ORLANDO, Fla. — The Orlando Solar Bears have signed forwards Nathan Burke and Eric Esposito, General Manager and Head Coach Matt Carkner announced today.
Burke, 24, played 36 games during the 2022-23 season at Bowling Green State University (BGSU), notching NCAA career-highs is goals (17), assists (12), and points (29). The Scottsdale, Arizona native finished a five-year NCAA career at University of Minnesota (2018-2021) and Bowling Green State University (2021-2023) with 46 goals and 34 assists in 157 games.
“Nathan Burke brings good size and skating ability,” said Carkner. “He is aggressive on the forecheck and has found his scoring touch this season. He’s not afraid of the physical side of the game and can fend off defending players. He’s a driven kid looking to establish himself in the pro game.”
During his career at BGSU, Burke was nominated for the Hobey Baker Award for top NCAA player in Men’s Ice Hockey for the 2021-22 season. That same year, Burke was named to the Central Collegiate Hockey Association (CCHA) All-Academic Team and was a CCHA Scholar Athlete.
Burke was part of the University of Minnesota Team that went on to win the Big Ten Championship during the 2020-21 season.
Prior to his collegiate career, Burke led the Aberdeen Wings of the North American Hockey League (NAHL) in scoring during the 2017-18 season, scoring 32 goals and 24 assists for 56 points in 60 games. Burke added two more goals in five playoff games that season.
Esposito, 24, wrapped up his fifth year in NCAA Hockey as a graduate student at Mercyhurst University after four years at University of New Hampshire (2018-22).
The West Haven, Connecticut native had a breakout season at Mercyhurst, leading the Lakers in scoring with 17 goals and 15 assists for 32 points in 35 games. In 151 NCAA games, Esposito scored 26 goals and 25 assists for 51 points.
“Eric Esposito is a crafty player who is good off the rush,” said Carkner. “His hands allow him to make tight area plays that lead to scoring chances. He’s a player who wants to do all he can to help the team win. He hits, blocks shots, and can score. His tenacity and compete level made him an attractive option for us.”
Prior to his collegiate career, the 5-foot-11, 188-pound forward appeared in 160 junior games in the United States Hockey League (USHL) for the Youngstown Phantoms from 2015-2018. Esposito was named the captain of the Phantoms during the 2017-18 season.
Eric’s brother Alex played collegiately at University of Vermont and Providence College and has appeared in two games for the Iowa Heartlanders this season.
NEXT HOME GAMES: The Solar Bears return home on Friday, March 10 to face the Atlanta Gladiators on Teacher Appreciation Night presented by First Watch. The puck drops at AdventHealth Rink at Amway Center at 7:00 p.m.
Sunday, March 12 is Hockey Fights Cancer Night presented by Frank Gay Services. Puck drop between the Solar Bears and the Jacksonville Icemen is at 3:00 p.m. Stick around after the game for the Sk8 to Elimin8 Ice Show featuring Olympic Gold Medalist Scott Hamilton.
2022-23 Season Presented by Janney Roofing: The 2022-23 Orlando Solar Bears season is presented by Janney Roofing. Voted Orlando’s Best Roofer by Orlando Weekly, Janney Roofing is a family-founded and family-operated company built on honesty, quality and integrity. Get your free quote today at janneyroofing.com.
About the Orlando Solar Bears:
The Orlando Solar Bears are the proud affiliate of the NHL’s Stanley Cup champion Tampa Bay Lightning and members of the ECHL, the premier “AA” hockey league in North America. In 10 seasons of operation, the team has qualified for the Kelly Cup Playoffs five times. The Solar Bears are owned and operated by the Orlando Magic and the DeVos Family, and play at the AdventHealth Rink at Amway Center, the 2012 Street and Smith’s Sports Business Journal Sports Facility of the Year.
Officially licensed Orlando Solar Bears replica team jerseys, apparel, and headwear can be purchased at orlandosolarbearshockey.com/shop.