February has arrived for the Orlando Solar Bears, and for a majority of it, they’ll be living out of a suitcase. Out of the eleven games on the schedule, nine will take place away from the Amway Center, including the first seven of the month.
The team got off to a action packed start, taking a six-round shootout before struggling against a most familiar foe.
-Some good news for Orlando, as two more players, forwards Tyler Bird and Dylan Sadowy, were reinstated from the league Commissioner’s Exempt List on Tuesday.
-On Wednesday, defenseman Rich Boyd was released after appearing in five games for Orlando, going scoreless with six penalty minutes.
-After the weekend’s action, forward Jerry D’Amigo joined the Colorado Eagles on a PTO on Monday. He will be making his first AHL appearance since the 2015-16 season with Rochester. Additionally, forward Nikita Pavlychev, who has been out of the lineup since January 9th, was the last Solar Bear to be activated from the Commissioner’s Exempt list.
On Thursday, the ECHL announced this year’s Kelly Cup Playoffs format, scheduled to begin on Monday, June 7th:
-The top four teams in each conference will qualify, based on points percentage. One round will be eliminated from a normal postseason, with just conference semifinals, conference finals, and the Kelly Cup final being played.
-All rounds will be a best-of-five. The higher seed will have the option of playing either a 2-2-1 or 2-3 format.
-The Kelly Cup itself will be awarded no later than Saturday, July 3rd.
Orlando kicked off the month of February and their seven-game road trip in, where else, but Estero, as they started a two-game set against the Everblades.
Almost time to drop the puck - Michael Prapavessis makes his Solar Bears debut tonight!— Orlando Solar Bears (@OrlandoHockey) February 6, 2021
via @flohockey: https://t.co/g5aLHtwARH
: https://t.co/fV1V8amhMz / https://t.co/ov8kK3hE0p#BEARLIEVE | #ORLatFLA pic.twitter.com/u27iF5h8Rq
It may have been a scoreless opening period, but things were happening...
Orlando was first on the board early in the second. Tristin Langan picked up his third goal of the season at the 4:23 mark for a 1-0 advantage.
Just over three minutes later Solar Bears goaltender Garret Sparks found himself having to face a penalty shot for the second straight game. This time, it was against Michael Huntebrinker, who ranks second in the league in scoring. Huntebrinker would connect, tying the game up at 1.
The Everblades took a 2-1 lead with 2:37 to go in the period after a goal off the stick of John McCarron was counted despite an extended video review for possible goaltender interference.
Orlando tied the game at 2 with 12:25 to go in regulation after a breakaway effort from captain Chris LeBlanc.
The Solar Bears thought they had pulled off a near last second victory when Jake Coughler appeared to have scored with 50 seconds remaining in regulation, but the goal was disallowed. After a scoreless overtime, the teams headed to the shootout. Sadowy and Aaron Luchuk were unable to score in the first two rounds, while Sparks stopped Blake Winiecki and allowed another score from Huntebrinker. It was up to Coughler to extend the match, and he was able to score, keeping Orlando in the contest. Sparks then stopped McCarron, Alex Kile, and Joe Pendenza, while Mark Auk and LeBlanc were stopped. Then came Round 6...and you can just watch for yourself.
Sparks picked up his fourth win of the season, stopping 31 of 33 shots. Michael Prapavessis picked up an assist in his Solar Bears debut.
Less than 24 hours later, the Solar Bears and Everblades met again. The only lineup change for Orlando was Michael Lackey getting the start in net.
Same line combos and D-pairings as last night, but @slackeylackey12 gets the start between the pipes this evening!— Orlando Solar Bears (@OrlandoHockey) February 6, 2021
via @flohockey: https://t.co/g5aLHtwARH
: https://t.co/fV1V8amhMz / https://t.co/ov8kK3hE0p#BEARLIEVE | #ORLatFLA pic.twitter.com/c8Qlj3QWu7
Just like the previous night, both teams were scoreless through the first 20 minutes. But unlike on Friday, it was the Everblades getting on the scoresheet first in the second. On a delayed penalty call, Hugo Roy scored his first of the season at the 4:12 mark for a 1-0 Florida advantage. Luke Nogard doubled the hosts’ lead just over four minutes later with his second of the year. McCarron then added his 9th goal with less than a minute to go in the period for a 3-0 lead after 40 minutes.
Orlando broke up Everblades goaltender Devin Cooley’s attempt at a second shutout in ten days with 1:38 to go in regulation, as Matthew Spencer scored his first of the season to cut the deficit to two. Pendenza then scored into an empty net with 39 seconds remaining to seal the win for Florida, ending a three-game winning streak for the Solar Bears.
Lackey finished with 26 saves. Luchuk and J.J. Piccinich had the lone assists.
This Week’s Schedule:
The road trip continues for the Solar Bears this week with a three-game series in Greenville on Thursday, Saturday, and Sunday.