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Solar Bears gear up for big week of home games

Tuesday, March 22nd
Solar Bears gear up for big week of home games

The Orlando Solar Bears know the task that lies before them: 11 games remaining, including eight at home. 22 points up for grabs - six of which will be available in three matches against the Greenville Swamp Rabbits, the team that is nipping at Orlando’s heels for the fourth-place seed in the South Division.

A lesser team might resign itself to misery and woe after dropping five in a row. That has not been the case at the RDV Sportsplex Ice Den, as the Solar Bears prepare for a busy three-game homestand this week that begins against the Florida Everblades on Thursday and will conclude with a pair of games against the Swamp Rabbits on Friday and Sunday.

And while the team has had some unfortunate bounces go the other way against them in the last few weeks, ask any player in the locker room and the message remains the same, that this is a confident group that has placed its faith in each other and its coaches, and is one or two fortunate bounces from turning the corner.

“We’ve been focusing on scoring goals and just working hard. I think when we’re in a bit of a slump, we’ve just gotta battle to get out of it, and I think that’s what we’re doing now,” defenseman Michael Brodzinski said. “I think we’ve just got to put our head down and work. Those games [last week] were tough, obviously, but we played really well, I thought. Sometimes it doesn’t go your way, but I think we just gotta keep working and we’ll work our way out of it.”

“We have to start scoring and burying our chances, I think we’re getting opportunities, and hopefully we’ll get some puck luck and things will start turning our way,” head coach and general manager Drake Berehowsky said.

Roster moves continue

The ECHL trade deadline is not until Thursday, March 31, but with the Solar Bears looking to upgrade their scoring touch, Berehowsky appeared to have done just that, acquiring Brian Bowen from the Utah Grizzlies on Monday in exchange for Dylan Fitze.

And while Bowen had yet to arrive from the Mountain Time Zone for Tuesday’s practice, the Solar Bears general manager is optimistic about what the forward, enjoying a breakout year in his first full ECHL season, can potentially do, while acknowledging he had to move a player that was popular within the locker room in order to do so.

“‘Fitzy’ was a big part of this team, but we looked at [the deal], we need some goal-scoring, and Bowen’s got good numbers, and we figured it’d be a good fit for both teams,” Berehowsky said. “After you lose someone [like Fitze] on a team, it takes a toll on the guys, and we have a younger team. I hope the leadership group grabs the core group, and I hope the core group grabs everybody and they talk about it, and I hope we have a better practice tomorrow.”

Berehowsky continued the roster maneuvering on Tuesday morning, bringing in Matt Barry. He likes what the former Miami University RedHawks forward can do, as Barry makes the jump to professional hockey after posting a career-high 23 points in 36 games as a senior.

“He’s a very intelligent player, he sees the ice well and he’s very creative. Hopefully he’s able to add some offensive punch and we’ll go from there.”

Brodzinski referred back to the team’s need to produce more offense when he offered his assessment.

“I think it’ll be good. I think a little change is what we needed,” Brodzinski said. “I think these new guys will bring some scoring touch, and I’m excited to see how it works out.” 

While the Solar Bears await the arrival of Alexei Melnichuk, the goaltender acquired by the Tampa Bay Lightning from San Jose before Monday’s 3 p.m. NHL trade deadline and promptly reassigned to Orlando, the Solar Bears found themselves down a goaltender Tuesday morning after Amir Miftakhov had been reassigned to the AHL’s Syracuse Crunch.

Enter Craig LeVasseur.

The Orlando native has served as an emergency backup goaltender before in practices - even for a few games this season - and the Solar Bears’ equipment assistant was more than willing to don the pads and get in net, although he admitted to needing to shake off some rust.

“The guys were excited to hear I was going out today,” LeVasseur, who also spends time as a locker room attendant for the Tampa Bay Lightning. “I hadn’t skated in a couple of weeks, but it was a lot of fun.”

Once Berehowsky wrapped practice and associate coach Jared Staal indicated LeVasseur’s on-ice work was done, it was back to his regular duties within the locker room.

“[Craig’s] great, he’s always positive in the dressing room,” Berehowsky said. ”The guys love him, and it’s fun to have him out.”

Upcoming Home Games

Full Schedule
Savannah Ghost Pirates
Orlando Solar Bears
Saturday, October 26th
Savannah Ghost Pirates @ Orlando Solar Bears
Puck Drops:
7:00 PM EDT
Kia Center
Savannah Ghost Pirates
SAV Savannah Ghost Pirates
at
Orlando Solar Bears
ORL Orlando Solar Bears
Kia Center
Jacksonville Icemen
Orlando Solar Bears
Saturday, November 2nd
Jacksonville Icemen @ Orlando Solar Bears
Puck Drops:
7:00 PM EDT
Kia Center
Jacksonville Icemen
JAX Jacksonville Icemen
at
Orlando Solar Bears
ORL Orlando Solar Bears
Kia Center
Greenville Swamp Rabbits
Orlando Solar Bears
Sunday, November 3rd
Greenville Swamp Rabbits @ Orlando Solar Bears
Puck Drops:
3:00 PM EST
Kia Center
Greenville Swamp Rabbits
GVL Greenville Swamp Rabbits
at
Orlando Solar Bears
ORL Orlando Solar Bears
Kia Center

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