ECHL: Orlando Solar Bears 2023-24 Season Recap

Photo Credit: Orlando Solar Bears

As hockey season is nearing the end for the ECHL, we take a look back on the Orlando Solar Bears season and how they fared throughout the season and into the playoffs.

The Solar Bears notched a 38-24-7-3 record, good for 86 points in the regular season, getting the fourth and final playoff spot in the South Division on the final day of the regular season.

Playoff Recap:

As mentioned above, the Solar Bears squeaked into the playoffs on the final day as the Bears defeated the Reading Royals, as it was Alex Frye scoring the winner with 27.2 seconds left. The Solar Bears would face the Greenville Swamp Rabbits in the first round. The two teams split the games in Greenville, heading to Orlando, where the Bears took game three in overtime, followed by a Greenville victory on a late start. Orlando would then take game five in overtime after a memorable come-from-behind victory as they scored two in the third to send the game to overtime, followed by a Brayden Low winner at the 1:40 mark of the extra frame. It was game six when Orlando opened the floodgates, winning game six 5-1 final and the series four games to two.

The battle of Florida would happen again, as the Florida Everblades were the Bears’ second-round opponent. Florida won games six and seven against the Icemen to advance to the second round. Game one of the Florida vs Orlando series was dominated by Florida, winning 5-1 in game one. The Everblades would continue to dominate in game two, winning 6-3. Orlando had a chance in game three; however, it was Matt Wedman who scored just halfway through the final frame for Florida, defeating Orlando 4-2 in game three. On the brink of elimination, the Bears broke through and won game four by a score of 4-2. Game five was a close one all the way through as the two teams battled in game five in front of 9,049 fans. It was Bobo Carpenter scoring first for Florida at the 11:46 mark of the second. Orlando would battle and battle until they tied the game with 51 seconds left as it was Mitchell Hoelscher tying the game late. Carpenter then won the game for the Everblades at the 13:56 mark of the overtime period, knocking the Bears out. The Bears would then exit the ice to the entire Kia Center giving them a round of applause. Orlando went 5-5-1 in the playoffs.

Scoring:

This season, the Bears got distributions from all around the team. The most consistent player was Hoelscher, who played 52 games, grabbing 47 points, 23 goals, and 24 assists. Tyler Bird and Jesse Jacques were everyday players for the Bears, playing all 72 games; in fact, Jacques played 74 games this season, playing 22 games with the Iowa Heartlanders and 52 with Orlando. Brayden Low and Aaron Luchuk each had 49 points for the Bears this season.

Goaltending:

Orlando had four goalies that played this season; the main ones were Brandon Halverson, Evan Fitzpatrick, and Colten Ellis. Fitzpatrick started every game down the stretch as Halverson and Ellis were unavailable in the playoffs due to call-ups. After Halverson went to the AHL’s Syracuse Crunch, Jimmy Poreda was called up temporarily. Fitzpatrick was the reason the Bears were able to fight, having multiple games of 40+ saves in the final stretch, even into the playoffs.

What to watch for in the offseason:

As the ECHL Schedule for next year gets released later today we will watch for players that get sent overseas, signed by other teams, and more as the offseason starts to heat up. Bird and Luchuk will be a couple of players that are most notable for the Bears. This will be something to keep an eye out for, as the protected lists will be announced later this month.

Team Awards:

As announced by the Bears on April 6th, here are the team awards along with my opinion; Tyler Bird won the player of the year for the Bears, not much argument here as he has been with the team since the 2019-2020 Covid shortened year. The Dan Snyder Award goes to the player who best displays hard work and commitment on and off the ice; this year, it went to Jimmy Mazza. Truthfully, this is a really good choice as Mazza was one of those players this year who showed his leadership, mostly as one of the best defensemen Orlando has. The next award is the Rob Kenny Memorial Award which is dedicated to former Bears’ player Rob Kenny who was a member of the 98-99 IHL Bears, he passed away in 2010 in a car accident. It represents the Bears player who was the most impactful in their community, this year it went to Chays Ruddy, he played eight games for the Bears before being released before the playoffs. The Clutch performer award went to Bird, this is something I will disagree with as Fitzpatrick played super down the stretch, his goaltending was a reason that the Bears made the playoffs. The MVP was Brayden Low, no argument here as he is a fan favorite who played well most of the season.

Three players scored their first pro goals this year: Marc-Andre Gaudet, Ryan Mahshie, and Spencer Kersten. For my own awards, I hand Fitzpatrick the Helpful Hands Hero award, as he controlled that crease late and helped Orlando into the playoffs. For Best Theme Night the award goes to the Beach Night as 10,021 fans filled the Kia Center as they broke the Guiness World Record for most people wearing beach stuff, even the referees got into the action wearing lifeguard jerseys.

Final Thoughts:

This year was full of memories for the Solar Bears; it will be a fun off-season with plenty of action until hockey season starts again in October.

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Elijah Webb

I am Elijah. Hockey is my biggest passion, however I have love for all sports. I got into hockey from day one of my life. I currently am the writer for the Orlando Solar Bears of the ECHL, and one day, I hope to become a broadcaster

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