Solar Bears clinch No. 4 seed with win over Road Warriors


Danny Morales / Valencia Voice

The Solar Bears will be going to the playoffs for the first time as an ECHL franchise.

Wade MacLeod scored two goals, as the Orlando Solar Bears went on to clinch the No. 4 seed in the Kelly Cup Playoffs with a 5-4 win over the Greenville Road Warriors on Sunday afternoon in front of an announced attendance of 6,747 at the Amway Center.

“I thought we had a strong game today,” said MacLeod about the win. “Luckily we squeaked it out at the end. It’s always good to win close games going into the playoffs.”

The win clinched home-ice advantage for the Solar Bears during the opening round of the playoffs, which start on Thursday, April 17 against the Cincinnati Cyclones.

“We’ve been on the road a lot the last few weeks,” said Solar Bears head coach Vince Williams about the home-ice advantage. “So it’s always nice to be at home.”

Both teams went into the first intermission tied at 2-2 following a back-and-forth opening period which saw the Solar Bears outshot the Road Warriors 16-15. Ian Slater and Taylor Matson accounted to Orlando’s two first period goals.

Mike Ullrich re gave Orlando the lead 1:07 into the second period, when he put in a C.J. Severyn assist to make the score 3-2 in favor of the Solar Bears.

MacLeod extended the Solar Beards lead 4-2 midway through the second stanza, when he put the puck in the back of the net off a wrist shot from an improbable angle.

MacLeod added another goal early in the third period, extending Orlando’s lead to 5-2, but Greenville would answer with a goal of their own less than two minutes later to cut the Solar Bears lead to 5-3.

Greenville’s Brad Cole cut Orlando’s lead to one midway through the third period, when he scored a shorthanded goal to bring the score to 5-4 in favor of the Solar Bears.

Orlando hold on to the 5-4 lead and secure their 43rd victory of the season, finishing 6-2 against Greenville for the season.

With the win the Solar Bears finish the regular season with a 43-24-2-3 record with 92 points, which is good enough for the No. 4 seed in the ECHL’s Eastern Conference.

“We’re one of the few teams to get over 90 points in a very competitive conference and league,” said Williams after the game. “We did a lot, we’re proud of everybody in that dressing room.”

Orlando will now play the Cincinnati Cyclones in the Eastern Conference quarterfinals, which begin on Thursday, April 17 at the Amway Center. The Solar Bears will get home-ice over the Cyclones, who went 1-1 this season against one another.
“It’s going to be fun,” said Solar Bears defenseman Cody Wild about the postseason. “Playoff hockey is just a whole different environment and just a whole different level of play.”

The Solar Bears went 23-9-2-1 at home during the regular season and will look to continue that trend during the opening round of the playoffs.

“I’m excited to see what the fans have in store for us,” said MacLeod about playing at home in the playoffs. “I’ve heard rumors that there were talks about opening the upper bowl.”

Time for puck-drop for Game 1 of the Eastern Conference quarterfinals against the Cyclones is set to be released later tonight, but the game will take place on Thursday.

The playoff berth marks the first in the franchise’s two-year ECHL history.

“It’s huge for the franchise,” said MacLeod. “ Anytime you can make the playoffs and go far in the playoffs, I think that’s huge.”

It’s worth noting that the last time the Solar Bears made the playoffs was in 2001 when they played in the International Hockey League (IHL). They would go on to win the Turner Cup that year.

“It’s everything for us,” said Solar Bears chief operating officer, Bob Ohrablo about the playoff berth. “When we put this together we wanted to win, that was our top priority.

“Last time the Solar Bears were in the playoffs they won a championship and that’s the act we’re trying to follow.”