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Solar Bears Den: New Year, Same Woes

Orlando drops 2 of 3 to start 2023.

NHL: OCT 01 Preseason - Hurricanes at Lightning Photo by Mark LoMoglio/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

After a disastrous end to the 2022 portion of the schedule, the Orlando Solar Bears hoped to start 2023 in the opposite direction, with three games against South Division foes, including a chance to avenge the two-game sweep at the hands of the Florida Everblades the week before.

With a new man between the pipes, the week started out on a high note, but things went downhill from there, as the Solar Bears went 1-2 to start the New Year.

Wednesday, 1/4: Orlando 3, South Carolina 2 (OT)

Orlando began 2023 on the road, heading north to Charleston to visit the Stingrays.

The Stingrays jumped out to a 1-0 lead with 2:05 remaining in the first off a Bear Hughes goal.

Orlando tied the game up 4:42 into the second off Jaydon Dureau’s third goal of the season.

Benton Maass gave the hosts a 2-1 lead just over two minutes later.

It did not take long for the Solar Bears to continue the back-and-forth scoring pattern in the third. On a shorthanded break, Brayden Guy sent it home for his 6th of the season at the 2:45 mark to tie the game at 2.

The teams would need overtime to finish this one, and it was Chris Harpur coming in clutch for the Solar Bears. He picked a good time for his first goal of the season, scoring 2:13 into overtime to give Orlando a win.

Newcomer Joe Murdaca, acquired in a trade with Newfoundland on Monday to replace the released Brad Barone, got the win in his first start, stopping 31 of 33 shots. Four skaters had one assist each.

Friday, 1/6: Florida 5, Orlando 2

Orlando returned to the Amway Center for the first time in the New Year, welcoming the Everblades to start a home-and-home weekend set.

Things got off to a good start for the Solar Bears in the first period. Guy took a pass from Maxim Cajkovic and got it past Florida goaltender Cam Johnson for a 1-0 Orlando lead.

The Everblades took over the contest after that, scoring three times in a span of 1:18 late in the first. James McEwan tied the game at 1 at the 17:12 mark, then former Bear Cole Moberg put the visitors up 2-1 a mere 24 seconds later. Levko Koper’s fourth with 1:30 remaining in the period put Florida up 3-1.

Blake Winiecki added on to the Everblade lead, scoring his 7th at the 10:16 mark for a 4-1 lead.

Ross Olsson cut Florida’s lead to two 2:16 into the third with his 11th goal of the season.

Xavier Cormier sealed the win for Florida with an empty netter with 2:01 remaining.

Murdaca stopped 16 of 20 shots in defeat. Cajkovic and Dmitry Semykin added assists.

Saturday 1/7: Florida 4, Orlando 1

The Solar Bears and Everblades headed to Estero on Saturday to finish off the two-game set.

The first 40 minutes featured a goaltending duel between Johnson and Jimmy Poreda, but it was not without some action. Early in the first, Olsson took on Florida’s Austin Crossley in Round 1.

Late in the second, Chris Ordoobadi also went a round with Crossley. Points to Ordoobadi for the “bring it” hand gestures to start.

Hunter Fejes broke the scoreless deadlock 14 seconds into the third, scoring his 3rd of the season on a power play to give Orlando a 1-0 lead.

Florida then proceeded to score the next four unanswered. Jake Smith scored his 12th goal on a power play at the 3:53 mark for a 1-1 tie. Kobe Roth scored the go-ahead goal with 13:43 remaining in the game for a 2-1 Everblades advantage. For good measure, Koper scored twice—the second into an empty net—in a span of 7:15 to finish off the win for the Everblades.

Orlando is now 3-6 against their friends to the south this season.

Poreda stopped 26 of 29 shots in defeat.

Upcoming:

The Solar Bears head north to Canada for the week, paying a visit to the North Division’s Trois-Rivieres Lions for games on Wednesday, Friday and Saturday.