After a 2-game sweep of division rival Florida on the road, the Orlando Solar Bears hoped to carry that momentum into a busy week that saw 5 games in a 7-day span. Despite a 2-2-1 mark, the team managed to inch even closer to a Kelly Cup playoff spot in a very tight South Division race.
Tuesday, 2/14: Savannah 4, Orlando 2
Why spend Valentine’s Day with your sweetheart, when you can head north to Georgia and visit your division rivals like Orlando did on Tuesday night?
Tonight’s crew— Orlando Solar Bears (@OrlandoHockey) February 14, 2023
: https://t.co/mykncF3WNX via @FloHockey pic.twitter.com/eyDgNn7bud
The Ghost Pirates jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the opening period off goals by Logan Drevitch and Daniel D’Amato. Drevitch added a second goal at the 6:13 mark of the second for a three-goal lead for the hosts.
Shawn Szydlowski got the Solar Bears on the board at the 10:34 mark, cutting the lead to 3-1 with his 13th goal of the season.
13th goal of the season for @Szydlowski19 pic.twitter.com/W9BDnUgcE8— Orlando Solar Bears (@OrlandoHockey) February 15, 2023
Orlando made it a game with 12:10 remaining in the contest, cutting the lead to 3-2 on a power play goal from Ross Olsson.
Captain @rolsson17 tips in the Brodzinski pass to make it a one-goal game. pic.twitter.com/6pooPpJjp6— Orlando Solar Bears (@OrlandoHockey) February 15, 2023
D’Amato sealed the win for Savannah with a empty netter with 53 seconds remaining, stopping Orlando’s point streak at five games.
Jimmy Poreda stopped 25 of 28 in defeat. Bennett MacArthur added two assists.
Wednesday, 2/15: Jacksonville 3, Orlando 2 (OT)
On the way back to central Florida, Orlando made a stop in Jacksonville on Wednesday to visit the Icemen.
Tonight's crew is set— Orlando Solar Bears (@OrlandoHockey) February 15, 2023
: https://t.co/mykncF3WNX via @FloHockey pic.twitter.com/I0fmTkl3TI
Much like the night before in Savannah, the Solar Bears found themselves in a hole in the second, as goals from Tim Theocharidis and Craig Martin three minutes apart in the second put Jacksonville up by a pair heading into the final 20 minutes.
However, Orlando made a comeback early in the third. Olsson’s 23rd goal at the 2:45 mark while on a power play cut the Icemen lead to 2-1.
Brodzinski the shot, @rolsson17 the tip for his 23rd of the season. pic.twitter.com/TeFB6pqnLo— Orlando Solar Bears (@OrlandoHockey) February 16, 2023
MacArthur tied the game at 2 just over four minutes later with his fourth goal of the season.
Perseverance pays off for @BennettMac pic.twitter.com/6s8mAQ7jes— Orlando Solar Bears (@OrlandoHockey) February 16, 2023
It was on to overtime, where Jacksonville took the extra point on a Brandon Fortunato goal at the 2:51 mark.
Garret Sparks stopped 25 of 28 in the loss.
Dureau Returns: Prior to Friday’s contest, Syracuse reassigned Jaydon Dureau to the Solar Bears. Dureau appeared in five games in his latest AHL stint, notching his second career AHL goal in a win over Utica on January 20th.
Friday, 2/17: Orlando 4, South Carolina 2
For the first time in 13 days, Orlando was back on home ice, as they welcomed the Stingrays to the Amway Center.
Friday crew!— Orlando Solar Bears (@OrlandoHockey) February 17, 2023
: https://t.co/mykncF3WNX via @FloHockey pic.twitter.com/6kj7OBsMY2
Branden Makara gave Orlando a 1-0 lead 13:34 into the contest with his second goal of the season.
