Game Preview: Solar Bears vs. Wheeling Nailers: January 14, 2022
ORLANDO, Fla. - The Orlando Solar Bears (17-12-1-0) open up a three-in-three set against the Wheeling Nailers (15-13-1-0) tonight at 7 p.m. at the AdventHealth Rink at Amway Center. The Solar Bears have won their last four games, while the Nailers are riding a four-game losing streak into tonight's meetup.
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW:
The next three games will be the only meetings during the regular season between the Solar Bears and the Nailers; Orlando has an all-time record of 12-3-0-0 in 15 prior outings. The Solar Bears last hosted the Nailers in the 2017-18 season. Orlando swept a pair of road games at Wheeling in the first month of the 2020-21 season at WesBanco Arena.
Amir Miftakhov is expected to get the start tonight for Orlando, and will be making his ECHL debut. The 2020 Tampa Bay Lightning draft pick began his North American pro career with three straight victories for the Syracuse Crunch following his reassignment to the AHL during the preseason, after going 29-for-31 (.935%) in a 4-2 win vs. Jacksonville on Oct. 14.
With Monday's win over South Carolina, Orlando improved to 10-3-0-0 on home ice this season, giving Orlando its fastest 10 wins on home ice to start the season, and passing the previous mark of 15 games (10-4-1-0) set last season.
Odeen Tufto is set to make his Solar Bears/ECHL debut tonight. The undrafted Tampa Bay Lightning prospect was signed to an NHL contract last March and has only skated in six pro games, all with AHL Syracuse. Tufto led the NCAA in assists last season with 39.
The Solar Bears have scored at least a goal in the first period of their last four games; Orlando is 14-3-1-0 when scoring a goal in the opening frame.
Luke McInnis has recorded a goal in each of his last three games (3g-2a) and is tied for the goal-scoring lead among Eastern Conference defensemen with six.
Nailers forward Patrick Watling (who played with the Solar Bears from 2014-17) was named to the 2022 ECHL All-Star roster earlier this week; he is currently in the American Hockey League on a try-out with the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins. The Nailers are coached by Derek Army, in his first season as the head coach of Wheeling after serving as an assistant last season under Mark French. Wheeling is attempting to make a return to the postseason for the first time since 2015-16, when the Nailers advanced all the way to the Kelly Cup Finals before falling to the Allen Americans.
NEXT GAME: The Solar Bears host the Wheeling Nailers on Saturday, Jan. 15 at 7 p.m. at the AdventHealth Rink at Amway Center. The Solar Bears will also host their 10th anniversary season Celebrity Classic at 1:30 p.m., featuring several Solar Bears alumni.
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