A season long 9 game road trip continued for the Orlando Solar Bears this week, as the team headed north for a weekday 3-in-3 slate.
Luckily, the team remembered to pack their offense for the trip.
With a new top line emerging from the remnants of an earlier line, the Solar Bears took 5 out of 6 points, setting up a showdown for second place in the Eastern Conference on the next leg of the road swing.
Weekly Honors for Windsor
For the third time this season, goaltender Clint Windsor was named the Warrior Hockey/ECHL Goaltender of the Week for his efforts last week against Greenville. In 3 starts, he went 3-0 with a 1.90 GAA, .943 save percentage, and one shutout.
Game #47, 4/14: Orlando 7, South Carolina 6
The road trip headed north to Charleston, where the Solar Bears and Stingrays faced off for the first of two this week.
Tonight's lineup as we get set to take on the Stingrays!— Orlando Solar Bears (@OrlandoHockey) April 14, 2021
via @flohockey — https://t.co/g5aLHtwARH
https://t.co/fV1V8amhMz / https://t.co/ov8kK3hE0p#BEARLIEVE | #ORLatSC pic.twitter.com/roXOqd2dTr
Buckle up readers, this is going to be a long one.
Now to be fair, it didn’t look to be that way in the first, as the Stingrays got on the board against Windsor 9:13 into the contest on a goal by Max Gottlieb. Then...the second period happened.
In a span of 2:08, a 1-0 deficit turned into a 2-1 Orlando lead, as Chris Leblanc and Anthony Repaci each picked up goals. Repaci scored on a power play. Kyle Topping made it a 3-1 lead just over three minutes later at the 11:31 mark with a shorthanded goal, his 7th of the season and 6th since joining the Solar Bears. 52 seconds later, South Carolina cut the lead to 3-2 on an Andrew Cherniwchan power play goal. Orlando quickly answered, taking a 4-2 lead 32 seconds later on Krystof Hrabik’s fourth of the season. The Stingrays cut the lead to 4-3 on a Justin Florek goal with 2:40 remaining in the second.
So if you’re keeping score at home, that’s a four-goal second for the Solar Bears, a season high, with all 4 goals in a span of 6:53. After that second, the third period had a lot to live up to.
Well, it was close.
Caleb Herbert tied the game up at 4 for the Stingrays at the 4:52 mark. J.J. Piccinich gave Orlando the lead back with a power play goal just over two minutes later, only to see South Carolina re-tie the game at 5 19 seconds after that. The Stingrays then grabbed a 6-5 lead with 9:41 to go in regulation. However, the new top line of Aaron Luchuk, Tristin Langan, and LeBlanc took care of business late in the contest. With 4:50 remaining in regulation, Luchuk scored his team-leading 16th goal to tie the game at 6. LeBlanc, who assisted on the tying goal, then picked up the winning goal with 3:14 to go for a 7-6 Orlando advantage.
Eighth career game-winner for Chris LeBlanc pic.twitter.com/Wm2fOWly2T— Orlando Solar Bears (@OrlandoHockey) April 15, 2021
Despite giving up 6 goals, Windsor picked up his 15th win, stopping 25 shots. Luchuk finished with a four-point night, adding three assists. Eleven Orlando skaters had at least one point.
Game #48, 4/15: Jacksonville 4, Orlando 3 (OT)
The bus headed back down Interstate 95 on Thursday, as the Solar Bears paid a visit to the Icemen. Kris Oldham got the nod in net for the first time since March 27th.
Almost time for puck-drop in Jacksonville! Tune into tonight's game using the links below!— Orlando Solar Bears (@OrlandoHockey) April 15, 2021
via @flohockey — https://t.co/g5aLHtwARH
https://t.co/fV1V8amhMz / https://t.co/ov8kK3hE0p#BEARLIEVE | #ORLatJAX pic.twitter.com/Iu5PrFDG0S
After a scoreless first 20 minutes, Jacksonville controlled the first half of the second period with a pair of goals. Abbott Girduckis scored his 7th of the season at the 4:48 mark for a 1-0 lead. Pascal Aquin doubled the lead with 9:32 remaining in the period with his 11th. The Solar Bears cut the lead in half 1:22 later, as Luchuk scored his 17th of the season—and picked up point #50—on a power play.
Count it: @ALuchuk91 gets us on on the board with a power-play goal, and the forward records point number 50 on the season!— Orlando Solar Bears (@OrlandoHockey) April 16, 2021
He's the first Solar Bears player to reach the half-century mark for Orlando since Max Novak and Josh Winquist during the 2017-18 season! pic.twitter.com/dbuEhPKDbT
A seesaw battle made things interesting in the final period. J.J. Piccinich tied the game at 2 2:12 into the period with his 9th goal of the season.
