offense could not get anything past Icemen goaltender Tyler Wall (yes we know, an appropriate name for a goaltender), who picked up his first professional shutout. Emond finished with 14 saves in the loss.
The Solar Bears looked to quickly rebound a day later, hosting the Icemen at the Amway Center.
☠️ in net. Pavel Vorobei and Dmitry Semykin make their Solar Bears season debutS. Topping and Pasichnuk back from the AHL. Let's get it.— Orlando Solar Bears (@OrlandoHockey) December 2, 2021
https://t.co/gs4DpdrRcl via @flohockey
https://t.co/fV1V8amhMz | https://t.co/ov8kK3hE0p
This time around, it would be Orlando dominating, as Luke McInnis gave the Solar Bears a 1-0 lead late in the first period.
That's one way to end the first period!— Orlando Solar Bears (@OrlandoHockey) December 3, 2021
McInnis makes it 1-0! pic.twitter.com/Nc5IugcRFi
Semykin made his return to the Orlando lineup in style, scoring his first pro goal 8:20 into the second period for a 2-0 Solar Bears lead.
From Russia with — Semykin with the blast and the Solar Bears are up 2-0!! pic.twitter.com/HJaJ1riyYR— Orlando Solar Bears (@OrlandoHockey) December 3, 2021
With 9:17 remaining in the second, another first pro goal, this time off the stick of rookie Brayden Barker, made it 3-0 Orlando.
You never forget your first! Barker with his first pro goal! Solar Bears on fire 3-0 pic.twitter.com/AQJGZ5Tg7R— Orlando Solar Bears (@OrlandoHockey) December 3, 2021
Jacksonville broke up Brad Barone’s shutout attempt in the third, as a Sanchez power play goal cut the lead to 3-1. Orlando responded with a power play goal of their own, as Barker scored his second of the night with 9:18 remaining for a 4-1 lead.
Barker is on a roll with a power play goal!! Solar Bears now up 4-1 pic.twitter.com/snGnCa9qCd— Orlando Solar Bears (@OrlandoHockey) December 3, 2021
Barone took care of the rest, stopping 34 of 35 shots for his fourth straight win. Tristin Langan added two assists.
With the win, Orlando is now 23-0-0-0 lifetime against Jacksonville on home ice. Also, with a Florida loss to the expansion Trois-Rivieres Lions, the Solar Bears took over sole possession of first place in the South Division.
Orlando kicks off a six-game road trip with the first three coming this week: Wednesday in Greenville, Friday in Atlanta, and Saturday in Jacksonville.