The Solar Bears welcomed 26 players including eight goalies to their third annual Free Agent Camp on Tuesday, September 9. One of those skaters was Matt Panzo, who made the Solar Bears Training Camp Roster and appeared in two preseason games after competing in Free Agent Camp in 2012. We had a chance to catch up with Matt today.
Q: You had a chance to play two preseason games in 2012. What have you been doing since then?
A: I went to school at Valencia College. I kept working out, and have been playing in men's leagues here at the RDV Sportsplex Ice Den. In the spring, I decided I was going to try out again. I spent the summer skating with some professional players and working with the same trainer I had in juniors.
Q: Talk about your experience at Free Agent Camp in 2012 and how that influenced your decision to try out again.
A: It was very exciting to get an opportunity to participate in a professionally run camp. When you don't have major college or professional experience, you have to find a way to get your foot in the door. Making the team out of Free Agent Camp last time was exciting. The goal is of course to make the team, but either way it provides great experience.
Q: Can you compare the Free Agent Camp this year to camp in 2012?
A: I think it was very similar this time as it was before. We might have had a few less skaters in camp this time, which provides a chance to showcase your skills a little bit better. I enjoyed the way Coach Williams prepared the drills and treated it like a professional practice.
Q: You were not the only player who made the Training Camp roster in 2012, as Ed Levens also made the cut. Have you spoken with him very much since then?
A: Only a little bit. We both have played men's league against each other a few times, and we competed against each other in a tournament over the summer as well. I did go and see both Eddie and Derick Burnett play in the same game back in the 2012-13 season.
Q: What inspired you to continue to work towards a chance to play for Orlando?
A: Playing for Orlando is something I've always wanted to do. Going to the Solar Bears games and seeing people from Orlando being excited about the Solar Bears, that means a lot, and I would love to be a part of it.