ECHL: Florida Everblades Season in Review

For the second straight season, the Kelly Cup is staying in Southwest Florida as the Florida Everblades captured their second consecutive Kelly Cup Championship. However, the Everblades weren’t the dominant team like they were when they won the Kelly Cup Playoffs back in 2022. The Everblades finished the 2022-23 season with a record of 38-25-4-5 as they snuck into the Kelly Cup Playoffs as the #4 seed in the South Divison. They didn’t go on any crazy streaks, as their long winning streak was six games, and their longest losing streak was four games. When talking about the Everblades, you can’t forget about their Head Coach, Brad Ralph. In his 13 years of coaching, he has yet to fail to take a team to the playoffs and has now led the Everblades to back-to-back titles. The Everblades signed Ralph to a five-year extension back in July of 2021.

Top Performers

Joe Pendenza was a vital part of the Everblades during the 2022-23 season as he led the Everblades with 24 goals and 38 assists for 62 points in 63 games; Blake Winiecki, who finished second in points for Florida, had 42 in 70 games. Sean Josling was the only other Everblade to put up 20+ goals, as he finished with 21 in 47 games. Jake Smith, who was released by Florida in early April, led the team with 10 PP goals in 45 games for the Blades.

They say that goaltending wins championships, and the Everblades relied heavily on Cam Johnson this season, as he played in 55 of the team’s 72 games. Johnson finished with a record of 26-20-4-3 with a 2.85 GAA, .907 SV%, and two shutouts. The Michigan native would lead the ECHL in minutes played(3,182) and saves(1,475). Despite finishing atop those categories, he had the second most losses in the league with 20. Evan Fitzpatrick would see 17 games with the Blades as he went 11-3-0-1 with a 2.25 GAA and .921 save percentage.

The Kelly Cup Playoff Run

Armand Klisivitch/InsideTheRink

The Everblades would face the South Carolina Stingrays in the opening round of the Kelly Cup Playoffs, and despite the Stingrays being the top seed in the South Divison, Florida had their number in the regular season as they went 7-2-1 against them in the regular season and would knock them out in six games in the opening round of the playoffs. Florida would use that momentum to take the first three games against the Jacksonville Icemen, but the Icemen would respond, taking the series to six games, only for them to lose on home ice. For the second straight season, it would be the Newfoundland Growlers and Florida Everblades in the Eastern Conference Finals. In a very competitive series, the Everblades would upset the Growlers in a very entertaining six-game series. In the Kelly Cup Championship, it would be the Brabham Cup Champion Idaho Steelheads who’d come out of the West to face the Everblades. The Everblades would shock the ECHL world by not only winning their second straight Kelly Cup Championship but sweeping the Idaho Steelheads in four games to do it.

There are two big factors that led the Everblades during their run to the Kelly Cup Championship; Scoring from across the lineup and goaltending. Ten different skaters would pick up at least 10 points in the Kelly Cup Playoffs as Sean Josling and Tyler Irvine each had ten goals apiece. Will Calverley, who only played in 10 games during the regular season, would break out in the playoffs putting up three goals along with two assists in 12 games; Ashton Calder had six points in 17 Kelly Cup Playoff games after only having only one goal in six regular season games. You can’t forget about John McCarron, who had six goals in the Kelly Cup Playoffs, three of which were game-winning goals. Cam Johnson was unbelievable for the Blades during the Kelly Cup Playoffs as he went 16-4-2 with a 2.10 GAA, .922 SV%, and four shutouts in 22 games.

Armand Klisivitch

Inside The Rink ECHL Manager | Senior Editor Credentialed Reporter for the Adirondack Thunder & Worcester Railers.

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