Head Coach: Anthony Noreen is in his second year at the helm of the Solar Bears. His overall record for the team is 33-30-4-5. Prior to joining the Solar Bears, Noreen coached the Youngstown Phantoms to the USHL Anderson Cup. His Phantoms finished 2014-15 with a 40-16-6 record, and Noreen took the USHL Coach of the Year honor.
Captain: The captain and alternate captain lineup in the pre-season match against the Florida Everblades put Eric Baier in the head slot with Johnny McInnis, Trevor Ludwig, and Denver Manderson in the alternate role. Baier’s veteran status and central presence–both on and off the ice–make him the likeliest candidate for regular season captain.
Last Season: Regular Season: 33-30-4-5 (3rd in the South Division)
2015-16 Season Summary: 2015-16 was an OK season for Orlando, which finished 3rd in the South Division but failed to make it into the playoffs. The season started out promising, with the Bears going 5-1 in October, but in November, the team started to hit bumps, going 4-5-0-3 for the month. Late acquisitions of veteran players like Rory Rawlyk and Nicklas Lindberg helped steady the team in the middle of the season, but by that time, the Solar Bears were trying to claw uphill. Towards the season close, they pushed for the playoffs, but key call-ups to the Toronto Marlies kept the team from hitting its stride.
Hot or Not?
The Solar Bears have stocked up big time on defensive veterans, and for good reason too. Last season, Orlando showed too many defensive breakdowns, causing the team to blow some key leads before time was up. Opposing teams would regularly have more shots on goal than the Bears. At some points, the number of shots on goal from the opponents approached 60, and the SOG differential against the Solar Bears could hover around 2-1. The veteran trio of Eric Baier, Taylor Doherty, and Trevor Ludwig should help to keep opponents at bay this year. You can count on Ryan Massa to provide a solid anchor in the goal, but his counterpart, Jay Williams, is an unknown factor.
- Johnny McInnis – The hard-working fan favorite comes back for a third season.
- Denver Manderson – Hampered by injuries in the past, he’s fit and healthy, and he looked good in the preseason matchup with the Florida Everblades.
- Patrick Watling – His speed and agility will be key for the season.
- Brady Vail – Hailing from Palm City, Florida, Vail had a large home-state appeal, and his speed was an asset, but he has moved on to sign with the Fort Wayne Komets.
- Jack Rodewald – The reliable, hard-playing forward has a two-way contract with the Wichita Thunder and Binghamton Senators.
- Rob Madore – The classy goaltender worked with Ryan Massa to keep the sometimes painful SOG onslaughts at bay, but he has passed the mantle on to the younger goalies.
- Trevor Ludwig – The blueline veteran Ludwig has played with many championship teams over the course of his career and was the captain of the Missouri Mavericks last season.
- Brock Montgomery – While he is not new, he did play last season with the Fort Wayne Komets. The Solar Bears will look for his strong, two-way physical play. Many fans are glad that super-Brock is back.
Movin’ On Up
- Ryan Massa – The Maple Leafs and Marlies have many goalies in the pipeline, but Massa is turning heads in the organization for his reliable and gritty play.
- T. J. Foster – The Solar Bears need a nimble scorer like Foster. He’s in the second year of a two-way contract with the Marlies, and he showed last year that he can catch fire.
- Eric Faille – Another Marlies prospect who brings maturity and rock steady performance to the offense. If the Marlies need someone to call up, he is going to be near the front of the queue.
Sin Bin Swami Says…
The Solar Bears were disappointed that they did not make the playoffs last year, and have set a return to the playoffs as a major goal this season. To achieve this, they will need to cut back on injuries and play better on their home ice. Playoffs are in the cards this year, and if they manage it right, they have the potential to win their division. The affiliation with the Toronto Marlies will play a major factor: The Marlies will send down a contingent of bright prospects, but call-ups at key points in the season can be disruptive. Marlies Head Coach Sheldon Keefe and General Manager Kyle Dubas have developed a close working relationship with Noreen, and there are signs from the top that the choreography of moves this year will be more sensitive to the needs of the Solar Bears.
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