Solar Bears Den: That's All Folks
After six months and 72 games, we have reached the end of the rope for the Orlando Solar Bears, as they finished out their season short again of a postseason invite.
After going 0-2-1 in their final weekend, the team appears to be limping into the offseason. However, a few Lightning prospects will get some playoff experience at the next level.
Time to bring in the reserves for Syracuse as they head into the Calder Cup playoffs!
-On Wednesday, forward Jaydon Dureau and goaltender Jack LaFontaine were recalled to the Crunch. To replace LaFontaine, Jimmy Poreda will return to Orlando for his second stint with the team.
-Maxim Cajkovic was the next one to get the recall, joining the Crunch on Thursday.
Just like their AHL brethren, the ECHL have also begun handing out their end of season awards. On Thursday, defenseman Michael Brodzinski was named to the All-ECHL Second Team. He ranks fourth among all ECHL defensemen in points and is tied for second among blueliners with 6 power play goals. He set Orlando single season records for power play assists (22) and power play points (28) this season.
Friday, 4/14: Jacksonville 2, Orlando 1 (OT)
Winter Haven native Drennen Atherton made his pro debut in net as the Solar Bears closed out their home schedule against the Icemen.
After a scoreless first, the Solar Bears got on the board early in the second. Tyler Bird picked up his 16th of the season at the 2:32 mark for a 1-0 Orlando lead.
Jacksonville tied things up at 1 with 3:38 remaining in the second on a power play goal from Derek Lodermeier.
After a scoreless final 20 minutes of regulation, the contest headed into overtime. And with 9 seconds remaining before a shootout would be needed...heartbreak for Orlando, as Luke Lynch scored the game winner to give Jacksonville the win and move them to within 3 points of first place in the South.
Atherton deserved a better fate in his debut for Orlando, stopping 37 of 39 Icemen shots in just under 67 minutes of work. Ross Olsson and Jay Powell had the lone helpers.
Orlando finished with a 17-15-4-0 record at the Amway Center for the season.
Saturday, 4/15: Savannah 6, Orlando 3
Orlando headed north to Georgia on Saturday to help close out the Ghost Pirates' inaugural season.
A milestone goal got Orlando on the board first midway through the opening frame. Kenny Johnson, playing in his sixth game since finishing his collegiate career with Penn State, scored his first pro goal at the 12:02 mark for a 1-0 Solar Bear lead.
Another milestone goal, this time short-handed, would double the Solar Bear lead early in the second, as rookie Alex Frye scored his first as a professional at the 1:19 mark. Savannah then scored the next three unanswered by first cutting the lead in half just 59 seconds later, as former Solar Bear Nolan Valleau scored his 3rd of the season. Brandon Estes then tied the game at 2 at the 12:03 mark with his 9th. With exactly five minutes remaining in the period, another former Solar Bear, Brent Pedersen, would put the Ghost Pirates up by a goal with his 27th of the season on a power play.
Orlando rallied to re-tie the game at 3 with 2:46 to go in the middle frame on Luke Boka's sixth of the season, only to have Savannah retake the lead with 1:10 remaining on a Daniel D'Amato goal.
The Ghost Pirates put the game away late in the third, scoring twice in 15 seconds into an empty net. Orlando's winless streak was extended to six games with the season finale looming.
Poreda stopped 30 of 34 shots in defeat. Frye and two others added one assist each.
Sunday, 4/16: Jacksonville 4, Orlando 2
Game 72, the final game of the 2022-23 season, came for the Solar Bears Sunday afternoon in Jacksonville.
After a scoreless first, Bird put Orlando on the board 43 seconds into the second with his 16th of the season.
Meanwhile, Boka decided to end his season on a high note.
Lodermeier then single-handedly put the Icemen ahead 2-1 by scoring two power play goals exactly five minutes apart late in the middle frame.
In the final period of the season...well at least Orlando went out swinging?
Once things finally settled down, the Solar Bears rallied to tie the game at 2 at the 7:10 mark off a power play goal by Shawn Szydlowski.
Jacksonville took a 3-2 lead with 9:06 remaining off a Ara Nazarian goal. Benjamin Tardif then added an insurance goal on a power play with 4:43 remaining to finish off the regular season.
Atherton made his second start and stopped 17 of 21 shots. Bennett MacArthur added two assists.
Orlando finishes the 2022-23 season with a 30-33-8-1 record and 69 points, good for sixth place in the South Division.
Kelly Cup Playoff Update:
When the smoke finally cleared Sunday evening...
North: The fight for fourth place between Adirondack and Worcester came down to the final day. After the Thunder burned their one game in hand with a regulation loss to Trois-Rivieres on Friday, a two-game showdown in Glens Falls against the Railers would determine who moved on to face 1-seed Newfoundland. Adirondack swept the two-game set, including a clutch comeback in the third in Sunday's finale, to clinch the 4-seed. Due to travel, the Thunder will host the Growlers in Games 1-3 this week, before the series goes to St. John's next week for Game 4 and beyond as needed.
The 2-seed Reading will host 3-seed Maine in the other series.
South: South Carolina clinched the division title on Saturday after defeating Jacksonville in a shootout. They will host 4-seed Florida in round 1, while the 2-seed Icemen will face 3-seed Greenville.
Central: As mentioned last week, the Central was the only division that was fully locked in going into the final weekend. 1-seed Cincinnati will host 4-seed Fort Wayne, while 2-seed Toledo takes on 3-seed Indy.
Mountain: Kansas City clinched a playoff spot with a win over Cincinnati on Friday. Utah earned the final berth on Saturday with a shutout win over Tulsa.
The 1-seed Idaho, who finished with an ECHL-record 58 wins and 119 points, will host the 4-seed Grizzlies. 2-seed Allen will host the 3-seed Mavericks.
A Final Note:
This will mark my last post for Raw Charge.
What started as just a guest post in the summer of 2017 for the Lightning's newest ECHL affiliate in (at the time) Adirondack turned into a six-year stay for me. It wasn't easy covering a team fully remote from a few thousand miles away, but I wanted to shine a light on a league that really does not get the mainstream media attention, and the respect, that it deserves.
Thank you to everyone who took the time to read my weekly recaps, and to everyone at Raw Charge for their support!