Solar Bears clinch second-straight Kelly Cup Playoff berth


Danny Morales / Valencia Voice

Garret Sparks will be the Solar Bears goaltender of choice going into the Kelly Cup Playoffs.

For the second year in a row the Orlando Solar Bears will be playing in the ECHL’s Kelly Cup Playoffs after a 1-0 win over the Florida Everblades clinched them the final spot in the East Division.

The Solar Bears still have two regular season games remaining against the Everblades before starting a best-of-seven series against Florida with Game 1 starting on Friday, April 17 in Estero.

“You can’t let off the gas but you can be excited. It’s a big achievement in a very tough division,” said Solar Bears head coach Vince Williams after Thursday’s win according to Pro Hockey News’ Don Money Jr. “It’s a great opportunity for guys who were here last year to have another taste of the playoffs and for the guys that haven’t played in the playoffs it’s an even better opportunity.

“We want to finish strong and want momentum going into the series.”

Orlando will return to the Amway Center for Games 3 and 4 — with a Game 5 also being on the Solar Bears’ home-ice if necessary. Game 6 and 7 will be played in Estero, also if necessary.

The Solar Bears have gone 5-6-1-1 against the East Division Champion Everblades this season with Orlando still having two games against Florida before the regular season wraps up on Sunday.

Orlando will go into the playoffs riding one of the better goalies in the ECHL this season in Garret Sparks, who is fourth in the league with a goals against average of 2.34 and first in save percentage with .936.

“It definitely takes a lot of weight off our shoulders and makes preparing for the playoffs that much easier,” said Sparks on Thursday according to PHN. “Obviously we played them hard tonight and they’re going to expect that for the next however many games. I’m just really happy that we sent a message tonight that we’re not going to go down without a fight.”

The Solar Bears have been in the Kelly Cup Playoffs two out of their three season in the ECHL, only having missed out on the postseason during their inaugural season in 2012-13. Orlando last won a hockey championship in 2001 when the then IHL Solar Bears won the 2000-01 Turner Cup.

Tickets for Games 3, 4 and 5 of the Kelly Cup Playoffs at the Amway Center will go on sale Tuesday, April 14 at 10 a.m. EST. Tickets can be purchased on the Solar Bears’ official websiteTicketmaster or the Amway Center box office.