After a promising start to the month of December, the Orlando Solar Bears headed back on the road for the weekend, with a pair of games against South Division rival Atlanta.
Unfortunately, the trip did not go as well as planned, as the Solar Bears were outscored 10-5 in a two-game sweep at the hands of the Gladiators, and the team now find themselves in the division basement.
Prior to heading north on Thursday, there was a bit of roster movement between the Solar Bears and Syracuse:
-With an apparent injury to goaltender Max Lagace, Jack LaFontaine has been recalled to the Crunch for the second time in 14 days. Jimmy Poreda has been signed for the second time this season to back up Brad Barone.
-After receiving Philippe Myers and Cole Koepke from the parent club, Syracuse has reassigned forward Grant Mismash and defenseman Tyson Feist to Orlando. Mismash and Feist had both not dressed since November 19th in Belleville, and both skaters have just five appearances for the Crunch each, going scoreless.
-Orlando also saw their first non-Syracuse AHL transaction of the season as defenseman Jack Dougherty signed a PTO with Belleville, where he has appeared in 101 games over the last 3 seasons.
With the new personnel in-house, Orlando was off to Atlanta for the first of two on Friday evening.
It did not take long for one of the newest Solar Bears to make a contribution. Mismash earned his first point with an assist on Michael Brodzinski’s power play goal 6:31 into the contest for a 1-0 Orlando lead.
Seeing-eye shot from Brodzinski pic.twitter.com/p3EeWt4Niy— Orlando Solar Bears (@OrlandoHockey) December 10, 2022
Atlanta responded with a pair of goals against Barone. On a screen, Eric Neiley found some space and tied the game at 1 with 8:29 remaining in the period. Sanghoon Shin added a power play goal with 59 seconds remaining in the first for a 2-1 lead.
So maybe it was a good time for the captain to, say, fire up the troops with a late bout that...didn’t end so well.
Mike Turner: Hockey Player. Bear Wrestler ❄️ pic.twitter.com/OaH6UtKAqm— Atlanta Gladiators (@atlgladiators) December 10, 2022
After a scoreless second, it was a wild finish to regulation, as both teams combined for four goals in 1:25. Unfortunately for Orlando, three of those goals were into their own empty net. Gabe Guertler gave Atlanta a 3-1 lead at the 18:35 mark, then Neiley followed with his second of the night 26 seconds later to make it 4-1. The Solar Bears cut the lead to 4-2 with 35 seconds remaining on Chris Ordoobadi’s first of the season (naturally the cameras cut away just as it happened but...shrugs).
Michael Turner then completed 2/3rds of a Gordie Howe hat trick into the empty net as time expired, giving Atlanta a 5-2 win.
Barone stopped 24 of 26 shots in 59 minutes of work. Mismash and 3 others had one assist each.
A mere 24 hours later, the two teams met again, as the Solar Bears looked to avoid a two-game sweep.
Orlando got off to a good start in the first with a pair of goals. Mathieu Foget’s fourth of the season off a breakaway 2:49 in gave the visitors a 1-0 lead.
With 3:42 remaining in the first, Orlando doubled their lead off a milestone: Jaydon Dureau’s first professional goal. Atlanta got on the board just over two minutes later as Neiley scored his third goal of the weekend.
Ordoobadi scored for the second straight game 2:34 into the second to put Orlando ahead 3-1.
After that, the wheels fell off the train for Orlando, as Atlanta scored the next four unanswered. Reece Vitelli singlehandedly rallied the Gladiators to tie the game at 3, scoring twice in a span of 5:14, the latter goal on a power play. Neiley continued his hot hand, scoring his second of the night on another power play with 1:18 remaining in the period to put the hosts up 4-3.
Colin Theisen put the final nail in the coffin with another empty netter late for the 5-3 final.
Barone was busy on this night, stopping 47 of 51 shots, including this one:
Not Solar Bears related but had to bring this to your attention, especially if you are into sports teams that no longer exist such as myself, whose hometown has a very long list of them.
The Gladiators are bringing back the Thrashers on December 16th for one night only.
Blueland is BACK!— Atlanta Gladiators (@atlgladiators) November 7, 2022
Join the Gladiators as they take the ice as the Atlanta Thrashers with specialty jerseys, arena theming and more.
Tickets on sale now: https://t.co/Ngm4tEi7f7#HockeyDown20uth pic.twitter.com/4u8RKwiIKu
Per the team press release:
The team will be wearing limited edition Thrashers jerseys that will be auctioned off after the game. Make sure you come early and grab your Thrashers T-shirt, puck and rally towel. Thrash, the Thrashers’ mascot, will also be in attendence.
Orlando will finish their road trip on Wednesday in Estero against Florida. They return home briefly on Friday to host Savannah, then it’s right back to Estero on Saturday for another visit with the Everblades.
As a reminder, Friday is also Teddy Bear Toss:
It's almost Teddy Bear Toss time!— Orlando Solar Bears (@OrlandoHockey) December 6, 2022
You won't want to miss this experience!