ORLANDO, Fla. – Despite everything that has happened to Orlando’s Solar Bears this year— from call-ups, to trades, to injuries — head coach Drake Berehowsky keeps a steady balance between frustration and faith.
Following a disappointing loss to the South Carolina Stingrays Saturday, Orlando came back and defeated South Carolina Sunday afternoon in impressive fashion. Despite the final win, these two games are the perfect example of the Solar Bears’ two-faced style of play throughout this season. On Saturday night, the Solar Bears fell behind 2-0 in the opening frame, and they never recovered. Cody Donaghey pulled Orlando to within one midway through the second period, but the Solar Bears struggled to put together any kind of consistent offensive threat in the game.
The Sunday afternoon tilt was an important rematch, as Orlando was in the midst of a two-game losing streak. The tilt started off as almost the reverse of the previous game: This time, the Solar Bears were the ones to take a two-goal lead in the first period with two strikes from Trevor Olson. After a scoreless second period, South Carolina’s Andrew Cherniwchan scored early in the third, but Donaghey again proved his offensive prowess and dampened any hopes for a Stingrays comeback.
Orlando now faces a grueling nine-game road trip, and they will not return to the friendly confines of the Amway Center until February 6. With the All-Star game around the corner, the Solar Bears don’t have much time before the playoff race starts in earnest, and this road trip may be the perfect opportunity for the Solar Bears to sharpen their focus.
While the Solar Bears’ system hasn’t changed, there have been many roster changes this past week. The Solar Bears made a big move and traded Curt Gogol, Etienne Boutet, and rights to Sam Jardine to the Allen Americans. In return, Orlando picked up the ECHL rights to Olivier Archambault, who played for the team on Saturday.
When questioned as to how Archambault played Saturday night, Drake Berehowsky stated,
“I thought he played well. He’s a real dynamic player, and when he gets the puck, he creates a lot, so he’s just got to keep doing that. And if he keeps shooting, eventually thing will go in for him.”
In addition to acquiring Archambault, the Solar Bears have also seen the rise of goaltender Charlie Millen, who was the star of the show in Sunday’s game, stopping 38 of 39 shots. According to Millen, he and fellow goaltender Corbin Boes have established a productive relationship:
“Corbin’s a great person. He’s on the same page as me. We just want to help the team win, and come game time, we’re going to be supporting one another regardless who’s in the net. And in practice, we’re always pushing each other to try and get the best out of one another, but you know, he’s a teammate of mine, and at the end of the day, we have got to support each other.”
The Solar Bears are also facing a steady stream of additional call-ups. The giant 6’8” rookie Oleg Sosunov was recalled to Orlando’s AHL affiliate the Syracuse Crunch on Tuesday, and defensemen Michael Brodzinski and Donaghey were recalled by the San Jose Barracuda on Wednesday. So Berehowsky has more holes to fill, and there is a need for new players to take the opportunity and become mainstays.
The Solar Bears begin their January road trip tonight with a visit to the Norfolk Admirals, a team that, like the Stingrays, the Solar Bears have struggled against. Last Sunday’s win should give them momentum for that tilt, and they need to build upon that success if they hope to earn a winning road trip record that will keep them in the playoff hunt when February rolls around.