WHO: Orlando Solar Bears at Florida Everblades
VENUE: Germain Arena, Estero, Fla.
DATE: Saturday, Oct. 7, 7 p.m.
LISTEN: OSBN on Mixlr
TONIGHT: The Solar Bears play their first of two preseason games against the Florida Everblades. Orlando boasts a 4-3-2-0 lifetime record (.556 win percentage) in ECHL preseason competition, all against Florida. Last year the Solar Bears played only one preseason match against the Everblades due to the effects of Hurricane Harvey.
NEW-LOOK BEARS: The Solar Bears coaching staff set out to build a bigger and stronger team this offseason: when comparing the current Solar Bears preseason roster to the squad that finished the 2016-17 season, the roster is an average of almost an inch taller, and 2.86 pounds heavier (Source: EliteProspects.com).
UNFINISHED BUSINESS: Orlando currently has two players retained from last season’s team under ECHL contract this season – Joe Perry and Chris Crane. Perry set the ECHL Solar Bears single-season record with a team-leading 35 goals in his first season with Orlando, while Crane was among the team’s more productive offensive weapons when healthy and led the Solar Bears with seven assists in the Kelly Cup playoffs.
CHAMPIONSHIP EXPERIENCE SOUGHT AND FOUND: A number of Orlando’s offseason signings also possess championship rings on their hockey résumés. The Solar Bears added three members from the reigning Kelly Cup champions, the Colorado Eagles (Darryl Bootland, Sam Jardine and Sean Zimmerman), along with veteran forward Mike Vaskivuo, who won the Ray Miron President’s Cup in the Central Hockey League with the Fort Wayne Komets in 2012. Also notable is returning forward Joe Perry’s three national titles with St. Norbert College and the Memorial Cup championship won by rookie forward J.J. Piccinich in 2015-16 with the London Knights of the Ontario Hockey League.
TRUE GRIT: The Orlando penalty box will likely be occupied by some tough customers this season – the addition of veterans Bootland, Zimmerman and Mike Monfredo means Orlando has added a combined 4,911 career penalty minutes to its roster. Their presence in the lineup throughout the season will help set the tone for Orlando in the ultra-competitive South Division.
NEW MASKED MAN IN GOAL: Orlando’s crease will be frequently occupied by newcomer Matt Hackett this season. The Solar Bears announced Hackett’s signing in early September, and the former Minnesota Wild and Buffalo Sabres goaltender will be counted on to be Orlando’s last line of defense on many nights. Hackett has primarily spent much of his pro career in the AHL, but his ECHL stat line is impressive: in two games with the Utah Grizzlies in 2015-16, Hackett went 2-0-0 with a 1.89 goals-against average and a .932 save percentage.
KING BACK FOR MORE THAN A CUP OF COFFEE: Rookie blueliner Jeff King joined Orlando late last season for the playoff push after completing his junior career with the Sarnia Sting of the OHL. Now under a contract with the Toronto Marlies of the AHL in his first full season of pro hockey, King was assigned to the Solar Bears earlier this week, and is the sole remaining member of Orlando’s blue line from the 2016-17 campaign. The developing defenseman tallied the opening goal for Team Orange in Thursday’s Purple vs. Orange scrimmage at the RDV Ice Den.
SHOT VOLUME: The Solar Bears led the ECHL last season with an astounding 2,666 shots on goal for an average of 37.03 shots-per-game, or 1.34 shots per game more than the next-closest team, which coincidentally was Florida. Leading goal-scorer Joe Perry accounted for roughly 10 percent of Orlando’s shots in the regular season, as he also fired a club-record 211 at opposing netminders.
AFFILIATE NOTES: Saturday features the home openers for both the Marlies (0-0-0-0) and Maple Leafs (1-0-0-0), as Orlando’s AHL affiliate gets its season underway this afternoon at Ricoh Coliseum against the Utica Comets, while the Maple Leafs host the New York Rangers at the Air Canada Centre tonight following a 7-2 road win at Winnipeg earlier this week. Three former Solar Bears are on the Marlies’ Opening Day Roster: forward Mason Marchment and goaltenders Kasimir Kaskisuo and Garret Sparks.
The Orlando Solar Bears drop the puck on their 2017-18 home schedule on Saturday, Oct. 28 against the Atlanta Gladiators at the ARS.com Rink at Amway Center. Single-game tickets for the 2017-18 season are now on sale at the Amway Center box office and ticketmaster.com.
The Orlando Solar Bears are the proud ECHL affiliate of the NHL’s Toronto Maple Leafs and AHL’s Toronto Marlies, and play all of their home games at the ARS.com Rink at Amway Center, the 2012 Street and Smith’s Sports Business Journal Sports Facility of the Year.
Full Season Ticket Memberships for the 2017-18 season are on sale now. Purchase an Orlando Solar Bears Full Season Ticket Membership for as little as $440 today! Click here or call (407) 951-8200 for more information.
Officially licensed Orlando Solar Bears replica team jerseys, apparel, and headwear can be purchased online at orlandosolarbearshockey.com/shop.