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Solar Bears Den: Frozen in the Swamp

Orlando gets 1 win in 3 tries against their Florida neighbors.

Fernando Medina/Orlando Solar Bears

There is good news for the Orlando Solar Bears: after a grueling 5 games in 7 days last week, the team only had 3 games for this week, all within the state of Florida.

However, thanks to the usual injuries and call-ups, and a suspension, the team found themselves shorthanded and were only able to take two out of six points for the week, keeping them in fourth place in the ECHL’s South Division.

Game #55, Wednesday 3/9: Orlando 4, Jacksonville 2

The week began back in Jacksonville on Wednesday, as the Solar Bears and Icemen faced each other for the third time in 7 days.

The teams exchanged goals in the first 20 minutes. Jake Transit’s 5th goal of the season 4:54 into the contest gave Orlando an early 1-0 lead.

Luke Lynch tied the game for the home team at 1 with 1:47 remaining in the first with his 9th of the season.

When you see the same team three times in a week, there’s going to be some fireworks, and the first period was no exception, as both teams combined for 42 penalty minutes, including majors for Jacksonville’s Craig Martin and Austin McEneny along with Orlando’s Tyler Bird for various infractions. McEneny and Bird were both tossed from the game.

Martin put the Icemen ahead 2-1 31 seconds into the middle frame with his 16th. Orlando came back to tie the game 1:12 later, as Nolan Valleau scored his first of the season on a 4-on-3 power play.

Maxim Cajkovic gave Orlando a 3-2 lead at the 6:39 mark with his 3rd goal of the season.

Shawn Element finished things off late in the third with an empty-netter for the final 4-2 score.

Brad Barone stopped 34 of 36 shots for the win and picked up his third assist of the year. 10 skaters registered at least one point.

Thursday: There were a couple of transactions between Orlando and Syracuse:

-Goaltender Amir Miftakhov was reassigned to Orlando. He had not appeared in a game for the Crunch since February 19th, in which he stopped 27 shots in a win over Rochester. He had made 2 appearances for the Solar Bears earlier this season, going 1-1 with a 2.02 GAA.

-After a strong showing with the Solar Bears, Element is heading back to Syracuse.

Orlando lost another forward, as Bird was slapped with a two-game suspension for his slashing/game misconduct on Wednesday.

Game #56, Thursday 3/9: Jacksonville 3, Orlando 0

The Solar Bears returned to the Amway Center on Thursday, and again the Icemen were the opponent.

It was a scoreless first, thanks to the usual heroics in net from Barone:

The Icemen scored the only goal they would need in the second, as former Solar Bear Pavel Vorobei scored his 6th on a power play with 5:38 to go in the period for a 1-0 lead.

Jacksonville added a pair of goals in the third. Roshen Jaswal scored his 2nd at the 3:45 mark to double the Icemen lead. Derek Lodermeier added his 12th at the 9:45 mark to make it 3-0.

Meanwhile, the Solar Bears could not generate offense against Jacksonville goaltender Francois Brassard, who stopped all 24 shots for his first ECHL shutout. Barone finished with 31 saves on 34 shots.

Saturday: Captain Kevin Lohan received his second AHL PTO of the season, as he joined the Ontario Reign. He had made one appearance for Syracuse in late October.

Game #57, Saturday 3/12: Florida 6, Orlando 5

With Lohan in California, Bird finishing out his suspension, and injuries to Valleau and Hunter Fejes, a shorthanded Solar Bears squad headed south to Estero on Saturday to visit the Everblades.

Dylan Fitze put Orlando on the board 2:17 into the opening period with his 10th of the season.

John McCarron scored his 25th goal of the season on a power play at the 9:32 mark to tie the game up at 1. Cajkovic put Orlando ahead 2-1 with 4:17 remaining in the first with his 4th of the season.

Florida took over the contest in the second, scoring three times on Barone. Joe Pendenza tied the game at 2 at the 4:28 mark with a power play marker. McCarron added his second of the game, also with the man advantage, at 11:08 for a 3-2 lead. Pendenza then joined his teammate on hat trick watch with 3:17 remaining in the second for a two-goal Florida lead.

Joseph Garreffa cut the lead to 1 3:57 into the third with a power play tally, his 9th goal of the season.

Pendenza completed the hat trick while shorthanded and put the Everblades back up by two at the 6:18 mark. Alex Aleardi scored into an empty net with 1:56 remaining for what looked like a safe 6-3 win for the hosts.

But...the Solar Bears were not throwing in the towel quite yet. With Barone pulled and on a power play, Odeen Tufto cut the lead to 6-4 with 47 seconds remaining. He then added a second goal with 16 seconds left to make it 6-5, but that was as close as the Solar Bears could get.

Barone finished with 31 saves on 36 shots. Luke McInnis and Michael Brodzinski each added two assists.

Sunday: After an apparent leg injury to Hugo Alnefelt in Syracuse’s shootout loss to Toronto on Saturday, backup goaltender Ty Taylor was signed to a PTO to back up Max Lagace.

Kelly Cup Playoff Update:

After Sunday’s action, here’s how the South Division looks:

  1. Atlanta: 57 GP, 35-18-3-1, 74 points, .649 pct.
  2. Florida: 57 GP, 32-17-4-4, 72 points, .632 pct.
  3. Jacksonville: 55 GP, 32-19-2-2, 68 points, .618 pct.
  4. Orlando: 57 GP, 29-24-4-0, 62 points, .544 pct.
  5. Greenville: 54 GP, 23-24-4-3, 53 points, .491 pct.

Upcoming:

Orlando heads to Atlanta on Tuesday morning for a school day special against the Gladiators. Then it’s back to Estero for a two-game set with the Everblades on Friday and Saturday.