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Solar Bears Weekly Check In: Fighting for the Split

Orlando gets 3 out of 6 points at home, but can’t make up ground in the Eastern Conference.

Fernando Medina

The homestretch of the regular season has begun for the Orlando Solar Bears, as they continue to jockey for position in the ECHL’s Eastern Conference.A long stretch on home ice continued for the team this week, as they welcomed Greenville for three games, hoping to improve their playoff position. Although Orlando managed to snag three out a possible six points this week, they still find themselves in the middle of the pack...but in a playoff spot.

News of the Week:

-Forward Kyle Topping was recalled to San Jose on Wednesday. In 24 games, the rookie had 7 goals and 8 assists for Orlando.

-Also on Wednesday, forward Aaron Luchuk was named the Warrior Hockey ECHL Player of the Month for April. All he did was put up 10 goals and 9 assists in 14 games, including 5 multi-point outings.

Game #56, 5/7: Greenville 3, Orlando 2 (OT)

Clint Windsor got the nod on Friday night, as the Solar Bears and Swamp Rabbits (Daniel Walcott’s old team) faced off for the first of three at the Amway Center.

It didn’t take long for the Solar Bears to get started in the opening period, as Kevin Lohan scored his second goal of the season 5:43 into the contest for a 1-0 lead.

Greenville rallied in the second to take the lead with a pair of goals, outshooting Orlando 19-9. Greg Meireles scored his 10th goal of the season at the 9:55 mark to tie the game at 1. Bryce Reddick gave the Swamp Rabbits a 2-1 lead with 4:58 remaining in the period with his third of the year.

It didn’t take long for Orlando to get started in the third, tying the game at 2 just 45 seconds into the period on Matthew Spencer’s 4th goal of the season.

After a few close calls, it was on to overtime, where the Swamp Rabbits pulled out a victory on Matt Bradley’s 15th of the season 3:29 into the extra frame.

Windsor was outstanding despite the loss, stopping 34 of 37 shots. Tristin Langan added two assists.

Game #57, 5/8: Orlando 3, Greenville 2

Captain Chris Leblanc finally returned to the lineup on Saturday after being sidelined due to COVID protocols, and the lines were shaken up a bit for Game 2 of the three game set.

It was Military Appreciation Night, and the Solar Bears were sporting specialty American flag jerseys.

Before most of the fans were probably even settled in their seats, Anthony Repaci got Orlando on the board 44 seconds into the contest with his 5th goal of the season.

The Swamp Rabbits tied it at 1 with 6:13 remaining in the first on a Ben Finkelstein tally.

Orlando took a 2-1 lead at the 9:30 mark of the second on a nice play by Michael Joly as he picked up his 14th goal of the season and 6th with the Solar Bears.

Finkelstein scored his second of the evening 1:46 into the third period to tie the game at 2. Spencer appeared to have scored the go-ahead goal with 1:27 remaining in regulation, but goaltender interference on Greenville was brought into question. After a video review, the officials deemed it a good goal for Spencer, his 5th of the season.

Greenville pulled the goaltender for the final minute, but was unable to come up with the equalizer, giving Orlando a much needed victory.

Windsor picked up his 17th win of the season, stopping 25 of 27 shots. Four Orlando skaters had one assist each.

Game #58, 5/10: Greenville 1, Orlando 0

Orlando had a chance to jump from fourth to second place in the East in the final game of the three-game set with Greenville on Monday.

All the offense for the evening came during the first period. Greenville took a 1-0 lead at the 7:53 mark on Patrick Bajkov’s 15th goal of the season.

The Solar Bears got a scare 25 seconds into the second, as a shot off the stick of Swamp Rabbit defenseman Alec Rauhauser struck Windsor hard on the toe of his left skate. After a few minutes of skating it off, Windsor decided to stay in the net.

Orlando found themselves in a hole at the 6:46 mark of the period after defenseman Luke McInnis was called for a 5 minute boarding major, but managed to kill off the extended Greenville power play.

Despite a pair of power plays and a late rush with Windsor pulled for an extra skater in the third, the Solar Bears were unable to generate any offense against Swamp Rabbits goaltender John Lethemon, who stopped all 26 Orlando shots en route to his first professional shutout.

Windsor took another hard luck loss, stopping 28 of 29.

Kelly Cup Playoff Seedings Update

After Monday’s action, here’s how the Eastern Conference looks with about a month to go in the regular season:

  1. Florida: 56 GP, 35-17-2-2, 74 points, .661 pct.
  2. Greenville: 60 GP, 29-17-11-3, 72 points, .600 pct.
  3. Indy: 54 GP, 29-20-5-0, 63 points, .583 pct.
  4. Orlando: 58 GP, 30-22-5-1, 66 points, .569 pct.
  5. Jacksonville: 56 GP, 28-22-3-3, 62 points, .554 pct.
  6. South Carolina: 57 GP, 24-20-10-3, 61 points, .535 pct.

The gap between first and second has shrunken a bit, with the Everblades only winning 3 out of their last 10 games. Indy got a boost to their playoff hopes after they were awarded a victory due to Fort Wayne forfeiting an earlier matchup.

This Week’s Schedule:

Orlando will host the Everblades on Friday and Saturday night in another possible playoff preview.

Also, stay tuned for a bonus article this week, because the 2021-2022 ECHL schedule is about to drop!