TIE GAME!!!@JJPiccinich draws us level with the Icemen! #BEARLIEVE | #ORLatJAX pic.twitter.com/A6sHBJxh14— Orlando Solar Bears (@OrlandoHockey) April 16, 2021
Jacksonville grabbed a 3-2 lead with 3:42 remaining in regulation on a Mike Szmatula goal. With Oldham pulled for an extra skater, Orlando managed to tie things up with eight seconds remaining thanks to another Luchuk goal, his second of the evening.
O.M.G.@ALuchuk91 Back at it again in clutch time. pic.twitter.com/pZgl2tPivF— Orlando Solar Bears (@OrlandoHockey) April 16, 2021
It was on to overtime, where it took 1:39 for Jacksonville to end it, as Szmatula scored his second of the night for the game winner.
Oldham stopped 34 of 38 shots in the loss. LeBlanc and Joseph Garreffa added two assists each.
Game #49, 4/16: Orlando 5, South Carolina 3
The bus headed back north to South Carolina, as Orlando looked to sweep the sandwiched two-game set with the Stingrays.
Almost time for puck-drop at Casa Del 'Ray!— Orlando Solar Bears (@OrlandoHockey) April 16, 2021
via @flohockey — https://t.co/g5aLHtwARH
https://t.co/fV1V8amhMz / https://t.co/ov8kK3hE0p
⚡️ @boltsradio#BEARLIEVE | #ORLatSC pic.twitter.com/EAl3KJSMNo
It didn’t take long for Orlando to get things started in the opening frame, as Luchuk scored his 19th of the season 79 seconds after puck drop for a 1-0 lead.
The Looch is on #BEARLIEVE | @ALuchuk91 pic.twitter.com/qxRXHtqGES— Orlando Solar Bears (@OrlandoHockey) April 16, 2021
Langan doubled the lead at the 7:54 mark with his 15th goal of the season. The Stingrays responded by rallying to take a 3-2 lead in a span of 5 minutes with goals from Mark Cooper, Dan DeSalvo, and Zach Malatesta.
After a scoreless second period, Bird quickly tied the game at 3 at the 2:07 mark of the third with his 12th of the season.
is the word! Tyler Bird ties it at 3-3! #BEARLIEVE | #ORLatSC pic.twitter.com/1pPPRTlRhC— Orlando Solar Bears (@OrlandoHockey) April 17, 2021
Langan scored his second of the evening with 10:55 remaining in regulation for a 4-3 Orlando lead.
Langan gets his second of the night to give us the lead again!#BEARLIEVE | #ORLatSC pic.twitter.com/DvAjHvl6W5— Orlando Solar Bears (@OrlandoHockey) April 17, 2021
With 50 seconds remaining and the Stingrays’ net empty, Langan finished off his first career hat trick—and the second for a Solar Bears skater this season—for the final 5-3 margin.
Did you think he was done?!?! WRONG!@tlangan6 nets the empty-netter for his first pro hat trick! #BEARLIEVE | #ORLatSC pic.twitter.com/G7Tx2SUloo— Orlando Solar Bears (@OrlandoHockey) April 17, 2021
Windsor stopped 26 of 29 shots for his 16th win of the season. Luchuk and seven other skaters had one assist each in a balanced attack.
A New Top Line?
Earlier this season, I shined the spotlight on what became known as the LLC Line — which consisted of Langan centering Luchuk and Jake Coughler — and their offensive success.
Coughler has been sidelined since mid-March due to injury, and Luchuk and Langan were separated to different lines. On April 3rd, after a tough stretch against Florida, the two were reunited, with LeBlanc joining them on the wing. With the exception of the 5-0 shutout loss in Greenville on April 11th, the Triple L line has cashed in, with at least one getting on the scoresheet in every game.
Luchuk, Orlando’s leading scorer, has soared to #2 among all ECHL skaters in scoring (53 points) and assists (34), while Langan is tied for 9th in points (40). LeBlanc is quietly making his way up the Solar Bears’ franchise lists, as he is now just two career assists away from claiming first place all-time since Orlando returned as an ECHL franchise.
This Week’s Schedule:
For the first time all season, Orlando plays a team that’s not in either Florida or South Carolina. They will head north to Indianapolis for a 3-game weekend set with the Fuel, who sit just two points head of Orlando for second place in the Eastern Conference. This has the makings of a first round playoff preview, perhaps?
The two teams face off Friday and Saturday night, and on Sunday afternoon.