ORLANDO, FL — It would seem that every time the Orlando Solar Bears earn a win or two, they suffer a stinging loss that leaves them licking their wounds. Following their victory over the Florida Everblades on Jan. 21, the team went on a two-game losing skid against the South Carolina Stingrays, which included a painful 0-5 shutout loss on Jan. 27.
The Solar Bears recouped some pride when it traveled to Atlanta on the next day for a 4-3 win, its first victory over the Gladiators this season. However, the team would once again fall to the Stingrays, 6-2, on Feb. 2, and it was like deja vu all over again when they immediately went back to Atlanta for a win, this time a commanding 6-0 victory on Saturday.
Saturday’s victory over Atlanta saw many positives. Mackenzie Skapski earned his second shutout of the season, while J.J. Piccinich and Mike Monfredo both picked up multiple assist points. It was a scoring fest. In addition to a goal by Piccinich (to complete a three-point game for him), Max Novak, Joshua Winquist, Hunter Fejes, and Martins Dzierkals all found the net in the victory.
Despite these victories, struggles with the team still show, and head coach Drake Berehowsky must be inventive to put together useful lines amid call-ups, injuries, and suspensions. During the match against the Stingrays last Friday, for example, the team was down to a 15-player bench, and Kyle Rankin became a utility player spending most of his on-ice time as a blueliner.
Currently, the Solar Bears are at .500, clinging to fourth place in the South Division, with the Greenville Swamp Rabbits on their heels.
The remainder of February will be critical for the Solar Bears’ postseason prospects. The team has 11 games remaining in the month, and 10 of them are at home. That compares to January, when the team played a total of 11 games, with only two at home. One positive sign for the team is that center Jean Dupuy is back with the team from the Marlies.
The Solar Bears kick off an eight-game homestand on Wednesday at 7 p.m. with a match against their in-state rivals the Florida Everblades. The last time these two teams squared off on Amway Center ice was on Jan. 21, and the Solar Bears were victorious.
After the tilt with the Everblades, Orlando faces off Friday night against the Wheeling Nailers for the first time this season. The Bears will also face Wheeling on Sunday. With that game starting at 9:30 a.m., the team hopes to bring some “hallelujahs” from its fans.