Riding a four-game winning streak into the weekend, the Orlando Solar Bears looked to go into the ECHL’s All-Star Break on a high note. However, they were only able to take one of three against a Wheeling Nailers squad that had struggled as of late, with several skaters on recall to the AHL.
Read on for the weekend that was...
With the Stanley Cup in the building, the Solar Bears welcomed the Nailers into the Amway Center for the first of three.
#GoBolts prospects Amir Miftakhov and Odeen Tufto make their Solar Bears debut tonight!— Orlando Solar Bears (@OrlandoHockey) January 14, 2022
https://t.co/gs4DpdrRcl via @flohockey
https://t.co/fV1V8amhMz | https://t.co/ov8kK3hE0p
The teams exchanged goals late in the opening frame. Wheeling took a 1-0 lead with 5:24 remaining in the first on a Justin Almeida goal. Dylan Fitze tied the game with 1:46 to go with a power play goal, his 2nd of the season.
Tyler Bird put the Solar Bears up 2-1 5:52 into the second with a power play goal, his 7th of the season.
Another power play GOAL scored by Tyler Bird! pic.twitter.com/uYjTCDnDuK— Orlando Solar Bears (@OrlandoHockey) January 15, 2022
Tim Doherty tied the game at 2 for the Nailers with a shorthanded goal with 8:57 remaining in the period.
Orlando took over the contest in the final 20 minutes, putting up four unanswered. Fitze scored his second of the night at the 5:42 mark to put Orlando up 3-2.
GOAL by Dylan Fitze, his second of the game!— Orlando Solar Bears (@OrlandoHockey) January 15, 2022
Bringing the score up 3-2! pic.twitter.com/07W1qnO2J1
Odeen Tufto, making his ECHL debut, scored his first professional goal with 4:14 remaining for a two-goal cushion.
Solar Bears GOAL by Odeen Tufto, his first of the season! pic.twitter.com/FZl3qpBNAq— Orlando Solar Bears (@OrlandoHockey) January 15, 2022
Michael Brodzinski scored into an empty net with 26 seconds remaining for a 5-2 lead.
Check out this Solar Bears GOAL!! pic.twitter.com/rPrD2zLIe0— Orlando Solar Bears (@OrlandoHockey) January 15, 2022
Finally, for an exclamation point, Fitze finished off his first professional hat trick 11 seconds later for the final 6-2 margin, extending Orlando’s win streak to five.
Dylan Fitze with his third GOAL to seal his hat trick! pic.twitter.com/4P1LFSfTZt— Orlando Solar Bears (@OrlandoHockey) January 15, 2022
Amir Miftakhnov won in his ECHL debut, stopping 28 of 30 shots. Tufto and Tristin Langan had three points apiece, while eight skaters got on the scoresheet.
Before Saturday’s rematch, Miftakhnov was summoned to Syracuse to back up Hugo Alnefelt in the Crunch’s overtime win over Utica after Max Lagace was sidelined due to illness.
It was a Bones Day on Saturday, as Brad Barone was the only lineup change for Game 2 of the weekend set.
It's a day in - same forward and 'D' combos as last night...same starters too!— Orlando Solar Bears (@OrlandoHockey) January 15, 2022
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Wheeling got off to a good start in the opening 20 minutes with a pair of goals against Barone. Felix Pare made it 1-0 2:39 into the contest with his 5th goal, then Jared Cockrell doubled the lead at the 9:02 mark with his 7th. The Solar Bears special teams came through late in the period, as a power play goal from Hunter Fejes cut the Nailers lead in half.
With 43.4 seconds left in the first period, Fejes puts your Orlando Solar Bears on the board.— Orlando Solar Bears (@OrlandoHockey) January 16, 2022
Check it out pic.twitter.com/X0FP1nKdEC
Wheeling took a 3-1 lead with 5:30 to go in the second on Cockrell’s second of the evening, this one on a power play. He would finish off the hat trick with an empty netter with 26 seconds remaining in regulation for a three-goal advantage, stopping both Wheeling’s losing streak and Orlando’s winning streak at five games.
Barone finished with 24 saves on 27 shots. Tufto and Langan had the lone assists.
Alexey Lipanov was back in the lineup for the first time since mid-November as the Solar Bears looked to grab the rubber match of the three-game series.
It's another day in — #GoBolts 2017 draft pick Alexey Lipanov makes his return to the lineup after coming off the IR!— Orlando Solar Bears (@OrlandoHockey) January 16, 2022
https://t.co/gs4DpdrRcl via @flohockey
https://t.co/fV1V8amhMz | https://t.co/ov8kK3hE0p | @boltsradio
After a tense start to the contest—the teams combined for 22 penalty minutes—Pare exited the penalty box, broke in on Barone, whiffed on his first try, then banged in the second attempt with 14 seconds remaining in the first for a 1-0 Nailers lead. But on a positive note, check out this sequence midway through the period as Barone put on a stickless clinic.
Fitze continued his hot play of late, scoring on a power play 2:22 into the second to tie the game at 1.
Dylan Fitze with the POWER PLAY GOAL! pic.twitter.com/w2uQtNUJEN— Orlando Solar Bears (@OrlandoHockey) January 16, 2022
Almeida gave the Nailers a 2-1 lead at the 10:39 mark of the second with his 13th goal of the season. On a delayed penalty early in the third, Chris Ortiz picked up an insurance goal for a 3-1 lead.
Langan single-handedly rallied the Solar Bears as it got late in the third, scoring twice in a span of 3:02—the first on a power play, the second on an extended delayed penalty with Barone pulled for an extra skater—to tie the game at 3.
Tristin Langan pt.1 pic.twitter.com/QCzw1P4yq4— Orlando Solar Bears (@OrlandoHockey) January 16, 2022
Tristin Langan pt.2 pic.twitter.com/H3sLEr0Y8A— Orlando Solar Bears (@OrlandoHockey) January 16, 2022
It was on to overtime, where a tripping call on Lipanov two minutes into the extra frame would prove costly as Almeida scored the game-winner on the ensuing power play—Wheeling’s seventh of the day—to give the Nailers the extra point and 2 out of 3 for the weekend set.
Barone finished with 22 saves on 25 shots. Tufto added two more assists and finished his first ECHL 3 in 3 weekend with six points.
After a few days off for the ECHL All-Star Break, Orlando will head north to Maine for a 3 game weekend series against the North Division’s Mariners.