ORLANDO, Fla. – Since heading out on the road back at the beginning of the month, the Solar Bears are still searching for the solution to their inconsistency problem. Having won four games and lost three, the Solar Bears are tracking above the .500 mark on this season-high nine-game road trip. Despite the inconsistency problem still resonating, the Solar Bears have had a shimmer of hope, as goaltender Martin Ouellette was reassigned to Orlando from Syracuse before Saturday night’s game against the Atlanta Gladiators. In addition to this, several other Solar Bears players have had some highlights, such as forward Mathieu Foget leading the team in points overall.
Even though the road trip has seen some ups and downs, the Solar Bears, for the most part, have remained positive and are showing their signature gritty resilience. In the current standings, the Solar Bears are holding onto fourth in the South Division, with 45 points, putting them one point behind the South Carolina Stingrays and three points behind their state rivals the Jacksonville Icemen. If current trends continue, the Florida Everblades seem destined to skate away with the division title, leaving teams like the Solar Bears, the Icemen, and the Stingrays to carry on a dogfight for the remaining playoff slots.
When questioned about remaining positive throughout the road trip, head coach Drake Berehowsky stated,
“I think being away all together, guys are going to do things together, maybe get closer, have some bonding time. It’s going to be tough. We love playing at home, but we have to realize that every point counts, and…we’re going to have to take it. Whether we get in late on a trip or whatever it is, we’re going to have to figure out ways to win games.”
In other news, the recent addition of goaltender Clint Windsor has proven to be a smart move on head coach Berehowsky’s part. Despite having just been introduced to the ECHL, Windsor has held an impressive .925 save percentage in the two games he’s played, proving to Berehowsky and the Solar Bears organization that he has the skills and talent to be successful in this league. In the January 18 game against the Stingrays, he came into the game midway through the second frame and stopped all 13 shots he faced. He followed that performance up on the next night with a 36-save effort to win the game.
The Solar Bears still have much work to do if they want to be in a position to make a playoff run. Slow starts continue to be a bane for the team. In Saturday’s game against the Gladiators, they quickly fell behind 0-2 in the opening minutes, and then had to craft a comeback to force overtime. Tayler Thompson scored the game-winning goal with a crafty, aggressive move to the crease.
The Solar Bears next game has them traveling North up to Greenville to play the Greenville Swamp Rabbits on Friday, February 1. With a week off, one concern is that the team may get too relaxed, as they tend to do with long periods of rest.
Greenville is currently in an eight-game slump, but that should put the Solar Bears on alert. The Swamp Rabbits will be hungry for a win, and it would be a huge mistake for Orlando to take them lightly. The Swamp Rabbits have plenty of speed to hurt the Solar Bears should they play undisciplined or soft.
One notable piece of alumni news: Last year’s associate coach John Snowden left at the end of last year to take over as the assistant coach position of the Newfoundland Growlers. He now finds himself with a head coaching job on that team, as the previous head coach Ryane Clowe has had to step down due to lingering issues related to concussions.