After an unplanned bye week due to league health and safety protocols, the Orlando Solar Bears returned to the ice and resumed their season.
The team got off to a rough start with a shutout loss, but then found their offense and took back-to-back games against two new opponents. Read on for the week that was:
Tuesday: Prior to getting back on ice, the Solar Bears signed defenseman Michael Prapavessis to a standard contract. He will be starting his third pro season, after splitting 2019-20 between Cleveland and Jacksonville, with a goal and an assist in 26 games for the Monsters, and two assists in six games for the Icemen. Prior to turning pro, the former Stars fourth round draft pick played four years with RPI, serving as a captain for the Engineers in 2017-18.
Wednesday: Add another potential future Solar Bears opponent to the fold, as Savannah, GA was awarded an ECHL franchise, and will begin play in the 2022-23 season.
For the first time in 10 days, the Solar Bears were back on ice, heading south to Estero to visit the Everblades.
Zack Andrusiak makes his Solar Bears debut, while Johno May, Scott Conway and Kevin Lohan return from their stints on the IR - puck drops at 7:30!— Orlando Solar Bears (@OrlandoHockey) January 28, 2021
via @flohockey: https://t.co/g5aLHteZt7
⚡️: @boltsradio#BEARLIEVE pic.twitter.com/BgIstGolLS
After a scoreless first, the home team got to Solar Bears goaltender Garret Sparks with a pair of goals in the middle frame. Off of an Orlando turnover, Florida forward Alec Marsh scored on the ensuing breakaway at the 2:30 mark for a 1-0 lead. Michael Huntebrinker added his 8th of the season with 9:24 remaining in the period to double the Everblade advantage.
Florida wrapped it up when Levko Koper scored on an empty net with 1:31 remaining in regulation. The Everblades thought they had scored a fourth goal with 46 seconds to go, but it was disallowed.
Despite six power play opportunities throughout the evening, a rusty Orlando squad was unable to generate any offense against Everblades goaltender Devin Cooley, who stopped all 35 shots for his first professional shutout. Sparks finished with 24 saves on 26 shots.
For the first time since just before Christmas, the Solar Bears left the Sunshine State, heading north to South Carolina to take on the Swamp Rabbits.
The Solar Bears are getting ready to take the ice in Greenville — Michael Lackey gets the start tonight against the Swamp Rabbits!— Orlando Solar Bears (@OrlandoHockey) January 29, 2021
via @flohockey: https://t.co/g5aLHtwARH
⚡️: @boltsradio#BEARLIEVE | #ORLatGVL pic.twitter.com/mg7BGMamWL
The teams exchanged goals in the first 20 minutes of the contest. Orlando captain Chris Leblanc scored his 4th of the season—and his 100th career Solar Bears point—at the 7:40 mark for a 1-0 lead.
Greenville tied the game at 1 just under three minutes later on a Brendan Connolly goal.
The back-and-forth offense continued in the second, as each side picked up two. Jake Coughler gave Orlando a 2-1 lead 2:48 in with his third goal of the season. The Swamp Rabbits tied, then took the lead, with two goals in a span of 2:01 to go up 3-2. Orlando re-tied the game at three with 2:06 remaining in the period on Scott Conway’s first of the season.
After a scoreless third, it was on to overtime. And it didn’t take long for Coughler to end this one, scoring his second of the evening 32 seconds into the extra frame for a Solar Bears victory.
Michael Lackey picked up his second win, stopping 34 of 37 shots. Coughler had a three-point night, adding an assist, while six others each had a helper.
Transaction Saturday: The Solar Bears may have had Saturday off, but there were some roster changes:
-Conway, along with forward Taylor Cammarata, were released.
-Defenseman Devante Stephens was reassigned to the Solar Bears from Syracuse.
The Solar Bears returned to the friendly confines of the Amway Center for a Sunday afternoon match-up with the Stingrays.
Mark Auk picked up his first goal as a Solar Bear 6:38 into the contest for a 1-0 Orlando lead.
The Stingrays had a chance to tie the game early in the second, after Solar Bears defenseman Alexander Kuqali hooked Stingrays captain Andrew Cherniwchan from behind, prompting a penalty shot. However, he was denied by Sparks.
Orlando then doubled their lead at the 12:13 mark on Jerry D’Amigo’s second goal of the season. Zack Andrusiak later added his first Solar Bears goal with 30 seconds to go in the period for a 3-0 Orlando advantage.
Just 34 seconds into the third—and on their fifth power play of the afternoon—Aaron Luchuk connected for his third goal of the season for a commanding 4-0 Solar Bears lead. Former Bear Paul Meyer broke up Sparks’ shutout bid at the 8:56 mark with his first pro goal, but the Stingrays could not make up any further ground.
Sparks picked up his third win, stopping 26 of 27 shots. Leblanc and Johno May each added two assists.
Transaction Monday: Late Monday afternoon, the Solar Bears announced the following roster moves:
-Orlando signed veteran defenseman Nolan Valleau to a standard player contract. He returns to the Solar Bears for a third time after spending the last two seasons with Syracuse. Last season, he appeared in 35 games for the Crunch with two goals and four assists. He started the 2018-19 season with the Solar Bears before earning a PTO, then an AHL contract, with Syracuse. He also has AHL experience with Utica, Milwaukee, Rockford, and Chicago, spending his first two pro seasons with the Icehogs before his first stint with Orlando in the 2017-18 season.
-Defenseman Patrick McNally was traded to Wheeling for the ever popular future considerations.
-Forward Ben Thomson was activated from the league’s Commissioner’s Exempt List, then subsequently loaned to Binghamton, where he played in the 2017-18 season.
This Week’s Schedule:
Orlando kicks off the February portion of their schedule with a pair of games in Estero against the Everblades on Friday and Saturday, starting a 7-game road trip.