Solar Bears Den: Still in It!
Orlando splits the week and hangs on to their playoff hopes.
We are getting into the homestretch of the 2022-23 ECHL regular season, and for the Orlando Solar Bears, every point counts. With just 9 games remaining in the season, and the prospects of making the Kelly Cup playoffs getting slimmer by the week, the team’s fate is in their own hands.
A 1-1 mark in a light schedule week kept Orlando mathematically alive in the South Division race, but time is running out as the calendar is about to turn to April.
After a three-week stay in Syracuse, Tyson Feist was reassigned to the Solar Bears on Wednesday. He made just one appearance for the Crunch in his latest stint.
Wednesday, 3/22: Maine 5, Orlando 1
The Solar Bears began a light, but important week, on Wednesday at home, as they played host to the North Division’s Mariners.
The crew 😎— Orlando Solar Bears (@OrlandoHockey) March 22, 2023
📺 https://t.co/mykncF4uDv via @FloHockey pic.twitter.com/Ke6Nf69n2J
Fedor Gordeev got the visitors on the board first midway through the opening frame, scoring his 12th at the 9:29 mark for a 1-0 Maine lead.
The Mariners took over the contest in the second, adding two more goals. Alex-Olivier Voyer took the pass from Carter Johnson and sent it in past Jack LaFontaine 1:47 into the middle period to double the Maine lead. That same duo would come through again just over four minutes later, assisting on an Alex Kile goal (also his 200th career ECHL point) for a 3-0 lead.
Orlando finally found their way onto the scoresheet at the 13:13 mark, as Tristin Langan took a pass from Luke McInnis and scored his 20th goal of the season to cut the Maine lead to 3-1.
@tlangan6 with the snipe! pic.twitter.com/LFGeHorfF0— Orlando Solar Bears (@OrlandoHockey) March 23, 2023
Maine put the game away for good in the third with a pair of power play tallies from Nick Master. He made it 4-1 2:18 into the third with his 11th of the year, then for an encore scored his 12th with 10:20 remaining in the contest for a 5-1 lead for the Mariners.
The loss kept Orlando 4 points behind Atlanta for 5th place and 10 points out of a playoff spot and reduced their elimination number to 7.
LaFontaine stopped 34 of 39 shots in the loss.
Friday, 3/24: Orlando 6, Jacksonville 4
The Solar Bears finished a light week with another huge contest, as they hosted the Icemen for the first of three straight.
Back at it 😎— Orlando Solar Bears (@OrlandoHockey) March 24, 2023
📺 https://t.co/mykncF3WNX via @FloHockey pic.twitter.com/dQa2kr9SMW
Things did not go according to plan in the opening period, as the visitors struck for three straight goals. Brett Van Os opened the scoring at the 5:25 mark with his 8th goal of the season. Tim Theocharidis doubled the Jacksonville lead at the 7:22 mark with his 7th, ending Jimmy Poreda’s night early after he stopped just 2 of 4 shots faced. The goaltending switch did not get the desired result right away, as the Icemen made it 3-0 off a shorthanded tally from Jacob Panetta with 4:37 remaining in the first.
Orlando started chipping away slowly at the deficit late in the period. Luke Boka took a pass from Chris Harpur and sent it in for his 5th goal of the season with 3:45 remaining in the period to make it 3-1.
@Lboka12 with a slick corner shot!🔥 pic.twitter.com/IpW682ljVD— Orlando Solar Bears (@OrlandoHockey) March 24, 2023
Ross Olsson brought the Solar Bears to within a goal 45 seconds into the second period with his 28th goal of the season.
@rolsson17 with a shot behind the back!👀 pic.twitter.com/q4zVea5cyM— Orlando Solar Bears (@OrlandoHockey) March 25, 2023
Jacksonville restored a two-goal lead at the 3:49 mark while shorthanded. Brandon Fortunato intercepted the puck and passed it on to Chris Grando, who broke in and scored past LaFontaine.
That was when Michael Brodzinski took the Solar Bears’ rally into his own hands, as he singlehandedly got Orlando back into the contest with a pair of goals 1:12 apart—the first on a power play—to tie things up at 4-all.
@Mbrodzinski20 making it look easy!😎 pic.twitter.com/Ry6KnHVJX8— Orlando Solar Bears (@OrlandoHockey) March 25, 2023
@Mbrodzinski20 doesn't need any turnaround time! pic.twitter.com/YaZAcnHWJI— Orlando Solar Bears (@OrlandoHockey) March 25, 2023
Orlando completed the comeback in the third. On the power play, Brayden Guy deflected a McInnis shot into the net for his 13th of the season—and a 5-4 Solar Bears lead with 10:51 remaining in regulation.
@brayden_guy9 coming in clutch!🤝 pic.twitter.com/Bf3YMUpORL— Orlando Solar Bears (@OrlandoHockey) March 25, 2023
Maxim Cajkovic finished up the comeback with his 9th of the season into the Icemen empty net as time expired.
@max_cajkovic88 secures the W!🤩 pic.twitter.com/HWDDmlQibT— Orlando Solar Bears (@OrlandoHockey) March 25, 2023
LaFontaine grabbed the win in relief, stopping 22 of 24 shots. Feist and Grant Mismash each added three assists.
The win brought Orlando to within 3 points of Atlanta for 5th and 8 points of Florida for 4th place in the South.
Kelly Cup Playoff Update:
No new teams joined the postseason party this week, as races in all four divisions remain tight. On the Eastern Conference side, spots 2-4 in the North Division are separated by 11 points, with 3rd place Maine sitting three points behind 2nd place Reading. Meanwhile, 5th place Adirondack is closing in quickly on 4th place Worcester after a three-game sweep against the Railers this week, sitting three points out. Spots 1-4 in the South are separated by four points, led by first-place Greenville, who leads 2nd place South Carolina by a single point. Jacksonville is one point behind the Stingrays in 3rd and leads 4th place Florida by two.
In the Western Conference, there is just one spot remaining in the Central, currently held by Fort Wayne, but 5th place Wheeling is still mathematically in it despite being 14 points behind. Five teams are fighting for positions 2-4 in the Mountain, with a separation of just five points.
Orlando will continue their three-game set against Jacksonville on Friday and Saturday to open the final month of the regular season.