Solar Bears Den: Sweep in the Swamp

Orlando needed a hat trick and an epic shootout to stay within striking distance in the ECHL’s South Division.

How best to describe how the Orlando Solar Bears fared in a pair of road contests against the Florida Everblades this weekend? Let’s use a Valentine’s pun of course.

After a week that saw a seesaw battle and the franchise record for home attendance, the Solar Bears carried that momentum south to Estero, taking both contests from the first-place Everblades—and staying within striking distance of both the final South playoff spot (7 points behind Atlanta and Greenville) and even first place (9 points behind Florida) in a very tight South Division.

Friday, 2/10: Orlando 3, Florida 2

Garret Sparks drew the starting assignment for the first game of the two-game set on Friday evening.

Apparently, Branden Makara insulted the Everblades’ Blues Clues jerseys early in the contest.

The fight seemed to spark the team, particularly captain Ross Olsson, who notched his team-leading 19th goal of the season at the 6:02 mark of the first for a 1-0 Orlando lead.

Seven and a half minutes later, Olsson struck again, doubling the Solar Bears’ lead with goal number 20.

Florida cut the lead in half at the 5:17 mark of the second on a Joe Pendenza goal. Just over three minutes later, on the Solar Bears’ first power play of the night, Olsson finished off the hat trick for a 3-1 lead.

Florida responded with a goal from Kobe Roth with exactly five minutes remaining in the second to cut the lead to 3-2, but they could not get the equalizer, thanks in part to Sparks, who stopped 40 of 42 Everblade shots. Michael Brodzinski added two assists, giving him 30  on the season, which ranks tied for second among all ECHL defensemen.

LaFontaine Back Syracuse

Before Saturday’s game, the Crunch recalled goaltender Jack LaFontaine, who backed up Max Lagace in Syracuse’s 4-1 loss to Rochester.

Saturday, 2/11: Orlando 3, Florida 2 (SO)

With LaFontaine up, Jimmy Poreda was activated and given the starting nod on Saturday for the rematch.

After a scoreless opening frame, the teams exchanged goals late in the second. Bennett MacArthur put the Solar Bears on the board at the 15:53 mark with his third goal of the season on a power play.

The Everblades responded with a power play goal from Roth with 1:37 remaining in the period for a 1-1 tie.

Florida took a 2-1 lead with 4:39 remaining in regulation on a power play goal from Brad Morrison. Orlando quickly responded, tying the game at 2 1:20 later on Tyson Feist’s 5th goal of the season.

It was on to overtime and eventually a shootout...and what a shootout it was.

In round 1, Blake Winiecki connected, while Shawn Szydlowski was stopped by Florida goaltender Cam Johnson. Florida did not score in rounds 2 and 3, while Mathieu Foget scored in the third round to keep the game going. Oliver Chau and Olsson matched goals in round 4, while Morrison and Macarthur were denied in round 5. Pendenza put the pressure on with a goal in round 6, only to have Brodzinski connect to go to round 7.

After nothing came across in round 7, Roth connected in round 8. Again, with the game on the line, Brayden Guy scored to go to a ninth round. Poreda and Johnson settled in for five more rounds, stopping every attempt. In round 14, Levko Koper was denied by Poreda, giving Chris Harpur a shot at giving Orlando the win.

Poreda stopped 29 of 31 in 65+ minutes—then 10 of 14 in the shootout—in the win. Tristin Langan added two helpers.


It’s going to be a busy one for the Solar Bears this week, with five games on tap.

Orlando’s road trip continues on Tuesday night in Savannah, then they head to Jacksonville on Wednesday. The team then comes home on Friday to host South Carolina, then Utah comes in for a pair of games on Sunday afternoon and Monday night.