McAuley Delivers in Overtime as Solar Bears Take Down Gladiators
ORLANDO, Fla. - The Orlando Solar Bears (40-25-4-1) rallied from a 2-0 deficit to force overtime before Colby McAuley scored in the extra session to lift Orlando to a 3-2 win over the Atlanta Gladiators (31-28-8-3) on Thursday night at the ARS.com Rink at Amway Center.
The Gladiators took a 1-0 lead at 11:40 of the first period when Justin MacDonald settled the puck off the glass at the right side of the net and found Nolan LaPorte in front, who stuffed a shot past Connor Ingram for a power-play goal.
Atlanta made it 2-0 after a shot from the right point caromed off the end boards to the left circle where Brett McKenzie hammered a shot past Ingram at 15:11 as the goaltender was getting back in position.
The Solar Bears restored some momentum in the second period after successfully killing a 5-on-3 penalty sequence with Mathieu Foget and Akim Aliu in the penalty box, thanks in part to a huge block from Tayler Thompson.
Orlando then got on the board at 18:16 while on the man advantage when Alexei Lipanov's shot from the left circle rebounded off goaltender Sean Bonar, allowing Chris LeBlanc to sweep in his 10th of the season to cut Atlanta's lead in half.
The Solar Bears tied the game at 2-2 early in the third period when Mitch Hults fed a drop-pass to Alexander Kuqali at the left circle. and The defenseman then skated in before roofing a shot over the blocker of Bonar at the 2:03 mark for his second of the season and his first since joining Orlando in a mid-season trade.
LeBlanc had a chance to put Orlando ahead late in the third period as he drove wide up the left flank before cutting across the slot, but Bonar made an impressive glove save to keep the score tied, eventually forcing overtime.
McAuley won it for the Solar Bears with less than half a minute in the extra frame after Ingram made a pad save on Matt Lane that allowed LeBlanc to carry the puck out on a counterattack. LeBlanc fed the puck ahead to McAuley in the neutral zone, who made his way into the attacking end before swinging through the right circle and snapping the game-winner past Bonar at 4:33 for his 14th of the season.
Ingram earned his fourth consecutive victory for Orlando with 22 saves on 24 shots against; Bonar took the overtime loss for Atlanta with 35 stops on 38 shots against.
1) Chris LeBlanc - ORL
2) Colby McAuley - ORL
3) Alexander Kuqali - ORL
Orlando has improved to 85 points for the season, giving the Solar Bears the second-highest regular season point total in franchise history, following the 91 points achieved by the club during the 2013-14 season. The team also reached the 40-win plateau for the second time in franchise history, a mark previously achieved by the 2013-14 squad (43 wins total).
The Solar Bears earned their eighth win when trailing after two periods this season, which leads the ECHL.
The victory was Orlando's eighth earned in overtime this season, which leads the Eastern Conference and is tied with Kalamazoo, Idaho and Fort Wayne for the most in the ECHL.
The Solar Bears finished their nine-game regular season series with the Gladiators with a 6-3-0-0 record to win the head-to-head series.
LeBlanc's goal and assist extended his point streak to five games (3g-4a).
Hults' assist on Kuqali's goal extended the forward's assist streak to three games (3a).
NEXT GAMES: The Solar Bears head to Southwest Florida tomorrow to visit the Florida Everblades at Hertz Arena at 7:30 p.m. Orlando returns home to conclude the 2018-19 regular season on Sunday, April 7 at 3 p.m. for Fan Appreciation Night. Sunday's game is also a FAIRWINDS Solar Bears Sunday - FAIRWINDS members can score a pair of free tickets to Sunday's game when they show their FAIRWINDS debit/credit card and photo ID at the Amway Center box office - visit fairwinds.org/solarbears for more info. CLICK HERE to purchase tickets for this game.
Home Ice Clinched for Opening Round of Playoffs:
The Solar Bears have clinched home ice advantage for the first round of the 2019 Playoffs, presented by XYMOPrint. Although the Solar Bears' opponent in the opening round still has yet to be determined, Orlando will host Game 1 of the South Division Semifinals on Wednesday, April 10 at 7 p.m. and Game 2 on Friday, April 12 at 7 p.m. Tickets are now on sale for both games, to purchase visit ticketmaster.com or the Amway Center box office to get your tickets today!
2019-20 Season Ticket Memberships on Sale Now:
Upgrade to Solar Status and become a Season Ticket Member today. Season ticket memberships for the 2019-20 season are now on sale and start as little as $270.
2018-19 Season Presented by XYMOPrint:
The Orlando Solar Bears are proud to have local digital printing experts XYMOPrint as the presenting sponsor of the 2018-19 season. As a special offer, fans who call XYMOPrint at (888) 223-9390 from now until June 15, 2019 and reference the Solar Bears will receive 30% off their first order of 500 business cards.
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ECHL Stories from April 4, 2019
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