Makara punches it in pic.twitter.com/jCGQ1mqn7H— Orlando Solar Bears (@OrlandoHockey) February 18, 2023
Luke Boka doubled the Solar Bears lead at the 9:35 mark of the second with his fourth goal of the season.
Boka snipes it in pic.twitter.com/s5SIh5bZb0— Orlando Solar Bears (@OrlandoHockey) February 18, 2023
Andrew Cherniwchan cut the Orlando lead in half with 3:50 to go in the second, but Tyler Bird restored the two-goal lead with 56 seconds remaining in the period with his 14th of the season.
Bird ends the period in style pic.twitter.com/24CJKzWc9g— Orlando Solar Bears (@OrlandoHockey) February 18, 2023
MacArthur extended his point streak to four games with his fifth goal at the 8:00 mark of the third for a 4-1 Orlando lead.
@BennettMac extends the lead pic.twitter.com/z1XeSiL5op— Orlando Solar Bears (@OrlandoHockey) February 18, 2023
The Stingrays got to within 4-2 on a Bear Hughes goal, but could not get any closer. With the victory and an Atlanta regulation loss to Adirondack, Orlando jumped into fifth place in the South Division.
Sparks stopped 33 of 35 shots for his fourth win in six appearances. Olsson added two assists.
Sunday, 2/19: Utah 4, Orlando 1
After a rare Saturday off, Orlando welcomed the Mountain Division’s Utah Grizzlies for the first of two.
Sunday crew!— Orlando Solar Bears (@OrlandoHockey) February 19, 2023
: https://t.co/mykncF4uDv via @FloHockey pic.twitter.com/VV3WToBuv1
On Orlando’s first power play of the afternoon, Mathieu Foget connected for his 9th goal of the season at the 3:29 mark of the first for a 1-0 lead.
@mynameisfoget bringing in the heat! pic.twitter.com/EJYjIP76fX— Orlando Solar Bears (@OrlandoHockey) February 19, 2023
That was the only offensive highlight of the day for the Solar Bears, as Utah scored the next four goals unanswered. Tarun Fizer scored his 14th goal on a power play at the 8:17 mark for a 1-1 tie.
With about six minutes to go in the first, Olsson had a...minor disagreement with Utah’s Dakota Raabe during a media timeout, stemming from a perceived incident with Raabe and Poreda earlier in the game. On the next play, Olsson got tied up with Grizzlies goaltender Lukas Parik, and a second minor disagreement with fellow captain Connor McDonald ensued. Keep this in mind for later on in this recap, or as we like to call it...foreshadowing.
Vladislav Mikhalchuk scored the go-ahead goal with 2:49 remaining in the first for a one-goal lead for the visitors.
Fizer and Cameron Wright picked up goals late through the second for a 4-1 Utah lead.
Remember the earlier incidents with Olsson and several Grizzlies from earlier? Well...things would escalate quickly late in the third. The undercard featured some more...minor disagreements between Mikhalchuk and Szydlowski. A few seconds later, Luke McInnis threw down a hit...and everyone grab a dance partner by the Utah bench!
As a result, 7 players, including Olsson, Bird, and Boka, were given the early exit, to a combined total of 90 penalty minutes, with Olsson’s 17 the most awarded.
Peace was restored...for a total of 64 seconds. Jimmy Mazza inadvertently ran into Parik and here comes round 2! Mazza took on Victor Bartley at center ice, and both players were shown the exit.
Finally, for good measure, Brayden Guy and Christian Simeone decided to go for a round as time expired. Combine that with a 10-minute misconduct for Maxim Cajkovic, and you get the most penalized game in the ECHL this season.
In today's @UtahGrizzlies at @OrlandoHockey game, the teams set an ECHL season high for penalty minutes in one game by both teams (160). ORL's total of 88 PIM is fourth highest by one team; UTA's 72 is sixth highest (140 PIM came in the game's final five minutes).— ECHL Week (@ECHLWeek) February 19, 2023
Poreda stopped 32 of 36 shots. The loss, combined with an Atlanta win against Maine, pushed Orlando back to sixth place in the South.
