Solar Bears add experience, scoring, goaltending

MAITLAND, FLA – With Labor Day firmly in the rear view mirror, hockey coaches across North America have been burning up their cell phones finalizing rosters for training camps that begin in less than a month.
Head Coach Drake Berehowsky and the ECHL expansion Orlando Solar Bears just finished a very busy two weeks in which they announced no less than six player signings. With training camp starting on October 1st, Berehowsky upgraded his initial roster with experience, scoring and goaltending ability among the sextet.
The first name announced was one that should be familiar to long-time ECHL fans around the league. Kingston, Ontario native Kevin Baker is a seasoned veteran, having been in the pro ranks since 2000 following a spectacular junior career with the Trenton Sting of the OPJHL and the Belleville Bulls of the OHL. In four years as a junior, he never scored less than 21 goals and 42 points in a season, peaking with 44 goals and 81 points with the Bulls during their OHL championship-winning season in 1998-1999. His success led the Los Angeles Kings to select him in the seventh round (193rd overall pick) in the 1999 NHL Entry Draft.
His pro career has taken him to Germany and Italy as well as the AHL where he saw action for six different teams. The bulk of his career has been spent in the ECHL with stops in Johnstown, Texas, Florida and last year in Stockton. Over 317 ECHL games played, he has amassed 168 goals and 185 assists for 353 points. His best season came with the Florida Everblades in 2008-2009 when he posted a career high 57 goals and 45 assists for 102 total points, winning the league’s Most Valuable Player award and being named a First Team All-Star. As a member of the Thunder a year ago, he notched 27 goals and 56 points in 68 games.
Montreal-born Thomas Beauregard is another high-powered sniper who Coach Berehowsky calls a “very good two-way forward”. Like Baker, Beauregard made a name for himself in juniors. In five season with the Acadie-Bathurst Titans of the QMJHL, he tallied 154 goals and 140 assists in 256 regular season games. His best year was the 2006-2007 campaign when he put up 71 goals and 124 points in just 69 games.
His pro career started with a bang as he notched 31 goals and 34 assists for 65 points in 59 games with the ECHL Cincinnati Cyclones in 2007-2008. He added 16 points in 19 games in the post-season to help the Cyclones win the Kelly Cup that year. Two seasons later, he joined the Wheeling Nailers and had 57 points – 34 of them goals – in 57 games. Late in the season, he was sent to Elmira where he picked up ten points in 14 games. Last season, he had 59 points in 60 games for the Wichita Thunder of the CHL.
Derick Martin, who hails from Timmons, Ontario, may be listed at 5’11” and 185 pounds but he is a tough defense with a wealth of experience under his belt. His tough guy role was solidified during three seasons of junior play with the Hull Olympiques of the QMJHL. He averaged 94 penalty minutes for those three years with a high of 102. He also earned a reputation as a solid defender when in 2001-2002 he had 88 penalty minutes but notched a plus-26 rating.
Martin turned pro in for the 2004-2005 season, joining the Lubbock Cotton Kings in the CHL where he led the team‘s defensemen in assists (25) and points (34). Since then he has accumulated 423 games played in the ECHL, 22 in France and 16 in the AHL (14 in Providence and 2 with Peoria). His ECHL stops include Long Beach, Columbia, Texas, Alaska, Elmira (where he played with Beauregard), Victoria and Utah. In 64 games with the Grizzlies last year, he had 12 points and 78 penalty minutes in 64 games.
Berehowsky’s first signing between the pipes was goalie Brooks Ostergard. Born in Chagrin Falls, Ohio, Ostergard played junior hockey for three seasons in the EJHL with the Bay State Breakers and the Jersey Hitmen. His best junior season came with Bay State in 2007-2008 when he posted a 21-14-3 record with a 2.72 goals against average and a .919 save percentage in 40 games played.
He then headed off to Robert Morris University where he played in 103 games and was a teammate of Solar Bears forward Ron Cramer. His career won-loss record of 39-41-12 was deceptive because he had a 2.73 goals against average and .917 save percentage in that time. His best season for the Colonials came in 2010-2011 when he went 14-9-2 with a 2.73 GAA and a .915 save percentage. In his four years, his goals against mark only hit three goals once and his save percentage never dropped below .900.
Ostergard turned pro following graduation in 2012, joining the ECHL’s Chicago Express for the final weeks of the season. He saw action in one game against Trenton, allowing five goals on 32 shots in an overtime contest.
Second year defenseman Ryan Blair joins the Solar Bears as a blue liner with size and a stay-at-home mentality. The Ashburn, Virginia native has three years of junior experience under his belt having played two seasons with the NAHL’s Texarkana Bandits and one with the Foxboro Stars of the EJHL.
He then moved on to play for the UMass-Lowell Riverhawks in the ultra competitive Hockey East conference. In 141 games at UMass-Lowell, he tallied three goals and 33 assists for 36 points and added 74 penalty minutes.
He joined the Cincinnati Cyclones for three games to start his pro career last season before being traded to the Toledo Walleye where he notched his first professional goal and two assists in 28 games. He would again be traded, this time to the Reading Royals where he had one assist in 25 games.
The final player announcement was the signing of rookie Drew Palmisano as the second goalie in the Solar Bears’ camp. The Ann Arbor, Michigan native knows what it is like to win, having been a part of the 2007-2008 Clark Cup champion Omaha Lancers in the USHL junior league. His play with the Lancers over two seasons and with the Ohio Junior Blue jackets earned him USHL Goaltender of the Year honors in 2006-2007 and Second Team All-Star nods in both 2006-2007 and 2007-2008.
He then set his sights on playing college hockey, joining the Michigan State Spartans of the CCHA. Over four seasons, he played in 82 games posting a career 31-34-13 record. As with Ostergard, the win-loss mark was not a true indicator as he had a 2.71 goals against average and a .912 save percentage during his four years in Lansing. His sophomore season was his best as he went 15-10-5 with 2.44 goals against average and .917 save percentage, earning him NCAA Second Team All-Star honors.
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