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Practice Report: Back to basics

Friday, November 19th
Practice Report: Back to basics

After the Orlando Solar Bears closed out a five-game road trip on Wednesday in Estero, the team got back to work at practice at the RDV Sportsplex Ice Den on Friday preparing for a Saturday home meeting with the Maine Mariners.

Although there are several areas that the team could be pleased with since the start of the season, there were still a few items the coaching staff felt needed to be addressed following Wednesday’s 3-2 loss to the Florida Everblades, in which Orlando surrendered a season-high 53 shots on goal.

“We weren’t happy with our ‘D’-zone coverage and puck management in the last game, so we basically centered the practice around that and hopefully the guys will learn from it,” Solar Bears head coach and general manager Drake Berehowsky said.

Much of Friday morning was spent going over a series of drills referred to by the coaching staff as “Barry Smith drills,” named for the former NHL assistant coach who initially developed them.

“[They’re about] making sure you’re in the right body positioning against the competition. It’s a tough drill – you have to be able to move your feet and you’ve got to be able to skate,” Berehowsky said. “I think the better job you do of maintaining good positioning in the ‘D’-zone, the easier it’ll be.”

The sessions at the club’s home practice rink have afforded the Solar Bears the desired opportunity to re-emphasize much of the team’s structure the coaches want to see their players deploy. Solar Bears defenseman and captain Kevin Lohan, who recently dressed in his 150th career game with Orlando, understands the big picture.

“Those [types of road trips] are never easy, but it’s just part of the business and how this league is,” Lohan said. “It was the first [big trip] of the year for some of the guys who haven’t played since two years ago [as a result of the pandemic]; it’s an adjustment, and you gotta get used to it, but it’s just about finding ways to be as ready as possible, because there’s no excuses – these games are really important, and I think the guys battled hard and we’ll get better as the season goes on.”

With five road games in a seven-day stretch over the past week and limited true practice time outside of the traditional 20-minute gameday morning skates – there has been a need to stress a commitment to the proper habits and details needed to effectively win games.

“When you don’t have the typical practice you do get into some bad habits, so today hopefully we corrected them,” Berehowsky said. “It’s just little detail things you gotta practice all the time. Today we addressed a lot of it, and hopefully we’ll be better next game.”

Looking ahead to Saturday’s opponent, the Solar Bears take on a Maine Mariners squad that enters its Friday night game at Jacksonville riding a 3-0-1-0 streak and situated in third place in the ECHL’s North Division. The Solar Bears will settle into a stretch of five of their next six games being played on home ice.

“Home ice is huge in this league, and we love playing at home, so we just need to jump on it from the start,” Lohan said.

“We know [Maine’s] a good team and we’re going to have to work hard,” Berehowsky said, but he added: “We’re not so much worried about what they’re doing; we have to worry about what we’re doing and the way we defend and the way we go into their zone.”

New Masked Man

Goaltender Brad Barone certainly had his work cut out for him in the last week, going 3-2-0 in five appearances from Nov. 9-17, with 177 saves for a .937 save percentage.

After sporting a plain white mask to begin his tenure with the Solar Bears, Barone took the ice for practice on Friday with a fresh look, wearing a new Solar Bears-themed Warrior mask, with the Solar Bears logo featuring Shades and other team-focused imagery adorning the sides and forehead of helmet, with his number 30 splashed along the chin.

While many goaltending masks are often customized with an airbrushed design, Barone instead opted for an alternative means of production that enabled a quick turnaround.

“I’ve got a really good agent, that’s how,” Barone said with a smile when asked about the mask’s genesis. “He wraps race cars and he’s just unbelievable at what he does in terms of speed and production. We had been drawing up different designs and things, and wanted to make the colors pop, he had just gotten a new printing machine, and he was able to print it out with the brightest, most vibrant colors I’ve seen. I’m just pumped to have it.”

Barone’s mask is not the first experimentation by his agent, Mike New, who previously had wrapped the mask of Norfolk Admirals goaltender Ty Reichenbach during the 2017-18 season. The method has the endorsement of both Barone and Solar Bears head equipment manager Adam Dexter, himself a veteran of over 1,000 games of professional hockey.

“I’ve never really seen it before, but I think it’s a great concept,” Dexter said. “For the cost [of production], you could definitely see a lot more goalies going this route, especially in a league where there’s so much movement.”

The Solar Bears host the Maine Mariners for the first time in club history on Saturday, Nov. 20 at 7 p.m. at the AdventHealth Rink at Amway Center. The Solar Bears are also hosting a canned food drive to support the Coalition for the Homeless of Central Florida. Fans are encouraged to bring canned food donations to the game; those who do so will be entered into a drawing for four gold seats for a future Solar Bears home game this season.

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Sunday, April 28th
Greenville Swamp Rabbits @ Orlando Solar Bears
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