While the Lightning and the Crunch kicked off their regular seasons over the weekend, the Orlando Solar Bears were just getting warmed up, opening their training camp on Tuesday and playing a pair of preseason games.
First, let’s take a look at the current roster, which stands at 27 players. Note that this is subject to change, as the ECHL has a deadline of Wednesday afternoon for all 26 teams to submit their 23 man season opening roster.
The Solar Bears will be looking to fill in some offense, as their top two scorers from last season—Mathieu Foget (trade) and Troy Bourke (Europe)—have moved on. Among those returning to the team are Chris LeBlanc, who put up 39 points in 61 games; Trevor Olson, who scored 16 goals in his first pro season; Brent Pedersen, who split time between Orlando and AHL Manitoba; and Dylan Fitze, who had 27 points in his rookie season.
The Solar Bears currently have forwards Alexey Lipanov and Ryan Lohin on assignment from Syracuse. Lohin, a 2016 7th round draft pick by the Lightning, will be starting his first full pro season after a 3 game appearance with the Crunch to end 2018-19 after finishing his college career at UMass-Lowell. Lipanov will be starting his first full season, after a 10 game stint with Syracuse in 2018 and a four game appearance with Orlando last year.
Orlando also received four forwards on reassignment from the San Jose Barracuda: Ivan Kosorenkov, Tristan Langan, Marcus Vela, and Jake Jackson, who is currently listed as a tryout.
Orlando will have a few key veterans returning to the team for 2019-20. Returnees include Cody Donaghey, who lead all Solar Bears defensemen in scoring last season with 15 goals and 28 assists in 64 games, and attended Tampa Bay’s training camp; veteran Mike Monfredo, who served as team captain and had 27 points in 71 games; Kevin Lohan, who appeared in 40 games after coming over from Toledo and was an invite to Binghamton’s training camp in September; and Alexander Kuqali, who was a key member down the stretch after coming in a trade with Fort Wayne.
Orlando also signed veteran Taylor Doherty, who played for the Solar Bears during the 2016-17 season.
Taylor Doherty on coming back to the Solar Bears:— Orlando Solar Bears (@OrlandoHockey) October 1, 2019
“When I decided to come back to North America, it was my first choice to play for Drake here in Orlando. I’m happy to be back, and excited to get the season going.”
More from Day 1 of Training Camp: https://t.co/S5dhizmxtS pic.twitter.com/6aOPGxsai2
Also returning will be Matthew Spencer, who was reassigned by Syracuse last week. This will be Spencer’s third pro season, and he will again likely be up and down between the ECHL and AHL to fill in as needed.
In 2018-19, Orlando had six different goaltenders see time in net, including the infamous banishing of Connor Ingram after what was perceived to be a falling out in Syracuse. This season, the Solar Bears may have a more steady presence between the pipes. Thanks to the logjam of goaltending currently at the AHL level in Syracuse, Orlando will have the services of veterans Zachary Fucale and Spencer Martin.
Fucale is a former Canadiens second round draft pick, and has significant AHL experience with St. John’s and Laval. Last season, he went 20-9-3 with a 3.18 GAA and .894 save percentage in 34 games for Fort Wayne, and 1-3-0 with a 2.51 GAA in 5 appearances for AHL Chicago.
Martin was originally drafted by Colorado in the 3rd round in 2013, and has spent most of his professional career in the AHL. Last season with the Colorado Eagles, Martin was 9-12-0 with a 3.40 GAA and .902 save percentage in 23 games. He also has 3 games of NHL experience, going 0-2-1 for the Avalanche during the 2016-17 season. Under normal circumstances, he would likely have been the #2 goaltender in Syracuse behind Scott Wedgewood, with Fucale #3.
A third goaltender, rookie Zach Sawchenko, was reassigned by San Jose prior to the preseason. With three affiliated goalies on the roster, Clint Windsor, who was the first signing of the off season and was a member of Tampa Bay’s rookie team in the NHL Prospects Challenge in September, was released.
More Schedule Changes
A third revision of the regular season schedule was announced on Friday, as three games were rescheduled.
⚠️SCHEDULE ALERT⚠️— Orlando Solar Bears (@OrlandoHockey) October 4, 2019
The following changes have been made to three Solar Bears games:
Friday, 11/15 at Jacksonville is now Wednesday, 11/13 at Florida
Tuesday, 2/4 vs. Jacksonville is now Monday, 1/27
Friday, 3/13 vs. South Carolina is now Friday, 2/7https://t.co/TdKkwGFae7
As for Orlando’s preseason slate, they split a pair of games with instate rival Florida over the weekend.
On Friday in Estero, the Solar Bears defeated the Everblades 3-2. Martin got the start in net for Orlando, stopping 16 of 17 shots in 40 minutes of work, then Sawchenko took over in the third period and finished with 7 saves on 8 shots. Newcomer Jimmy Lodge, Kosorenkov, and Olson all had goals for the Solar Bears.
Florida returned the favor on Saturday, defeating Orlando 4-3 in overtime. Sawchenko got the start for the Solar Bears, stopping all 8 shots faced. Fucale took over in the second period and ended up with the loss, finishing with with 27 saves on 31 shots. Newcomer Pierre-Luc Mercier, Donaghey, and Pedersen each had goals for Orlando.
The regular season for the Solar Bears begins at the Amway Center on Saturday night against South Carolina.