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Solar Bears announce first three returning players

Friday, July 29th
Solar Bears announce first three returning players

ORLANDO, Fla. — The Orlando Solar Bears have announced the club has agreed to terms with forwards Tyler Bird and Luke Boka along with defenseman Andrew McLean for the 2022-23 season. The three players mark the first official signings announced by the Solar Bears for the upcoming campaign.

Bird, 25, returns for his fourth season with the Solar Bears after logging 33 points (19g-14a) in 48 games for Orlando during the 2021-22 campaign. His 19 goals tied for the team goal-scoring lead and he led the team outright with 186 shots; both established new career-highs, despite missing significant time from late November through mid-January due to injury. Bird also picked up one assist in seven combined games with Syracuse and San Jose of the American Hockey League.

Since joining Orlando prior to the 2019-20 season, Bird has collected 73 points (39g-34a) in 147 games with the Solar Bears; he ranks among the club’s career leaders in games played (147 – 8th), goals (39 – 6th), game-winning goals (6 – T-6th), first goals (8 – 2nd) and shots (450 – 4th). Bird is also the only Solar Bears player that has been named a multi-time recipient of the club’s Dan Snyder Memorial Award – awarded to the player who best displays a commitment to hard work, perseverance and dedication – for each of his three seasons in Orlando.

The 6-foot-2, 205-pound forward has skated in 192 career ECHL games with Orlando, Greenville, Reading and Wheeling, producing 85 points (42g-43a). He has added three assists in 12 career AHL games with Syracuse and San Jose.

Prior to turning pro, the Andover, Mass. native played four seasons of collegiate hockey for Brown University, where he recorded 35 points (22g-13a) in 120 games for the Bears program. Bird only missed four games during his NCAA career and was named an alternate captain for his senior season.

Bird was a fifth-round selection (137th overall) of the Columbus Blue Jackets in the 2014 NHL Draft.

Boka, 23, finished his first season of pro hockey with 24 points (16g-8a) in 67 games. Despite beginning the season on the team’s reserve list, Boka’s 67 games managed to lead all Solar Bears forwards. His 16 goals placed him third on the in team goal-scoring, and his three power-play goals tied him for second on the team.

Boka also became the first Solar Bears rookie to tally multiple overtime goals in the same season, notching the only goal of the game 39 seconds into sudden death in Orlando’s 1-0 overtime win at Atlanta on Nov. 23 and capping a career-high three-point performance in a 5-4 overtime victory vs. South Carolina on Dec. 31.

The 5-foot-11, 201-pound forward joined the Solar Bears following a one-season stint with Queen’s University, but did not see game action for the Golden Gaels program due to the decision by U Sports to cancel all winter sports during the 2020-21 season.

The native of Plymouth, Mich. played five seasons of major junior hockey for the Ontario Hockey League’s Windsor Spitfires, where he helped his squad capture the Memorial Cup in 2017. In 313 career games with the Spitfires, Boka generated 140 points (60g-80a), and served as team captain in his final two seasons with Windsor.

McLean, 27, joined the Solar Bears on Nov. 4 after starting the season with the Knoxville Ice Bears of the Southern Professional Hockey League, where he had scored once in three games. McLean ultimately finished the campaign with 12 points (2g-12a) in 51 games with the Solar Bears.

In addition to his tenure with Orlando, the 6-foot-1, 190-pound blueliner has skated in one additional ECHL contest with Norfolk and has added 18 points (5g-13a) in 41 career SPHL games with Knoxville. McLean was named to the SPHL All-Rookie Team in 2020-21.

Prior to turning pro, the Waterford, Mich. native played four seasons of collegiate hockey at the University of Wisconsin – Stevens Point, where he produced 61 points (13g-48a) in 108 games for the Pointers program, and helped the school capture an NCAA Division III championship in 2019.

Orlando’s preseason roster now includes the following players:

Forwards:Tyler BirdLuke Boka

Defensemen:Jimmy Mazza (acquired via trade on July 22)Andrew McLean

Open House is Aug. 13

Join us for an Open House at the AdventHealth Rink at Amway Center on Saturday, Aug. 13 from 8 a.m. – 4 p.m. Take advantage of savings for all of your Solar Bears necessities at our equipment and merchandise sale, participate in our adult street hockey tournament, along with face painting for your little ones!

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