Solar Bears Den: Yer Out!

The Solar Bears kept it close, but couldn't find the goals they needed to stay in the playoff race.

Solar Bears Den: Yer Out!
When you're on the outside looking in... (Fernando Medina/Orlando Solar Bears)

There are just two weeks remaining in the regular season. Unfortunately for the Orlando Solar Bears, they will spend those two weeks playing for pride. After a two-game sweep at the hands of one of their in-state rivals on home ice this weekend, the team find themselves eliminated from postseason consideration.

Friday, 3/31: Jacksonville 1, Orlando 0

The Solar Bears closed out the month of March with their second straight match-up against the Icemen.

This contest was decided in the nets, as Jack LaFontaine and Icemen goaltender Charles Williams set off on a scoreless duel, as they combined to stop all 23 shots faced in the opening 20 minutes.

The only goal of the contest would come midway through the second. While the Solar Bears were on their second power play of the night, Luke Lynch scored shorthanded at the 11:25 mark for a 1-0 Jacksonville lead.

Williams took care of the rest, stopping all 27 Orlando shots for the win and putting the Solar Bears on the brink of elimination from the postseason after an Everblades victory over Savannah put Orlando 10 points out.

LaFontaine took the hard luck loss, stopping 36 of 37 shots.

Saturday, 4/1: Jacksonville 3, Orlando 2

Orlando looked to keep hope alive on Saturday in the rematch.

Things did not start according to plan for the hosts, as Jacksonville scored three times in the opening frame against Garret Sparks, who recently returned after a short stay in Springfield. A Derek Lodermeier shot took a lucky bounce off Sparks' back and into the net 8:31 into the game for a 1-0 Icemen lead. Matheson Iacopelli doubled the Jacksonville lead 1:41 later with his 1st Jacksonville tally and 17th of the year overall. Lodermeier came through again late in the period, scoring his second of the night shorthanded with 1:11 to go in the first for a 3-0 lead.

Orlando didn't take long to start chipping away at the deficit, as rookie Eric Esposito scored his first as a professional on a power play 39 seconds later to make it 3-1.

After a scoreless second, Orlando managed to get a little closer early in the third. Maxim Cajkovic scored his 10th of the season 23 seconds into the period to cut the lead to one goal.

Despite outshooting Jacksonville 13-9 in the final 20 minutes, Orlando was unable to get that tying goal, and the Icemen skated away with the weekend sweep. And with a Florida victory, Orlando was officially eliminated from playoff contention for the third straight season.

Sparks finished with 30 saves on 33 shots. Four different skaters had one assist each.

Monday Transactions:

Per the ECHL transaction wire, Dmitry Semykin is on his way back to Syracuse for the first time since the end of the 2021-22 season. Additionally, Sparks is heading back north to Springfield for his second tour of duty with the Thunderbirds.

Kelly Cup Playoffs Update:

After no one clinched last weekend, three more teams joined the postseason party after this weekend's action.

Reading became the second North Division squad to punch their playoff ticket after a win over Trois-Rivieres on Friday. Maine clinched the third North spot with a win over Tulsa on Sunday. The second place Royals lead the Mariners by three points, with Maine having one game in hand. Meanwhile, the fourth spot continues to be a battle between Worcester and Adirondack, as the Thunder have closed to within one point of the Railers after the teams split a two-game weekend set in Massachusetts. Of note, the two teams face each other three more times in the regular season, with Adirondack having two games in hand on Worcester.

South Carolina became the first South Division team to clinch a berth after defeating Toledo on Sunday afternoon. They lead second place Jacksonville by three points, third place Greenville by four, and fourth place Florida by five. An Atlanta loss to the Everblades on Sunday afternoon would have locked all four teams into playoff spots, but the Gladiators shut out Florida to spoil the party.

The Central Division is all set, as Fort Wayne clinched the fourth and final playoff spot on Saturday, joining Toledo, Cincinnati, and Indy.

The Mountain Division remains wide open for the final three spots, as five teams are separated by just five points--Allen and Kansas City are tied for second, one point ahead of third place Utah, who currently hold the fourth and final berth. Wichita is just barely on the outside sitting one point behind the Grizzlies, while sixth place Rapid City is three points behind the Thunder. First place Idaho has clinched the Brabham Cup for the league's best regular season record after shutting out Kansas City on Saturday.


Orlando heads north to Greenville for a pair of games on Friday and Saturday.