ORLANDO, Fla. – The Orlando Solar Bears released their official schedule for the 2019-20 season Thursday afternoon, and it features a steady dose of in-state rivalry action along with a road trip to the Idaho Steelheads and the Utah Grizzlies in the rugged Mountain Division.
The Solar Bears’ head coach Drake Berehowsky and his team will start the regular season at home on Saturday, Oct. 12, against division rivals the South Carolina Stingrays, marking the second year in a row that Orlando will open their season on home ice. The Solar Bears and Stingrays squared off against each other in the 2019 Kelly Cup South Division Semifinals so that that tilt will give the two heated rivals an early look at each other.
In addition, the Solar Bears will also host some special nights. Nov. 29 and 30 mark the Solar Bears’ Kids weekend, which will feature the return of Marvel Super Hero Night and Star Wars Night. Also of note is the return of the annual Teddy Bear Toss on Saturday, Dec. 7, when Orlando squares up against the Atlanta Gladiators.
The Solar Bears’ most extended road trip of the season is six games and will feature games against the Stingrays, the Gladiators, and the Norfolk Admirals. Orlando will also play host to the league’s two Canadian teams, as the Solar Bears will square off against the Brampton Beast in January and then celebrate leap year with the Newfoundland Growlers at the close of February.
The Solar Bears call the Amway Center home, and because of how active that venue gets during the season, with the Magic and other major headliners all booking the arena, the schedule is subject to change. Typically, the team is forced to move some of those coveted Friday and Saturday night to make way for events commanding higher ticket prices.
Here is a breakdown of the opponents on the Solar Bears’ schedule:
|Florida||13 (6 home, 7 away)|
|Jacksonville||12 (6 home, 6 away)|
|South Carolina||12 (7 home, 5 away)|
|Greenville||7 (4 home, 3 away)|
|Atlanta||10 (4 home, 6 away)|
|Norfolk||8 (5 home, 3 away)|
|Wheeling||2 (both away)|
|Kansas City||1 (home)|
|Brampton||2 (both home)|
|Utah||2 (both away)|
Here is a breakdown of the Solar Bears’ games by month:
|October||2 home, 2 away|
|November||8 home, 7 away|
|December||6 home, 8 away|
|January||5 home, 8 away|
|February||7 home, 6 away|
|March||7 home, 4 away|
|April||1 home, 1 away|
Here is a breakdown of the games by day of the week:
|Monday||No games scheduled|
|Tuesday||3 home, 3 away|
|Wednesday||0 home, 6 away|
|Thursday||6 home, 1 away|
|Friday||12 home, 13 away|
|Saturday||12 home, 13 away|
|Sunday||3 home, 2 away|
As it stands, the schedule is more balanced than last year, especially in terms of the monthly breakdown. In 2018-19, the Solar Bears enjoyed an unbalanced schedule towards the end of the season, with a glut of home games in the closing months. This proved to be a significant boost to the club and thus gave them the leverage they needed to enter the postseason. In the upcoming season, March will provide the Solar Bears some edge, but that advantage will be more muted than last year.
In other news, the Solar Bears have already seen some key roster changes in the offseason. For starters, Orlando recently acquired the rights to defenseman Ryan Obuchowski during a future considerations trade with the Toledo Walleye. Obuchowski played a total of 69 games with Toledo, tallying 18 points (6 goals, 12 assists) and 42 penalty minutes. He was also a factor in propelling Toledo to the Kelly Cup Final.
Also, goaltender Connor Ingram is leaving the Tampa Bay Lightning organization and heading to the Nashville Predators. This means that the Solar Bears will be looking for another netminder. Clint Windsor was a steady presence between the pipes for the Solar Bears during his rookie season, and it is quite possible he will make a reappearance next season. One should also look to shifts being made in the Tampa Bay organization for signs as to whether they will be sending a young netminder down to the Solar Bears for development next year.
Berehowsky has shown a willingness to make drastic overhauls of his team, so expect plenty more announcements and surprises over the summer. Of keen interest will be the naming of an assistant coach in the wake of the departure of Marc LeFebrve. Given that Berehowsky’s previous associate coach John Snowden went on to win the Kelly Cup at the helm of Newfoundland, one would expect the Solar Bears to be an attractive prospect for young coaches hoping to climb the ladder. Expect Berehowsky to find someone who can bring some spark behind the bench and who will help to mastermind the special teams.
One piece of news that has not received the spotlight it deserves: Last year, the team saw an uptick in attendance after two years of decline. In 2015-16, the team averaged 6226 per game and then saw a drop to 5495 in 2016-17. That number was down to 5461 in 2017-18. But last year saw the attendance crept up to 5612. That number along with the team’s appearance in the playoffs, where the home attendance average was at 6663, has to have the Solar Bears feeling like they are gaining some ground at the turnstiles.