ECHL Playoff Recap: Florida Everblades vs. Orlando Solar Bears Game 3 | 05/07/2024

Photo Credit: Christina Slemp/ Inside the Rink

FIRST PERIOD:

Game three was almost a must-win for the Orlando Solar Bears, who entered the night being down 2-0 in the series, being outplayed in both games. The Solar Bears came out with the first chances of the game, something that hasn’t happened a lot in these playoffs for Orlando. Once again, it was Cam Johnson and Evan Fitzpatrick in the net for their respective teams. The first great opportunity for Orlando came just 3:20 into the period as Tyler Bird fed the puck to Aaron Luchuk, who tried to tap it into the net, however, it was saved by Johnson. Despite all the pressure by Orlando prior to the first media timeout, it would be Florida who got on the board first as Zach Uens got a shot from the top of the faceoff circle that snuck past Fitzpatrick to give the Florida Everblades the early lead 8:56 into the game.

After Uens got on the board for Florida, they started to swing the momentum as they would control the puck for the next few minutes, scrambling around the net and it was Fitzpatrick making some good saves to keep Orlando in the game early. With 4:36 left in the opening frame, the Solar Bears created more pressure that led to a mad scramble around the net, the puck getting stopped by Johnson. A couple of minutes later, the Bears took the puck in the offensive zone, and it was Luchuk with another great chance, this time missing wide of the goal. Orlando would get another chance before the period ended as Jimmy Mazza got a shot from the blue line, but Johnson would keep the Bears scoreless, heading into the locker room.

SECOND PERIOD:

The Bears’ momentum continued into the middle frame as they got a power play just 1:58 into the period. They would get several chances on the power-play, however, Florida would kill it off and continue to play the defense they’ve been playing all series. Florida and Orlando would continue to trade chances until the Solar Bears got a great chance with 1351 left in the middle frame as Luchuk was found with the puck in the slot, and Johnson just saved everything coming his way. Alex Frye would then get a shot with 7:51 left in the second period as he got a backhanded shot that almost got by Johnson.

Both teams had great chances in a defensive battle in the second period until it turned into an offensive battle in the last few minutes. At the 16:58 mark of the period, Orlando had a breakdown in the neutral zone as then it was Bobo Carpenter who fed the puck to league-wide fan favorite Todd Skirving, who made no mistake putting the puck past Fitzpatrick to give the Everblades a 2-0 lead late. Orlando would then respond the very next shift, as it was Darik Angeli who dumped the puck into the offensive zone, Jaydon Dureau got to the puck first, as it was Mitchell Hoelscher who got the puck from the faceoff circle to give Orlando hope at the 17:16 mark. A minute later, Carpenter had a chance at the goalmouth to restore Florida’s two-goal lead, but Fitzpatrick said no. The Solar Bears would then get another chance to tie the game as Uens got a minor penalty for interference with 1:28 left; nothing would get going on the power play; however, as the buzzer sounded to send the teams to the locker room, the Bears would scramble at the goalmouth, Johnson and the Florida defense saving it.

THIRD PERIOD:

Orlando would start the final frame the same way they ended the second, with heavy zone time pressure, as 1:15 into the period, it was Bird and Brayden Low who got several chances. With 15:30 left in the middle frame, Kurt Gosselin caught the Everblades’ defense sleeping and sprung the puck to Angeli, who got a breakaway, making no mistake as he tied the game at 2-2. Shortly after that goal, Orlando and Florida traded chances, as it started to get to crunch time for Orlando. Will Reilly of Florida got a centering feed for Josh Ho-Sang with 12 minutes left, ultimately missing the open net. Shortly after that miss, the Bears were in the offensive zone when they thought that they were about to go on the power play after Frye got cross checked on the ice in the back, however no call was made, and the Orlando crowd showed their anger towards the officials.

Ho-Sang would then take advantage of an Orlando giveaway in the middle of the ice; he then slid the puck to Matt Wedman, who shot the puck right past Fitzpatrick to give Florida the lead with 9:08 left. Things started to get more physical after the Florida goal, as with 5:10 left in the frame, Orlando got a shot that got covered by Johnson after the Bears were trying to stuff the puck into the net; the Everblades would take exception and take down one of the Bears onto the ice, yet again, the refs were letting them play. The Bears would try to tie the game up late as they pulled Fitzpatrick with 90 seconds left. The Bears Marc-Andre Gaudet would hit the post and a mad scramble around the net that was just covered behind the back of Johnson with 1:11 left. Florida would then seal the game as Oliver Chau skated into the zone and hit the empty cage to seal the game and give Florida the win 4-2 over the Bears.

TAKEAWAYS:

Despite outplaying Florida, Orlando had better chances and much better play than the first two games; They also outshot Florida 35-20. The Solar Bears now face elimination for the first time in the playoffs as they host the Everblades tomorrow at 7 pm at the Kia Center. The Bears, now down three games to zero, will need their defense to step up, as one of the issues by Orlando in the first three games has been their turnovers in crucial spots on the ice.

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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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