After a rough road trip last weekend, the Orlando Solar Bears returned home for the Thanksgiving holiday to start a four-game homestand and hope that some home cooking could be the cure for their recent slump.
Unfortunately, the streak continued before a huge win over the defending Kelly Cup champs righted the ship. To add to it, they may be without a key piece for quite a while.
Orlando kicked off their Thanksgiving festivities by hosting the Swamp Rabbits for the first of two on Wednesday evening.
It did not take long for the hosts to give their guests a lead, as former Bear Nikita Pavlychev scored on a power play 3:12 into the contest to put the Swamp Rabbits ahead 1-0. However, Orlando showed signs of life midway through the period with a pair of goals to take the lead back. Jimmy Mazza scored his first Solar Bears goal at the 9:03 mark to make it a 1-1 game.
Mazza making it look easy! pic.twitter.com/XwCmQSS4Kf— Orlando Solar Bears (@OrlandoHockey) November 24, 2022
Just over two minutes later, Joe Carroll added his fifth goal of the year to put Orlando ahead 2-1.
Carroll coming in clutch! pic.twitter.com/mMR7SPrGWe— Orlando Solar Bears (@OrlandoHockey) November 24, 2022
Greenville took over the contest in the second and did not look back, scoring the next five goals unanswered. Swamp Rabbits forward Brett Kemp was a one-man show in the second after the Solar Bears were assessed back-to-back penalties, scoring on both power plays 54 seconds apart to put the visitors ahead 3-2.
Pavlychev added his second of the night at the 8:06 mark of the third to give Greenville an insurance goal. Austin Eastman and Brannon McManus finished off the rout with goals 21 seconds apart—the latter into an empty net—for the final 6-2 score.
Jack Lafontaine stopped 31 of 36 in defeat. Three Solar Bear skaters had one assist each.
A Thanksgiving Transaction
Prior to the rematch with Greenville on Thursday, Orlando found themselves without their starting goaltender. With an injury to Hugo Alnefelt in Syracuse’s home win over Toronto the night before, Lafontaine was recalled to the Crunch to back up Max Lagace, leaving Brad Barone to tend to the Solar Bears net until further notice.
It was officially a Bones day for Thanksgiving, as Barone hoped to stop the bleeding in the rematch with the Swamp Rabbits.
Normally on Thanksgiving one would exchange turkey and side dishes at the table. But in Orlando, the Solar Bears and their guests would exchange goals in the first 20 minutes. Matthew Barnaby scored his 4th of the season at the 14:46 mark for a 1-0 Solar Bears lead.
Just over four minutes later, Greenville evened things up at 1 on an Ethan Somoza score.
Orlando took a 2-1 lead late in the second on a steal and subsequent shorthanded goal by Luke Boka.
Boka is giving them pumpkin to talk about! pic.twitter.com/OD3DSEVsEv— Orlando Solar Bears (@OrlandoHockey) November 24, 2022
Greenville re-tied the game at 2 early in the third on another goal from Kemp, then took a 3-2 lead just over three minutes later. Orlando was not done yet, though, coming back for thirds as Tristin Langan tied it up with 9:33 remaining in regulation with some fancy footwork.
Langan with that footwork! pic.twitter.com/y2xWletZNI— Orlando Solar Bears (@OrlandoHockey) November 24, 2022
It was on to overtime, earning Orlando their first standings point in four games. However, they were unable to snag that second point, as Tyler Inamoto scored 3:38 into the extra frame to give Greenville the two-game sweep.
Barone had 33 saves on 37 shots, including this one:
It's a Bones day! pic.twitter.com/GzOdgxvH0i— Orlando Solar Bears (@OrlandoHockey) November 24, 2022
Jack Dougherty added two assists.
Orlando looked to break a five-game winless skid on Saturday, as they welcomed the Everblades.
It was Women in Hockey night in Orlando, and the Solar Bears welcomed some special guests from Team USA, including Dani Brodzinski, who dropped the puck for her husband Michael...
Team USA forever ❤️ @usahockey @teamusa— Orlando Solar Bears (@OrlandoHockey) November 27, 2022
Thank you Team USA Alumni, @DaniCam9 and Women’s National Team Member, Peyton Compton, for dropping the puck at our Women in Hockey Night! pic.twitter.com/Iv8zPBfk6M
...and members of the Orlando Express 19U girls team, who joined the Solar Bears on ice for the National Anthem.
Members from the Orlando Express 19U Girls Team joined our boys on the blue line and it was a moment to remember pic.twitter.com/R24MkCTTNe— Orlando Solar Bears (@OrlandoHockey) November 27, 2022
Carroll got the night off to a good start for Orlando, scoring a pretty shorthanded goal at the 7:11 mark for a 1-0 lead.
Florida tied the game at 1 at the 7:35 mark of the second on a Kyle Neuber goal. Max Cajkovic took things over after that, scoring twice in a span of 5:03 to put the Solar Bears ahead 3-1.
Florida responded with a shorthanded goal from Cam Morrison with four minutes remaining in the second to cut the lead to 3-2, then they tied the game at 3 with 1:42 to go in regulation. For the second straight game, Orlando was headed to overtime, but this one would have a happy ending. Dougherty picked a clutch time to score his first Orlando goal, snagging the game-winner 45 seconds into overtime to give the Solar Bears a much needed win.
Dougherty securing a Solar Bears Win!! pic.twitter.com/sPFQEieyZI— Orlando Solar Bears (@OrlandoHockey) November 27, 2022
Barone stopped 35 of 38 shots in his second win of the season. Carroll and Langan had two assists each.
Orlando starts the month of December by hosting Kalamazoo on Thursday. They will then start a 5 game road trip, first visiting Savannah on Friday and Jacksonville on Saturday.