After another week of struggles against their South Division frenemies, the Orlando Solar Bears got out of Florida for the week, taking an excursion to Trois-Rivieres, Quebec for a week-long series against the North Division’s Lions, a squad who just like the Bears was struggling to get into playoff position.
Apparently heading north was the cure that ailed the Bears, as they took all three games on the week and headed into the ECHL’s All-Star break on a high note.
Before Orlando hopped a plane to Canada, they received some reinforcements from Syracuse, as goaltender Jack Lafontaine and defenseman Tyson Feist were reassigned to the Solar Bears. Lafontaine appeared in four games for the Crunch, going 1-2 with a 2.43 GAA and .919 save percentage...and also one goalie fight against Rochester on January 7th:
Let them work it out, they're just talking pic.twitter.com/5mtTs5oHgS— Syracuse Crunch (@SyracuseCrunch) January 8, 2023
As a result, Lafontaine was slapped with a six-game suspension from the AHL on Monday for “receiving a game misconduct for leaving the players’ bench during an altercation.” He served the first game on Sunday as the Crunch traveled to Hershey before he was reassigned.
A question did arise whether Lafontaine can still play in one league while serving out a suspension in a different league. The answer is yes.
For those wondering, Jack LaFontaine can play in the ECHL while suspended in the AHL, however his AHL suspension continues until he’s on an AHL roster for five more team games. https://t.co/rvuibEEedy— Lukas Favale (@LukasFavale) January 10, 2023
Game 1 of the three-game series came in the form of a mid-week match-up.
The visitors jumped out to a 1-0 lead 6:05 into the opening frame, as Tristin Langan tipped in a Luke McInnis shot for his 7th goal of the season.
The Lions tied the game at 1 on an Alex Breton power play goal with 6:50 remaining in the first.
After a scoreless second, Trois-Rivieires took a 2-1 lead 4:54 into the third on a Ryan Francis goal. But Orlando came through in the clutch—with Lafontaine pulled for an extra attacker during a Lions power play, Mathieu Foget scored the tying goal with 1:04 remaining in regulation.
Orlando completed the comeback in overtime, as Max Cajkovic scored his sixth of the season unassisted with 25 seconds remaining for the win.
Lafontaine stopped 36 of 38 shots for his fifth win. Feist notched an assist in his first game back with the Solar Bears.
After some team bonding, Orlando and Trois-Rivieres met again for Game 2 on Friday evening.
It took just 95 seconds after puck drop for the Solar Bears to grab a two-goal lead, after Langan and Shawn Szydlowski (on a power play) scored goals 40 seconds apart.
Riley McKay cut the Lions’ deficit to 2-1 with 6 seconds remaining in the second period, only to have Ross Olsson restore the Solar Bears’ two-goal lead 7:26 into the third with his 12th goal of the season.
Tyler Bird provided the exclamation point into an empty net with 2:46 remaining to finish off Orlando’s second consecutive win.
Lafontaine stopped 31 of 32 Lions shots. Langan finished with a three-point game, adding two assists. Jaydon Dureau and Michael Brodzinski added two assists each.
It was a quick turnaround for Game 3, as the Solar Bears looked to finish off the sweep of the Lions in a 3 PM start.
Bennett MacArthur got the Solar Bears on the board in the first, scoring his second goal at the 12:47 mark for a 1-0 lead.
The Lions finally got their first lead of the week, jumping ahead 2-1 on goals by McKay and Nicolas Guay 1:23 apart early in the second period. Olsson responded with a power play goal with 3:32 to go in the period to tie the game at 2.
Hunter Fejes continued his strong comeback to the ice, picking up his fourth goal since returning to the lineup on a power play 8:29 into the third to put Orlando ahead 3-2.
Just like the night before, Bird finished off the day—and the sweep—with an empty netter with 2:32 remaining for the 4-2 final.
The dagger comes from Bird on back-to-back nights pic.twitter.com/4br9QZJyXf— Orlando Solar Bears (@OrlandoHockey) January 14, 2023
Lafontaine stopped 24 of 26 for his third straight win. Langan notched his 20th assist of the season on Bird’s empty net goal.
Once Orlando’s game was completed, Syracuse recalled Lafontaine to the Crunch, to serve two more games of his suspension, with games for the Crunch Saturday evening and Monday afternoon, and with the Solar Bears off till Wednesday.
While Brodzinski serves as team captain for the ECHL Eastern All-Stars in Norfolk, the rest of the team gets a couple of days off. But it’s right back to work on Wednesday, as the Solar Bears open a four-game week long homestand against Atlanta. Greenville comes to visit on Thursday and Saturday, then it’s another match-up with the Everblades on Sunday afternoon.