After a couple of days off for Christmas, it was right back to work for the Orlando Solar Bears. They closed out the 2022 calendar year with 3 games in 3 days stretch, all against South Division rivals.
What started out on a good note ended up in a defensive disaster, as Orlando finished the year dropping two out of three, and find themselves looking up at a crowded division race as the calendar turns to 2023.
-Only one transaction of note for the week: defenseman Tyson Feist was recalled to Syracuse on Tuesday, after putting up two goals and three assists in 8 games for Orlando.
Orlando began the week on home ice on Wednesday, as they welcomed the Ghost Pirates to the Amway Center.
First period was all Solar Bears, as they scored three times in the final 4:11 of the frame. Maxim Cajkovic took a pass from Grant Mismash and broke away for his 5th goal of the season to put Orlando up 1-0.
With 3:01 remaining in the period, Hunter Fejes officially completed his comeback from cancer, scoring his first of the season to double the Solar Bears lead. Come for the sweet breakaway, stay for the celebration!
Ross Olsson finished off the scoring with a power play goal, his 9th tally of the season, with 1:07 remaining for a 3-0 lead.
Tyler Bird continued the offensive onslaught in the second, scoring his 8th of the season at the 11:15 mark for a 4-0 lead.
Feelin' fly & scoring high pic.twitter.com/6aXN1MXM2n— Orlando Solar Bears (@OrlandoHockey) December 29, 2022
The Ghost Pirates found their way onto the scoresheet with 35 seconds remaining in the second, as former Solar Bear Brent Pedersen scored on a power play to cut the lead to 4-1.
Savannah made it a 4-2 game with 7:01 remaining on another power play goal, but could not get any closer.
Brad Barone got the win, stopping 33 of 35 shots. Luke Mcinnis added two assists before exiting early after a major penalty for slashing.
24 hours later, Orlando was back at it, this time hosting the Everblades.
A wild first period saw a combined 7 goals. Michael Brodzinski, who was named an ECHL All-Star the day before, celebrated with his 5th goal of the season on an early 5-on-3 power play chance for a 1-0 lead. And with that, toss your undergarments folks! (Reminder that again it is not what you think.)
The team’s inaugural Underwear Toss was a success!
Once the packages were cleared, Brodzinski struck again with his second power play goal, 15 seconds after the first one, to double the Solar Bears lead.
The Everblades rallied to tie the game at 2 midway through the period off goals 6:05 apart from former Tampa Bay Lightning draft pick Cam Darcy and Joe Pendenza, which prompted a goaltender switch for Orlando: Jimmy Poreda came in for Barone.
Brayden Guy then gave Orlando the lead back, scoring his 5th on another power play at the 11:59 mark.
Fejes doubled the Orlando lead with 4:43 remaining in the first with his second goal in as many days.
After that goal, the bottom dropped out from under the Solar Bears, as Florida scored the next five goals unanswered. Robert Calisti cut the lead to 4-3 with exactly three minutes in the first to top off a crazy first 20 minutes.
Florida took advantage of penalty trouble for the Solar Bears, going 3-for-3 on second period power play opportunities. James Mcewan’s second of the season 1:09 into the period tied the game up at 4. Darcy then scored his second of the night at the 2:47 mark for a 5-4 Everblades lead. Blake Winiecki’s 9th of the season then clinched the touchdown with 36 seconds remaining in the period for a two-goal cushion.
Darcy completed the hat trick and snagged the extra point with 12:45 remaining in the game for the 7-4 final.
It was a tough night for Poreda, who stopped 22 of 27 in relief. Barone had stopped 7 of 9 before exiting. Cajkovic added two assists.
Orlando headed south to Estero on Friday to complete the home-and-home, and finish off the 2022 portion of their schedule.
Unlike the night before in Orlando, it was a slightly quieter first period, but still filled with offense. Florida took a 1-0 lead 8:51 into the contest on a Kobe Roth goal. Orlando rallied back and took the lead on a pair of tallies 14 seconds apart late in the period. Olsson tied the game at 1 at the 18:29 mark with his 10th of the season.
The captain gives us a spark ⚡️ pic.twitter.com/3b4UwwMTLo— Orlando Solar Bears (@OrlandoHockey) December 31, 2022
Tristin Langan gave the Solar Bears a 2-1 lead with 1:17 to go in the first with his 6th.
Just as fast as Orlando grabbed the lead, the game was tied again, as a Lukas Kalble goal with 20 seconds remaining in the period re-tied the game at 2.
Orlando took a 3-2 lead 4:42 into the second period off a Pavel Vorobei goal.
Vorobei with patience for the go-ahead goal pic.twitter.com/egpxnupnXe— Orlando Solar Bears (@OrlandoHockey) December 31, 2022
Much like the night before, things went downhill after that, as Florida scored four straight, all within a 12:32 span in the third. Xavier Cormier scored on a power play 3:11 into the period to tie the game at 3. Leif Mattson gave the Everblades the lead 1:24 later with his first of the season. Calisti and Levko Koper added some insurance in a 2:24 span to finish off Florida’s second straight win over the Solar Bears.
So, if you’re keeping track at home, the Everblades outscored Orlando 13-7 over the two-game set, with two spans of at least four unanswered goals in those games. Not a good way to end the calendar year.
Barone returned to the net and took the loss, stopping 35 of 41 shots.
Orlando kicks off the 2023 portion of the schedule on Wednesday night in South Carolina. Then it’s another home-and-home set with the Everblades, in Orlando on Friday and Estero on Saturday.