In the span of roughly two months, Clint Windsor went from participating in an NHL training camp, to finding himself released from the Solar Bears due to a goaltending logjam, celebrated his 26th birthday by re-signing with the Solar Bears and then got into his first action of the season less than 24 hours later.
And now he’s the reigning Warrior Hockey ECHL Goaltender of the Week.
After Solar Bears head coach and general manager Drake Berehowsky wrapped up practice on Tuesday, he had the pleasure of breaking the news to the team that Windsor had been selected for the honor by the ECHL.
The response from the rest of the roster was a combination of hooting, hollering, stick taps on the ice and some good-natured chirping, but the goalie was quick to deflect praise toward his teammates for helping him earn the league recognition and emphasize that his focus is on the team’s success.
“It’s a great accomplishment, but that’s a team award I think,” Windsor said. “My defense helped me out; my forwards helped me out. But obviously the win is more important for me.”
That reaction from Windsor should come as a shock to nobody, as he has forged a reputation since first joining Orlando this past January as a goaltender who keeps his head down and puts in the work.
But the award is nonetheless a testament to Windsor’s drive to compete after he was released during training camp after the team was assigned three other goaltenders. Oddly enough, the three goaltenders who had displaced Windsor were all recalled or reassigned, creating the opportunity for his return to the team earlier this month.
“It was unfortunate that I couldn’t start the season here, but it’s out of my control and all I did was go home and work hard and just be ready for an opportunity,” Windsor said. “On my birthday Drake called me and said there was an opportunity here to play some games, so I was open to that and excited.”
Not a bad way to celebrate a birthday.
His coach, meanwhile, is thrilled.
“It’s awesome, I’m really happy for him,” Berehowsky said. “He’s a guy who we had to release and he came back with a great attitude and all the hard work that he’s done has paid off. Everybody has a different story, and we’re proud that we can be part of his.”
Fine-tuning and lead protection
Midway through practice, the coach felt it necessary to stop a drill and emphasize to the team that they were not collectively executing properly, and that a larger physical tone was needed.
The message was received loud and clear; at one point, Trevor Olson and Taylor Doherty looked like they were about to come to blows after furiously battling in the corner, but the two eventually cooled down and proceeded on to the next drill, energized and focused. That’s the tempo that Berehowsky wants to see out of his team.
“I’ve always been a big believer that you practice like you play – and in order to improve you have to push each other,” Berehowsky said. “That’s what [Olson and Doherty] were doing – sometimes tempers get hot, but they’ll go back into the [locker room] and they’ll be fine. It’s all about the competition and pushing each other to be better.”
One area that the Solar Bears know they need to be better in is protecting their leads. While it’s far too early in the season to suggest it’s an issue endemic to the team, Orlando has gone 0-1-1-1 in its last three matches against the Everblades, all of which were games in which Orlando had the lead during the third period. It’s something the Solar Bears need to avoid heading into their game at Hertz Arena tomorrow, the opener of a home-and-home set with Florida.
“I just think we stopped skating – we’ve got to continue to skate, we’ve got to keep moving our feet and we have to make the right plays,” Berehowsky said. “I think we might’ve started to squeeze a little too tight, we had a few too many turnovers, and when you start squeezing and trying to do to much, things just won’t go your way.”
It’s a sentiment that Windsor echoes.
“It’s been a struggle, but it is still early, and it’s something that we’re working on. It starts in practice, and that’ll carry over to the games,” Windsor said. “[We need to play] a full 60 minutes; it’s something that we’re working on and we’re going to put an end to [giving up the lead].”
Coughler thrilled to be back in North America, ready for first taste of Everblades rivalry
For Jake Coughler (pronounced KOOG-luhr), starting his first season of pro hockey in Europe offered a different perspective, but he definitely appreciates the comforts of being back in North America, after signing with the Solar Bears on Monday.
“The big factor is the smaller ice, you have a little bit less time out here,” Coughler said. “Guys are really aggressive, and you’ve got to watch your time and space a little bit more, but I’ve been playing on this type of ice surface my whole life, so I’m ready to go.
After getting into his first practice with the team on Tuesday, he’s starting to settle in. During line rushes in practice he found himself wearing a blue practice jersey on a unit with Chris LeBlanc and Mikhail Shalagin, and the mixture of size, speed and skill seems to complement the way Coughler tries to play, noting his desire to play a speedy, two-way game.
It helps that he has a familiar face within the locker room – he and defenseman Cody Donaghey were teammates with the Charlottetown Islanders in the QMJHL during the 2016-17 season, and he considers Donaghey a good friend.
Of course, he’s probably going to make himself a few new friends in the locker room (and probably a few fans among the Amway Center faithful) if he’s able to bring his “A” game against the Everblades.
“Everybody seems ready for sure. It’s a huge rivalry, that’s all I’ve heard about since the minute I got here, so I’m coming to terms with the fact that we don’t like them much, and I’m hopping on board for that.”
Kaskisuo could make NHL debut this week
The stage is set for former Solar Bears netminder Kasimir Kaskisuo to make his NHL debut this week after he was recalled by the Toronto Maple Leafs. This comes on the heels of Toronto placing Michael Hutchinson on waivers and reassigning him to the Toronto Marlies.
Kaskisuo spent the majority of his rookie pro season in Orlando learning the ropes while splitting time in net with Ryan Massa. It’s been a long journey to the NHL for Kaskisuo, who found himself loaned to the Chicago Wolves two seasons ago while Garret Sparks and Calvin Pickard had claimed the two spots with the Marlies. After a slow regular season with Toronto last year, the goalie stepped his game up in the playoffs, and had recorded a 6-1-1 record in eight appearances with a 2.13 goals-against average and a .928 save percentage to start this season, leading to his ascension to the back-up role for Maple Leafs starter Frederik Andersen.
Should Kaskisuo see action for the Maple Leafs this week, he would become the sixth former Solar Bears player developed by the club to advance to the NHL.
Pedersen performing at next level
Since signing a PTO with the AHL’s Manitoba Moose earlier in the season, Brent Pedersen has continued to generate offense. The second-year pro picked up his first AHL goal of the season on Monday afternoon in a 4-1 win for the Moose over the Texas Stars.