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Solar Bears Den: Preseason Wrap

Orlando gets in some preseason action, there’s a change in goal, and there’s a Baby Shark infestation?

Fernando Medina/Orlando Solar Bears

It was a busy week for the Orlando Solar Bears, as they wrapped up preseason preparations and looked ahead to the start of the regular season this weekend:

On Monday, Orlando made a pair of future considerations trades with two of their South Division rivals, sending forward Conor Landrigan to South Carolina, and forward Zach Remers to Florida.

The Solar Bears’ roster increased by 9 players on Tuesday, as Syracuse reassigned defenseman Dmitry Semykin, and the San Jose Barracuda sent 8 players to Orlando: forwards Joseph Garreffa, Krystof Hrabik, Jake McGrew, Steenn Pasichnuk, and Kyle Topping; defensemen Cole Moberg and Montana Onyebachi; and goaltender Zachary Emond.

Semykin will be starting his second North American season. In 2020-21, he split time between the Solar Bears and Syracuse, appearing in 19 games with Orlando and going scoreless. He had a goal and two assists in 9 games with the Crunch. His stay in Florida lasted all of two days, as he was subsequently recalled to Syracuse to take the roster spot of Andrej Sustr who had been recalled by the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Garreffa returns for his second season in Florida after a strong rookie campaign in 2020-21, where he had 13 goals and 29 assists in 59 games with Orlando and Allen and was named to the ECHL All-Rookie Team. Hrabik also returns for his second pro season, after a combined 29 games with Allen and Orlando last season where he put up 5 goals and 2 assists. Topping will also be starting his second pro season, after scoring 8 goals and adding 15 assists in 31 games for the Solar Bears and Americans.

Mcgrew, a 2017 6th rounder for the Sharks, split his first pro season between Allen and the Barracuda. He had 6 goals and 2 assists in 11 games for the Americans and 7 points in 27 games at the AHL level. Pasichnuk had 2 goals in 13 games for the Barracuda and went scoreless in 4 appearances for Allen in his first pro season after completing a four-year career at Arizona State. Moberg spent last season in Rockford, with 1 goal and 4 assists in 22 games. Onyebachi is looking to make his professional debut after spending the last four seasons with the WHL’s Kamloops Blazers, where in 2020-21 he appeared in 20 games with 2 goals and 10 assists. Like Semykin, he too had a brief stay, as the Barracuda summoned him back to California on Wednesday.

Emond is a 2018 6th round draft selection by the Sharks who will be making his professional debut. He split 2020-21 between Saint John and Rouyn-Noranda of the QMJHL, going 3-4-3 in 10 games for the Huskies with a 3.57 GAA, and 7-5-0 with a 4.18 GAA in 13 games for the Sea Dogs.

On Wednesday, Kevin Lohan and Aaron Luchuk returned to Orlando after participating in Crunch camp. Lohan was suspended by the AHL for one game after an illegal check to the head in Saturday’s preseason win against Utica, which was served the following day.

On Friday, the team announced the suspension of goaltender Clint Windsor, who has decided to pursue an opportunity overseas. While a suspension makes it sound like Windsor did something wrong it’s actually just a procedural move. The team suspension will keep Windsor’s ECHL playing rights with Orlando, should he choose to return to North America. This move could come back to haunt the team, after rookie goaltender Amir Miftakhov was recalled to Syracuse on Saturday after an injury to Crunch goaltender Max Lagace, leaving Emond as the lone goaltender on the roster.

On-Ice Tuneup

Orlando got in three games in three days to fine-tune their game for the start of the regular season, and took two out of three from their Florida neighbors:

-In an unannounced game Thursday, the Solar Bears defeated Jacksonville 4-2. Topping lead all skaters with 2 goals and 1 assist, while Miftakhov had 29 saves prior to his departure.

-Friday, Orlando headed south to Estero to take on the Everblades and dropped a 4-1 decision. Garreffa had the lone Solar Bears goal, while Emond stopped 27 of 31 in defeat.

-The Solar Bears returned the favor on Saturday, defeating Florida 5-2. Garreffa scored twice, while Topping and McGrew added two helpers apiece. Emond stopped 24 of 26 shots.

Looking Ahead

Orlando will have to submit their Season Opening Roster on Wednesday. Then the games start for real on Saturday, as the Solar Bears open the 2021-22 campaign on home ice against Atlanta.