In a normal ECHL season, this week teams would be in the homestretch of their schedule. Those already in the postseason would be fine-tuning their lineups and preparing for a hopefully long playoff run. Those on the bubble would be jockeying for position, while those who are mathematically done are playing out the string, looking ahead to next fall.
But this is 2020-21, and with the late start those participating teams are just starting the second half, which is what the Orlando Solar Bears did this weekend as they headed north to Charleston to take on South Carolina in a 3 game series.
And if it wasn’t for a major turnaround in one of those games, Orlando would have been 0 for 3.
Prior to Friday’s contest, the San Jose Barracuda recalled defenseman Chaz Reddekopp, and assigned rookie defenseman Karlis Cukste to the team. A 2015 Sharks 5th rounder, the Latvia native is in his first pro season after finishing a four-year collegiate career at Quinnipiac. He had appeared in 3 games for the Barracuda this season with one goal.
On Monday, goaltender Michael Lackey returned to the roster after being released from his PTO with the Hartford Wolfpack. He did not make an appearance during his brief AHL stint.
Clint Windsor got the nod in net as the Solar Bears and Stingrays kicked off a three-game weekend series.
South Carolina got off to a fast start in the first 14:06 of the contest. Within a span of 1:33, Brett Supinski and Justin Florek each picked up goals for a 2-0 lead. Cameron Askew then added a goal with 5:54 to go in the period for a 3-0 Stingrays advantage.
As the saying goes, a three-goal lead is the worst lead in hockey. Orlando proved that adage correctly, and in a big way.
Just 12 seconds after Askew’s goal, Kyle Topping got the visitors on the board with his 4th goal of the season to cut the lead to 3-1.
Orlando continued their rally in the second, scoring twice to tie. At the 1:30 mark, J.J. Piccinich cut the lead to 3-2 with his 6th goal of the season. Topping tied the game at 3 with 7:11 remaining in the second with a power play goal, his second of the night.
The Solar Bears completed the comeback—and added on for good measure—in the third. Tristin Langan scored twice in a span of 4:00—the first coming shorthanded—to put Orlando ahead 5-3. Jerry D’Amigo then added an empty netter with 11 seconds remaining for the cherry on top, finishing off a remarkable comeback win and extending Orlando’s current win streak to 3 games.
After a shaky beginning, Windsor settled down for the win, stopping 31 of 34 shots. Anthony Repaci added three assists.
PRO-TIP Make sure you've got your @flohockey subscription for the second half of the season — otherwise you might miss moments like last night's comeback win over South Carolina! pic.twitter.com/hSKZ7QTF1Y— Orlando Solar Bears (@OrlandoHockey) March 27, 2021
Kris Oldham got his second pro start for Game 2 of the three-game set.
Almost ready to drop the puck in North Charleston!— Orlando Solar Bears (@OrlandoHockey) March 27, 2021
via @flohockey — https://t.co/g5aLHtwARH
https://t.co/fV1V8amhMz / https://t.co/ov8kK3hE0p#BEARLIEVE | #ORLatSC pic.twitter.com/ohYuQcp1pZ
Unlike the night before, Orlando grabbed the lead in the opening 20 minutes. Tyler Bird picked up a shorthanded goal, his 7th of the season, at the 12:51 mark for a 1-0 advantage.
The Stingrays tied it at 1 at the 18:14 mark on a goal by Askew, but Bird quickly put Orlando back up with his second of the period 34 seconds later on a baseball-inspired shot.
HOLY MOLY — keep your eyes peeled for some Tyler Bird WIZARDRY to give us a 2-1 lead!— Orlando Solar Bears (@OrlandoHockey) March 27, 2021
Hey @RaysBaseball, we might know a guy who you might want to add to your spring training roster if you ever need an extra guy.#SCTop10 pic.twitter.com/01Pb3z0uQ3
Second period was all South Carolina, as they rallied for two goals against Oldham. Askew and Dylan Steman scored 1:40 apart to tie, then take the lead. The offensive onslaught continued into the third, where goals by Mark Cooper and Steman 1:02 apart extended the lead to 5-2. Joseph Garreffa added his 10th goal at the 11:37 mark to cut the Stingrays lead to 5-3, but Supinski scored his 9th with 5:15 remaining in the contest for the final 6-3 score.
It was a tough outing for Oldham, who finished with 25 saves on 31 shots. Four Solar Bear skaters had one assist each.
Less than 24 hours later, a Sunday afternoon matchup to see who would take the second game of the weekend.
Nolan Valleau and Matthew Spencer draw back in today for the Solar Bears, while Clint Windsor starts.— Orlando Solar Bears (@OrlandoHockey) March 28, 2021
via @flohockey — https://t.co/g5aLHtwARH
https://t.co/fV1V8amhMz / https://t.co/ov8kK3hE0p
⚡️ @boltsradio#BEARLIEVE | #ORLatSC pic.twitter.com/tJapMi8zKs
The hosts jumped ahead late in the first period, as goals by Andrew Cherniwchan and Florek 1:02 apart—the second coming on the Stingrays’ first power play of the afternoon—gave South Carolina a 2-0 lead.
Langan cut the Stingrays lead in half at the 4:53 mark of the second with his 12th of the season, but South Carolina responded with a Cole Ully goal 48 seconds later to restore the two-goal deficit.
Nolan Valleau started off the third with his third goal of the season to cut the Stingrays lead to 3-2. However, South Carolina responded with a power play goal by Dan DeSalvo at the 4:43 mark to go up 4-2. The Stingrays had a chance to make it a 5-2 contest with 10:15 remaining, after Steman was awarded a penalty shot, but Windsor would make the save.
With Windsor pulled, D’Amigo scored his 8th of the season with 3:40 remaining to cut the lead to 4-3. Unfortunately, that was as close as Orlando would get, and the Solar Bears dropped their second in a row.
Windsor finished with 27 saves on 31 shots, including this one:
This Week’s Schedule:
Orlando kicks off the month of April with a three-game set on home ice against Florida on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday night.