After a few days off following a 1-1-1 weekend home series against Wheeling, the Orlando Solar Bears hit the road and headed north, but not to Jacksonville (well, two players were there earlier, which we’ll go into shortly) or to the Carolinas. They headed to Portland, Maine, home of the Mariners, who sit in the North Division’s final playoff spot. A promising start to the weekend series went downhill quickly for the Solar Bears, who finished with just one win out of three.
Read on for the week that was!
ECHL All-Star Wrap:
Monday was All-Star day in Jacksonville as the league’s All-Star squad got together to take on the host Icemen.
Forward Aaron Luchuk, who was the Solar Bears’ lone All-Star selection, was released from his PTO by Hartford on Sunday, just in time to participate.
However, with the usual flux of players being unable to attend, another Solar Bear got the nod to head north:
As for the game itself, the All-Stars dominated, defeating the host Icemen 14-7. Luchuk had a goal in the first and added two assists, and finished second in the shooting accuracy competition. Barone saw action in the third period, stopping 9 of 11 shots.
-Apparently, Syracuse read last week’s recap because just after publishing, forward Odeen Tufto was recalled to the Crunch. He had a goal and five assists in three appearances in the weekend home series against Wheeling.
-Luchuk returned to Hartford on Wednesday after fulfilling his All-Star duties, per AHL transactions.
-After filling in as the backup to Hugo Alnefelt for two games last weekend, Syracuse reassigned goaltender Amir Miftakhnov to the Solar Bears on Thursday.
Kelly Cup Playoff Format:
On Friday, the ECHL announced the qualification rules and the format for the 2022 Kelly Cup Playoffs:
-In the event not all teams make up any postponed games, the standings will be based on points percentage, similar to the AHL.
-The top four teams in each division will make the postseason, with a Division Semi-final, Division Final, Conference Final, and Kelly Cup Final. All series will be a best-of-7.
After a few days off, the Solar Bears headed to Maine on Friday night for the first of three against the Mariners.
Day in , while Jackson Keane and Ian Parker make their returns to the lineup. Let's drop the puck.— Orlando Solar Bears (@OrlandoHockey) January 22, 2022
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Orlando got off to a hot start in the opening 20 minutes, scoring three times on Maine goaltender Kyle Keyser. Tristin Langan opened the scoring at the 11:00 mark with his 5th of the season. The Solar Bears then scored twice in a 1:41 span late in the period, as goals from Andrew McLean (his 2nd) and a power play goal from Langan put the visitors up 3-0.
The Mariners cut the lead to 3-1 at the 6:39 mark of the second off a goal by Ian McKinnon. A power play goal by Pascal Laberge 4:21 into the third made it a one-goal game, but the Solar Bears made sure it would not get any closer than that. Jake Transit’s third goal of the season at the 9:18 mark gave Orlando a little breathing room at 4-2. Langan then finished off his second career hat trick with 4:46 remaining for a three-goal lead. Tyler Bird then finished off a career-best five-point outing with a shorthanded, empty-net goal with 21 seconds remaining for the final 6-2 score.
It was a successful Bones Day in the net, as Barone got the win with 22 saves. The top line of Transit, Langan, and Bird combined for 10 points on the evening.
Just one lineup change for game 2 of the set—Miftakhov got the nod for his second ECHL start.
Same forward and 'D' combos tonight in Portland, as Amir Miftakhov makes his first road start with the Solar Bears!— Orlando Solar Bears (@OrlandoHockey) January 22, 2022
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Maine took a 1-0 lead 10:53 into the opening period, as Nick Master scored 29 seconds into the Mariners’ second power play opportunity. Mathew Santos doubled the Maine lead 2:49 into the second with his 10th goal of the season.
Bird continued his hot streak, cutting the Maine lead in half with his 9th goal of the season.
Ever see a Bird take flight? pic.twitter.com/VwWMy8iAjy— Orlando Solar Bears (@OrlandoHockey) January 23, 2022
Santos added an empty-net goal with 1:21 remaining in regulation to seal the win for the Mariners.
Miftakhnov stopped 34 of 36 in defeat. Michael Brodzinski had the lone assist. Orlando did not have a single power play chance, while Maine had just two.
For the rubber match on Sunday afternoon, Barone drew back in while Canon Pieper went in for Brayden Barker.
day in , while Canon Pieper returns to the lineup this afternoon!— Orlando Solar Bears (@OrlandoHockey) January 23, 2022
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Maine took a 1-0 lead with 2:23 remaining in the first as Patrick Shea sent in his own rebound after a couple of good saves from Barone.
After a scoreless middle frame, Santos added an insurance goal 1:33 into the third to double the Mariners lead. Shea scored his second of the day on a breakaway past two Solar Bears defenders at the 6:06 mark to make it 3-0.
Luke Boka broke up Maine’s shutout bid with 3:46 remaining in regulation for a 3-1 deficit, but an empty-net goal off the stick of Cameron Askew 59 seconds later sealed the win for the Mariners.
Barone stopped 38 of 41 in defeat. Brodzinski and Dmitry Semykin had the lone assists.
Orlando returns to the Amway Center to close out the month of January, hosting Utah on Thursday and Monday.