The Orlando Solar Bears held an inter-squad scrimmage this past Thursday in advance of their two pre-season games this weekend in Estero, Florida against the Florida Everblades. The season is about to start and there are changes all over the team.
The Bears now have a streamlined front office staff as merchandising has been taken over by the Orlando Magic. There are fewer marketing and corporate partnership folks this season, and I expect that these are also roles that are filled by Magic personnel as well. There are rumors that the Toronto leadership will have a more hands-on role in the day to day operations of the team this season. That would be exciting for Bears fans.
The 2017-18 Bears will certainly have a new look as there are only two players returning from last season, Joe Perry and Chris Crane. There are several players on AHL contracts, more so than in previous seasons. Head coach Drake Berehowsky stated after the first practice of camp that the plan was to increase the Bears’ size this season, without losing the skills and scoring from last season. The influx of players from Toronto should serve to fill both of those requirements, the leadership offered from the 3 players coming over from last season’s Kelley Cup champion Colorado Eagles should provide leadership to the young prospects as well.
The increased talent being sent down makes this seem like a brand new affiliation. In years past, we would always see a goaltender from our AHL affiliate and a couple of players each season. The influx of at least 12 players from the Marlies leaves me excited about this season’s possibilities. There was competition for spots and playing time in Marlies camp, according to published reports. That seems to be the case here as well.
In Thursday’s scrimmage, Team Orange (designated Home Team) was made up of Forwards Michael Turner, Chris Crane J.J. Piccinich, Kenton Hegelson, Todd Skirving, Brandon Platt and Jeremy Olinik. On defense were Nolan Valleau, Jeff King, Adam Phillips and Mike Chen. They were backstopped by Jesse Jenks.
The “visiting” Purple team includes forwards Kristian Pospisil, Troy Cream, Joe Perry, Kyle Rankin, Vladimir Bobylev (who did not seem to play), Chris LeBlanc, and Donny Flynn. On Defense were Mike Monfredo, Matias Cleland, MacKenzie Brald, and Mike Vaskivuo, Matt Hackett was the goaltender.
The Home team beat the visitors 2-1, with goals from Chris Crane and Brandon Platt. Mike Vaskivuo was the goal scorer for Team Purple.
The game was back and forth, wide open, with not a tom of scoring chances. I thought both teams were moving the puck well, and they were, but there was not much contact, and by the end, I thought that it looked like the 3rd period of an all-star game — the teams wanted to win, but there was not much hitting going on.
Orlando has pre-season games in Estero Saturday and Sunday against the Florida Everblades, the team that knocked us out of the playoffs last season. There is a Season Ticket Holder Event Monday night at the RDV Sportsplex in Maitland on Monday, and season opening rosters are due to the League offices on Wednesday. Orlando opens regular season play in Jacksonville, FL on Saturday October 14th against the reborn Icemen. Jacksonville announced on Friday that the game is a sellout. The bears then travel to Allen Texas for two games against the Americans before the home opener on October 28th.