The offseason officially came to a close this morning at the RDV Sportsplex Ice Den, as the Orlando Solar Bears dropped the puck on the first day of training camp.
Despite the summer arriving later than normal due to a delayed start to the 2020-21 campaign, the 2021-22 season will start right on schedule.
With opening night hovering about two weeks away, the window to get up and running and form a cohesive unit of returning players, newcomers and fresh-faced rookies is fairly narrow.
But Solar Bears head coach and general manager Drake Berehowsky liked what he saw among the contingent of players he did have present, despite the absence of Kevin Lohan and Aaron Luchuk (currently attending AHL Syracuse Crunch training camp) and a number of affiliated players yet to be reassigned to Orlando.
“I think everybody looked good today. It’s the first day, everybody’s excited and everybody wants to get out there and show something. For the most part, I though everybody executed well and it was a good practice.”
In fact, shortly after Friday’s practice wrapped, the first domino in the expected roster growth fell, as the Tampa Bay Lightning assigned 2020 draft pick Amir Miftakhov to the Solar Bears.
Little by little, more players will trickle in, and the squad that takes the ice at the AdventHealth Rink at Amway Center on Opening Night on October 23 will begin to come into focus.
Windsor ready to fight
Despite setting single-season and career records in wins for the Solar Bears last season, goaltender Clint Windsor is hungry for more.
He wants to be the one to bring the team to the playoffs, something he got to experience from the backup-spot on the bench in 2019 when he served as the understudy to Connor Ingram as the Solar Bears advanced to the South Division Finals for the second straight spring.
“My goal is to always give my team a chance to win, and that’s what I’ll be doing night-in and night-out, obviously,” Windsor said. “Last year was a good year for that, but we want to continue and continue that into a playoff run here.”
Homecoming for Brodzinski
After spending a season overseas playing in Slovakia, Michael Brodizinski is back and ready to help the Solar Bears compete for a Kelly Cup.
A former ECHL All-Star with Orlando in the 2019-20 season, the defenseman had actually signed with the Solar Bears prior to the start of last year, before an opportunity to play in Europe came calling. And while the salary players collect in some of the top leagues in Europe was attractive, the opportunity to return to Orlando was one that Brodzinski was not going to pass up.
“I love it here and it was a good experience over in Slovakia, but there’s a lot of reasons why I wanted to come back here, and it’s a lot of fun to play here,” Brodzinski said.
When asked who among his former teammates he was most excited to be reunited with, Brodzinski could only smile as he was coerced into giving a partially-biased answer.
“Probably Dylan Fitze…probably because he’s standing over there, so I have to say it, though.”