As a result of all the bear fighting fun, Olsson was slapped with a one-game suspension for his role, meaning he would not be on hand for the rematch. Speaking of...
Monday, 2/20: Orlando 6, Utah 5 (OT)
Would cooler heads prevail on Monday night, or would it be another Fight Night where a hockey game broke out?
How we line up tonight— Orlando Solar Bears (@OrlandoHockey) February 20, 2023
https://t.co/mykncF3WNX via @FloHockey pic.twitter.com/Owg4VYlzNR
Dureau got the Solar Bears on the board late in the opening period, scoring his 5th of the season at the 17:03 mark for a 1-0 lead.
@jaydon_d15 knocking on the doorstep! pic.twitter.com/0GlACxGXYM— Orlando Solar Bears (@OrlandoHockey) February 21, 2023
Langan doubled the Solar Bears lead at the 4:40 mark of the second with his 14th.
@tlangan6 dropping one in the net pic.twitter.com/KkI60b2s1C— Orlando Solar Bears (@OrlandoHockey) February 21, 2023
Former Solar Bear Dylan Fitze cut the lead in half with 6:25 to go in the second.
Then came the third. Strap in folks, this was a wild last 20 minutes of regulation.
Orlando extended their lead to 4-1 with goals 1:25 apart from Matthew Barnaby (on a power play) and Foget.
@m_barnaby the hay is in the barn! pic.twitter.com/iVhrxM5kpR— Orlando Solar Bears (@OrlandoHockey) February 21, 2023
@mynameisfoget BEARS ON A HEATER! pic.twitter.com/xtdNkjNxYa— Orlando Solar Bears (@OrlandoHockey) February 21, 2023
With 13:01 to go in regulation, Chris Harpur was tripped up at center ice, while Michael Brodzinski was jumped by Utah’s Andrew Nielsen. Again, everyone grab a dance partner!
For Round 4 of the Bear vs. Grizzly battle, Harpur took out his frustrations on Raabe. The fight continued on as the officials dragged everyone towards the penalty boxes, where Harpur and Bird could be seen having a lovely conversation with their fight partners. Only 28 total penalty minutes were handed out for this incident.
Once peace was restored, it was evident who got momentum as a result, as the Grizzlies mounted a comeback. Keaton Jameson cut the Orlando lead to 4-2 at the 11:15 mark. Fitze made it even more interesting, picking up a shorthanded goal 1:32 later for a 4-3 game. Raabe recovered from his beatdown nicely, scoring the tying goal on a power play with 5:03 remaining in regulation.
Cajkovic quickly responded, putting the Solar Bears back up 5-4 20 seconds later with his 7th goal.
@max_cajkovic88 shooting on a wide open net! pic.twitter.com/LcZ4f0CLEa— Orlando Solar Bears (@OrlandoHockey) February 21, 2023
Just when Orlando thought they were going to escape with a one-goal win, disaster struck with less than a minute remaining. With Grant Mismash in the box, and a Grizzlies empty net, Raabe grabbed a pass, broke in all alone and sent the puck past Sparks for his second of the period—and a 5-5 tie.
So if you were keeping track, that’s seven goals combined in the final period, with Utah putting up a 4-spot to push the game into overtime.
Orlando would get the last laugh, as MacArthur notched the game-winner 2:51 in for a Solar Bears win—and a trip back up to fifth place in the South.
THATS HOW IT'S DONE @BennettMac pic.twitter.com/5S2GCH4qyY— Orlando Solar Bears (@OrlandoHockey) February 21, 2023
Sparks stopped 36 of 41 for the victory. Dureau added two assists to go with 14 shots on goal.
Orlando will host fourth place Greenville in a two-game set on Friday night and Sunday afternoon, with a golden opportunity to gain more ground in the South Division standings.