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Solar Bears Weekly Check In: Not a Slam Dunk

Orlando’s road trip ends early, then they drop 2 of 3 to the Stingrays on home ice.

Fernando Medina

After a successful, yet extended, weekend, in Indianapolis, the Orlando Solar Bears returned to the Sunshine State this week, hoping to end the road trip and start the month of May on a good note.

Well, about that...

After a reminder that the pandemic is still going on, the Solar Bears returned home, only to be dominated by division rival South Carolina. But they did manage to get one win...and the Magic jerseys were sweet? Read on for the week that was...

Roster Moves:

-With the Crunch’s regular season winding down, Syracuse reassigned defenseman Dmitry Semykin to the Solar Bears on Tuesday. The rookie had appeared in 9 games for the Crunch since joining the team in mid-February, with a goal and two assists.

Additionally, Syracuse recalled rookie forward Nikita Pavlychev from Orlando. The rookie forward appeared in 17 games for the Solar Bears, with two goals and two assists. He had appeared in 4 games for the Crunch in March, with one assist.

-Per the ECHL’s transaction wire, rookie defenseman Karlis Cukste was recalled to San Jose on Wednesday.

-There was good news and bad news for Orlando regarding the league’s Commissioner’s Exempt List for COVID protocols this week: goaltender Clint Windsor and forward Jerry D’Amigo came off the list, only to have forwards Chris LeBlanc and J.J. Piccinich and defenseman Nolan Valleau added on.

Solar Bears-Icemen Postponed

Orlando’s extended road trip came to an end one game early on Wednesday, after the ECHL postponed their matchup in Jacksonville due to COVID protocols. The league announced on Monday the game will be made up on Wednesday, May 26th.

Game #53, Friday 4/30: South Carolina 6, Orlando 2

For the first time in 22 days, the Solar Bears returned to the friendly confines of the Amway Center, as they started a 3-game set against the Stingrays.

It was Orlando Magic Night, and the Solar Bears honored their building mates by sporting these pretty awesome jerseys:

It even came with a matching Rally Towel!

Shades, the Solar Bears mascot, was joined by a few friends as well.

While the style of the specialty jerseys paid tribute to the late 90s/early 2000s Magic, the Solar Bears seemed to be channeling the Magic of the early 90s. You know, the era before Shaq and Penny Hardaway came to town.

The Stingrays got two, a 2 minute span midway through the first, as Justin Florek and Matthew Weis connected for a 2-0 lead.

South Carolina jumped to a 3-0 lead 11:14 into the second on a goal by Caleb Herbert.

Orlando got on the board just 46 seconds into the third, as Michael Joly scored his third goal since joining the Solar Bears to cut the Stingrays lead to 3-1. The visitors then promptly dropped a three-pointer—er, scored the next three unanswered. Exactly one minute later, while on their fourth power play of the evening (we forgot to mention the foul penalty trouble), Max Gottlieb scored for a 4-1 lead. The Stingrays then got goals 22 seconds apart from Dylan Steman and Cole Ully for a 6-1 advantage at the 3:49 mark, spelling the end of the night for starter Michael Lackey as he was substituted for Windsor. Aaron Luchuk scored a very late power play tally, but it was too little, too late for this one.

Lackey finished with 16 saves on 22 shots in just under 44 minutes of work, while Windsor stopped 2 out of 2. Joly and three others had one assist each.

Game #54, 5/2: South Carolina 7, Orlando 4

Windsor was back in net on Sunday afternoon as Orlando started their May schedule with game 2 against the Stingrays.

Unlike on Friday, Orlando got off to a good start in the opening period. On their first power play of the day, Joly connected for his fourth Solar Bears goal—and 12th overall—to put the home team up 1-0 8:36 into the contest.

The Stingrays tied the game at 1 less than 3 minutes on a power play goal by Max Novak. On a defensive flub with 3:41 to go, Tyler Nanne broke in and got the puck past Windsor for a 2-1 South Carolina lead.

Orlando tied the game at 2 at the 3:43 mark off a Krystof Hrabik goal, his fifth overall and third with the Solar Bears. Just over a minute later at the 5:09 mark, the Stingrays jumped back ahead 3-2 on Novak’s second goal of the day. Again, Orlando responded by tying the game at 3 with 2:21 remaining in the period on Mark Auk’s 6th goal of the season.

Orlando ran into some penalty trouble early in the third, and that would cost them. Dan DeSalvo scored twice in a span of 21 seconds—the first a power play goal—to put the Stingrays up 5-3. At the 7:00 mark, Stingrays captain Andrew Cherniwchan added his 12th for a 3 goal lead. Matthew Spencer brought the Solar Bears back to within two with his third midway through the period. Cherniwchan then added his second of the day with 7:02 remaining to finish things off.

Windsor finished with 26 saves on 33 shots. Spencer finished an assist short of the Gordie Howe Hat Trick after a fight with Steman in the second. Anthony Repaci and Tristin Langan had two assists each.

Game #55, 5/3: Orlando 3, South Carolina 2

Orlando looked to avoid the three-game sweep on Monday evening.

Orlando was first on the board late in the opening period. With 1:17 remaining, Luchuk connected for his team leading 23rd goal of the season for a 1-0 lead.

The Stingrays responded 6:17 into the second, tying the game at 1 on Cherniwchan’s third goal in two games and 14th of the season. Orlando took the lead back with 6:11 remaining in the period, jumping ahead 2-1 on Repaci’s 4th goal of the season.

Once again, the Stingrays answered, as Herbert scored with 1:51 remaining to tie the game at 2.

Joly struck yet again in the third, scoring his fifth goal in six games since joining the Solar Bears to put Orlando up 3-2 with 8:56 remaining in regulation.

Orlando shut it down from there, outshooting the Stingrays 12-8 in the final 20 minutes.

Windsor rebounded nicely after his seven goals allowed effort the day before, stopping 24 of 26 shots. Luchuk and Joly also added assists.

Kelly Cup Playoff Seedings Update

We’re about a month away from the end of the regular season, so it’s time to bring back the playoff standings update! After Monday’s action, here’s where the Eastern Conference is at:

  1. Florida: 53 GP, 33-17-1-2, 69 points, .651 pct.
  2. Greenville: 56 GP, 26-16-11-3, 66 points, .589 pct.
  3. Indy: 52 GP, 28-19-5-0, 61 points, .587 pct.
  4. Orlando: 55 GP, 29-21-4-1, 63 points, .572 pct.
  5. Jacksonville: 52 GP, 26-20-3-3, 58 points, .558 pct.
  6. South Carolina: 54 GP, 23-19-9-3, 58 points, .537 pct.

As a reminder, the top four seeds make the postseason based on points percentage. As you can see, it’s a very close race with eleven points separating all six teams. With the exception of Indy, who will only play 5 in-division games, the other five teams will all be playing each other, which should make for some fun scoreboard watching as May rolls on.

This Week’s Schedule:

Orlando’s homestand continues with a three-game set against Greenville on Friday, Saturday, and Monday night.