ECHL Game Recap:  Florida Everblades vs. Orlando Solar Bears | 02/14/2024

Photo by: James Slemp for Inside the Rink

ESTERO, Fla.- Valentine’s Day wasn’t so sweet for the Florida Everblades as they hosted the intrastate Orlando Solar Bears. The Everblades and Hertz Arena hosted Margaritaville Night, and the team wore specialty Hawaiian-themed jerseys. 5,087 joined in singing Jimmy Buffest songs throughout the night, but the theme night, Valentine’s romance, and the energy the team had from sweeping the Adirondack Thunder were not enough to defeat the Solar Bears. Orlando came out on top, winning a shootout to take the second point. 

The Everblades entered the night on a four-game points streak and a 5-3-1-1 record over their last ten games, whereas the Solar Bears have hit a rough spot in their play, going 2-5-3-0 in their previous ten. The Solar Bears also had yet to win on the road since January 12th, losing nine straight games. The teams last met in mid-December for two games at Hertz Arena, and each team came away with one victory. The Everblades skated the same lineup from Saturday’s win against the Adirondack Thunder. Everblades forward Nathan Staois has found a new home on wing with forwards Cam Darcy and Luke Santerno; he started the year on defense but moved to wing in January. I asked Staois about the transition, and he said, “It was a bit of an adjustment at the start. Positioning in the defensive zone and neutral zone is all new to me. I grew up playing forward, so I have a little experience. My linemates, Cam Darcy and Luke Santerno, have made the transition easier. We’ve had really good chemistry. I’ve learned a lot from Darcy; he’s always helping and talking to me about positioning.” Jake Maurice’s three keys of the game were to limit the turnovers through good puck management, be strong on the penalty kill because the Solar Bears have a strong power play, and be smart in the net front battles in both the offensive and defensive zones. During the Coach’s Corner, coach Brad Ralph emphasized the need for the team to manage the puck well against the Solar Bears’ fast transition game. Cam Johnson got the start for the Everblades, his fourth in a row and eighth in the last nine games. Brandon Halverson also made his fourth straight start for the Solar Bears.

Photo by: James Slemp for Inside the Rink

The first period started slowly, with both teams limited to poor-quality shots. Jimmy Mazza was called for slashing for the Solar Bears at 7:53, but the Everblades managed only two shots on goal with the man advantage. Alex Frye (9) scored an unassisted goal off a breakaway at 15:03, putting the Solar Bears on the scoresheet and in the lead. Solar Bears forward Darick Angeli (5) scored at 18:13 to put them up by two. Angeli started the season in Ireland, playing for the Belfast Giants. He signed with the Solar Bears on January 23rd and has played in ten games, scoring five goals, six assists, and eleven points.

The Everblades turned their play around in the second period. Bobo Carpenter (21) got the Everblades on the scoresheet at 3:20. Defenseman Will Reilly (5) skated the puck from his defensive zone up the right side, beating the Solar Bears defense and Brandon Halverson to tie the game at 2-2. Oliver Chau (15) would have the puck deflect off his skate and into the net at 19:10 to give the Everblades their first lead of the night. 

That lead would last until 1:30 of the third period when Jimmy Mazza scored his fourth goal of the season to tie the game. Neither team would score as the game slowed significantly. The tight play resulted in only ten shots on goal for both teams combined.

Photo by: James Slemp for Inside the Rink

Neither team would score in the seven-minute overtime period. The Solar Bears had the best opportunity when the Everblades received a two-minute penalty for too many men on the ice. The top penalty kill team in the ECHL weathered the two-minute penalty, holding the Solar Bears to three shots on goal with the man advantage. With the game tied at the end of extended play, the game went to a shootout.

Alex Frye wasted no time scoring on his attempt for the Solar Bears, and Logan Lambdin shot wide left in his attempt. Round two started with Mitchell Hoelscher seeing the puck slide off his stick during his attempt. Sean Josling, however, tied the game with his shot into the top of the net. Jesse Jacques scored the game-winner on a backhand shot over Johnson’s blocker. Everblades forward Oliver Chau missed wide on his shot, and the Solar Bears took the win and the second point, 4-3.

This was a tough loss for the Everblades. Riding high from sweeping the Adirondack Thunder, the team looked to use that momentum to help push them up the standings and into a more solid playoff spot. Their slow start to the game and inability to close out the game against the struggling Solar Bears puts them in a tough position. I asked about the team’s slow start in the first period, and Coach Ralph said, “They play a different brand of hockey, and we were adjusting on the fly. Unfortunately, first periods haven’t been our strength this year. The team regrouped and played well in the second period.” Forward Nathan Staois echoed much of what Coach Ralph said, “We didn’t get off to the start we wanted, but we found our game after the first. We got back to putting pucks behind their defense and creating some offense. We have a tight group, so we know we’re in every game. Our leadership did an excellent job willing us back into the game.” 

Photo by: Christina Slemp for Inside the Rink

The Everblades have a day off before traveling to Jacksonville on Friday to play the second play, Icemen. The Everblades have lost all five games against the Icemen this season, managing only one point in an overtime loss. They then travel to South Carolina to play a two-game series against the third-place Stingrays starting on Saturday. The Everblades also have a losing record against the Stingrays, going 1-1-1-0 this season. Coach Ralph identified some key things from this game the team can use on the upcoming road trip, “we did some good things on the powerplay and penalty kill. Our defensemen were moving their feet, and we’re playing more to our identity.”

The Everblades play the Jacksonville Icemen at VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena in Jacksonville on Friday at 7:00 p.m.

James Slemp

I write for and photograph the Florida Everblades for ITR. I am a retiree that has turned my hobby of photography into a business. I currently live in Sarasota, Florida with my wife, Christy, but I'm originally from California. My previous career has taken me all over the US and the world and I definitely enjoy traveling. I've played hockey for over 30 years, learning as an adult, and love the game.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

ECHL Eastern Conference Finals Recap: Adirondack Thunder vs Florida Everblades Game 3 | 05/22/2024

The Adirondack Thunder and Florida Everblades played Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Finals on Wednesday Night as the series shifted to Estero. During the regular season, the Adirondack Thunder had their struggles vs. Everblades at Hertz Arena as they got swept during the three-game series in February, and Florida had won their last three […]

Read More

ECHL: Another Rapid City Rush Forward Signs with the Dundee Stars in the EIHL

Rapid City Rush forward Keanu Yamamoto has signed to play in Scotland for the 2024-25 season. He will be joining teammate Brett Gravelle and the Dundee Stars of the Elite Ice Hockey League (EIHL), whose teams are located in the United Kingdom. Collegiate Career Before going pro, Yamamoto spent five seasons at McGill University in […]

Read More

ECHL: Reading Royals 2023-2024 Season Review

Season Record It was no secret that Reading had a tough season. It takes a toll on a team, from losing games to losing a head coach in the middle of the season, to not making the playoffs. The Royals concluded the 2023-2024 season with a record of 29-35-6-2. The record at home ended the […]

Read More