The calendar has turned to the March portion of the schedule, and once again the Orlando Solar Bears had a weekend date with the Florida Everblades to prepare for.
Coming off a strong weekend against Jacksonville that came after Florida swept Orlando the last series they played, the Solar Bears looked to extend their modest three-game point streak.
Not only did they return the favor by sweeping the Everblades and gain ground in the Eastern Conference standings, they did it quite convincingly.
-Shoutout to goaltender Clint Windsor, who was named the Warrior Hockey/ECHL Goaltender of the Week on Tuesday for his efforts last week. He made two starts, going 2-0 with a 1.50 GAA and .946 save percentage. This is the second time in Windsor’s pro career that he has received this honor—he also won the award last season, for the week of November 4-10, 2019.
-It’s not officially a hockey season in Orlando unless a huge schedule change is made, and on Tuesday, the Solar Bears announced the following:
-Home game vs. South Carolina on March 26 has been moved to May 23.
-Home game vs. Greenville on April 7 has been moved to April 6.
-Home game vs. Greenville on April 18 has been moved to May 10.
-Home game vs. South Carolina on May 1 has been moved to May 3.
-Road game at South Carolina on May 19 has been moved to March 26.
-Home game vs. Florida on May 23 has been moved to March 16.
-Home game vs. Florida on May 27 has been moved to May 30.
-On Wednesday, the Solar Bears signed forward Anthony Repaci to a standard contract. Repaci had originally signed with Worcester to begin his professional career before the Railers opted out of the 2020-21 season. The Toronto native spent the last five seasons with St. Mary’s University in Nova Scotia, where he served as captain in 2019-20 and put up 33 points (16 goals, 17 assists) in 30 games.
To make room on the roster, Orlando released forward Luc Brown, who had made two appearances after joining the Solar Bears in early February.
It was back home to start the month of March, as the Solar Bears and Everblades began a three-game weekend series.
Who's ready to wrangle up some gator meat?— Orlando Solar Bears (@OrlandoHockey) March 5, 2021
via @flohockey — https://t.co/g5aLHtwARH
https://t.co/fV1V8amhMz / https://t.co/ov8kK3hE0p#BEARLIEVE | #ORLvsFLA pic.twitter.com/45Lqo06dtx
Orlando got off to a great start in the opening 20 minutes, picking up a pair of goals against Everblades goaltender Jake Hillenbrand, who came in as the ECHL’s active leader in goals against. On a delayed penalty call, rookie defenseman Luke McInnis picked up his first professional goal at the 7:05 mark for a 1-0 lead.
Mark Auk doubled the Orlando lead at the 9:43 mark with his third goal of the season, despite protests from the Everblades of goaltender interference. After a scoreless second period, Jerry D’Amigo sealed the win for the Solar Bears with a late empty netter.
Windsor showed why he was named ECHL Goaltender of the Week, stopping all 29 shots for his first shutout of the season against the top ranked offense in the league. Repaci made his pro debut and picked up his first assist on McInnis’ goal. Aaron Luchuk extended his point streak to 9 games with a helper.
On to Game 2 of the series, where the only lineup change for Orlando was in goal, as Michael Lackey got the nod in net.
Same lineup as last night, but @slackeylackey12 is between the pipes tonight.— Orlando Solar Bears (@OrlandoHockey) March 6, 2021
via @flohockey https://t.co/g5aLHtwARH
https://t.co/fV1V8amhMz / https://t.co/ov8kK3hE0p#BEARLIEVE | #ORLvsFLA pic.twitter.com/XaXqldmnjN
As part of Kids Weekend at the Amway Center, the team sported specialty Hulk Marvel jerseys, which were available for online auction. On the other side, the Everblades wore Thor...or really his hammer.
What's the operative phrase here?— Orlando Solar Bears (@OrlandoHockey) March 6, 2021
The Everblades jumped ahead 1-0 2:09 into the contest on a Joe Pendenza goal. Orlando tied it up at the 11:08 mark, as Luchuk extended his point streak with his 7th goal of the season just six seconds into the Solar Bears’ first power play of the night.
Orlando took over the game in the second with a pair of goals against Hildebrand. Luchuk scored his second of the night at the 3:32 mark for a 2-1 lead.
Tristin Langan added his sixth goal just over two minutes later for a 3-1 Orlando advantage. Florida cut the lead to one with 5:25 to go in regulation, but captain Chris LeBlanc added an empty netter with 1:31 remaining for a 4-2 lead. Finally, one last Hulk Smash—Repaci scored his first pro goal with 57 seconds to go for the final 5-2 margin, extending Orlando’s point streak to 5 games.
Lackey stopped 37 of 39 shots in his fifth win of the season. Ten Solar Bear skaters registered at least one point, lead by Luchuk’s two-goal, one-assist outing.
Less than 24 hours later, Orlando went for the three-game sweep, with Windsor back between the pipes.
Almost game time! @clintwindsor is back between the pipes today for the Solar Bears!— Orlando Solar Bears (@OrlandoHockey) March 7, 2021
via @flohockey — https://t.co/g5aLHtwARH
https://t.co/fV1V8amhMz / https://t.co/ov8kK3hE0p#BEARLIEVE | #ORLvsFLA pic.twitter.com/8fkotdFZaH
Just like the night before, Florida drew first blood, taking a 1-0 lead 2:31 into the contest on a Evan Neugold goal. The Solar Bears tied the game with 5:10 remaining in the period on a power play goal by Langan, his second in as many days and 7th of the season. D’Amigo added a power play goal of his own just over three minutes later to put Orlando ahead 2-1.
After a scoreless second period, Orlando added to their lead in the third. Tad Kozun and Langan picked up goals 1:17 apart to extend the lead to 4-1.
The boys sure love tic-tac-toe. pic.twitter.com/7m4QXRWa08— Orlando Solar Bears (@OrlandoHockey) March 7, 2021
Florida cut the lead to two with 5:58 remaining in regulation on a Colby Sissons tally. However, Coughler would have the last word in the end, putting the final nail in the weekend sweep with an empty netter with 1:17 to go.
Windsor stopped 42 of 44 shots in picking up his fourth straight win. The line of Luchuk-Langan-Coughler continued to roll, combining for six points, lead by two goals from Langan.
And that wasn’t even the best part of D’Amigo’s day.
When you score a goal, it's a good day— Orlando Solar Bears (@OrlandoHockey) March 8, 2021
When you find out after the game you're going to be the father of a baby boy in front of your family, friends and teammates, it's a GREAT day!
Congrats to Solar Bears forward @JerryD91 and his wife Mallory on their growing family! pic.twitter.com/shChgjXC4E
Congrats to Jerry and Mallory on a baby boy!
This Week’s Schedule:
Orlando gets a bit of a break this week with just two games. They finish out a four-game homestand tonight against South Carolina, then head south to Estero on Saturday for another meeting with the Everblades.