Orlando Solar Bears give student opportunity

Some dream it. Some do it.

Matt Panzo grew up in Eustis, Fla. just north of Orlando playing hockey and is now on the brink of earning a final spot on the return of the Orlando Solar Bears team.

Currently attending Valencia College’s Winter Park campus, Panzo’s dream of earning a professional contract is in the hands of coach Berehowsky.

“Panzo is a shifty forward, he’s very creative, he has good speed,” said head coach Drake Berehowsky on Panzo’s ability to play with the team. “He’s done a great job during the tryouts and I thought this kid could handle it.”

Balancing classes and attending hockey practice may seem like a lot, but for Panzo it’s all about prioritizing.

“It’s tough, it’s such a hard schedule, but my teachers have been really great,” said Panzo. “My teachers have been really understanding, some of the best teachers I ever had at Valencia.”

Panzo began playing hockey at the YMCA when he was 6-years-old, but got into ice hockey when he was 8-years-old.

With the Solar Bears coming back from a 10-year hiatus, Panzo is looking forward to earning an official spot on the roster.

“I used to play at the RDV while I was growing up, and played games during the Solar Bears intermission, so I watched them growing up,” he said.

Coach Berehowsky is planning to make several cuts before the start of the regular season and for Matt, proving his worth to the coach means a lot.

“I want to make the final cut and be on the team,” said Panzo. “I want to be a player that can contribute and do the small things.”

“My goal is to be a contributor,” he added.

With preseason beginning on Friday, Oct. 5 against the Florida EverBlades of Estero, Fla., Matt Panzo looks to continue bringing his current form to solidify his spot on the team.

According to Berehowsky, “everything is going to be earned here, nothing is going to be given.”