The Orlando Solar Bears, in name at least, were resurrected for the 2012-13 season as a franchise in the ECHL. The original Solar Bears spent six years in the IHL from 1995-96 to 2000-01. The original team went to the Turner Cup finals three times in those six years, winning the championship in their final season. The new-style Orlando Solar Bears are affiliated with the Minnesota Wild of the NHL and are currently carrying seven Ontario Hockey League grads on the roster. Behind the bench, there are two more OHL alumni.
Brad Good started his season with the Mississippi Surge of the SPHL (Southern Professional Hockey League) but shifted to the Solar Bears after seven games. Good played four years in the OHL from 2003-04 to 2006-07, all with the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds. 2011-12 was Brad’s first year in pro hockey after four years with the Carleton University Ravens. He spent last season entirely with the Missouri Mavericks of the Central Hockey League.
Kevin R. Baker played three years in the OHL from 1997-98 to 1999-00, all with the Belleville Bulls. 2012-13 is Baker’s sixth season in the ECHL and holds the league record for most power play goals in a season, set in 2008-09 with the Florida Everblades. Kevin spent the 2011-12 season entirely with the Stockton Thunder of the ECHL.
Chris Lawrence started the 2012-13 season with another first year franchise, the San Francisco Bulls. After six games, Lawrence was sent east to Orlando. Chris played four years in the OHL from 2003-04 to 2006-07 with the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds and Mississauga IceDogs. Originally a third round pick of the Tampa Bay Lightning in 2005, Lawrence has spent his pro hockey life with several teams in the AHL and ECHL.
Michael Liambas began the season with one game in a Cincinnati Cyclones jersey before becoming a Solar Bear. Liambas played in the OHL for four years from 2006-07 to 2009-10, all with the Erie Otters. Of course, he is still infamously known for his hit on Ben Fanelli of the Kitchener Rangers that put Fanelli out of hockey for nearly two full years and ended Liambas’ OHL career (due to suspension). Michael played exclusively with the Cyclones in 2011-12.
Rob Mignardi played just 30 total games in 2011-12, his first in pro hockey. He split his time between the Manchester Monarchs and Houston Aeros, both of the American Hockey League. Mignardi played five yearsa in the OHL from 2006-07 to 2010-11. His first three were with the Kingston Frontenacs and his final two were with the Owen Sound Attack. In 2010-11, he led the Attack to a Robertson Cup victory while leading the league in playoff points and being honoured with the Wayne Gretzky 99 Award as OHL playoff MVP.
Scott Tanski played four years in the OHL from 2007-08 to 2010-11, all with the Brampton Battalion. Tanski played 68 games for the AHL’s Connecticut Whale in 2011-12.
Mathew Sisca is the current team leader in points for the Solar Bears. Sisca played four years in the OHL from 2007-08 to 2010-11 with the Niagara IceDogs, Guelph Storm and Saginaw Spirit. In 2011-12, his first in pro hockey, Matt split his season between the Bakersfield Condors and Cincinnati Cyclones, both of the ECHL. He was a member of the 2011-12 ECHL All-Rookie Team.
Behind the Bench:
Drake Berehowsky is the head coach of the Solar Bears. Drake played four years in the OHL from 1988-89 to 1991-92. His first season was spent with the Kingston Raiders and he carried on with the franchise as they became the Frontenacs, the following season. In 1990-91, he switched mid-season to the North Bay Centennials, where he carried out the remainder of his OHL career. Berehowsky played several years in the NHL with the Toronto Maple Leafs, Pittsburgh Penguins, Edmonton Oilers, Nashville Predators, Vancouver Canucks and Phoenix Coyotes. He comes to Orlando after three years as assistant coach of the AHL’s Peoria Rivermen.
Ray Sheppard is one of just four players to ever score 80 or more goals in a single OHL season. In 1985-86, his third of three years with the Cornwall Royals, Sheppard scored 81 and totalled 142 points in 63 games. Sheppard played in the NHL from 1987-88 to 1998-99 with the Buffalo Sabres, New York Rangers, Detroit Red Wings, San Jose Sharks, Florida Panthers and Carolina Hurricanes. He was a 50 goal scorer with the Red Wings in 1993-94, scoring 52 in 82 games.