ECHL Game Recap: Florida Everblades vs. Savannah Ghost Pirates | 01/10/2024

Photo by: James Slemp for Inside the Rink

ESTERO, Fla. – Returning home Wednesday night to the Hertz Arena, the Florida Everblades looked to maintain their consecutive points streak and close the gap on the fourth-place Jacksonville Icemen. However, 5,150 fans were left disappointed, as the visiting Savannah Ghost Pirates jumped out with the early lead and never looked back, winning the game 4-1.

Wednesday night’s game marked the first of five straight games the two will play against each other, the first three in Estero and the last two in Savannah. With the Everblades currently in fifth place and just three points out of the final playoff spot and the Ghost Pirates in sixth place, this five-game series could significantly impact the playoff race in the South Division. The two teams are relatively unfamiliar, having met only once this season, a game won by the Everblades 4-2 in Savannah. Jake Maurice’s three keys to the game were to set the tone early, play effective special teams, and defend the blue line. During the Coach’s Corner pre-game interview, coach Brad Ralph discussed the upcoming game and the five-game series. He noted, “They’re a good hockey team. They’re chasing us in the standings, so we can expect their very best here tonight and this week.” He said, “They’re a team that transitions very well. Their D are always up on the rush. They’re a threat once they enter the zone to look for passes east and west. They can be a handful.” Coach Ralph identified his keys for the game for the Everblades: manage the puck and be ready from puck drop, hold onto the puck, and defend as well as we can.

Cam Johnson got the start in net for the Everblades. He has gone 2-3 over his last five starts with a .876 save percentage. Jesper Vikman got his first ECHL start for the Ghost Pirates. The Vegas Golden Knight prospect Vikman has played in seven games for the Henderson Silver Knights of the AHL this season and has four wins and one loss in overtime for a .927 save percentage. Everblades All-Star Nathan Staios continued to play forward instead of his usual defensive position, playing left wing on the top line with Andrew Fyten and Joe Pendenza. 

The first period started slow as both teams attempted to break through their opponent’s defensive scheme. Ghost Pirates forward Mike Ferraro was called for tripping at the five-minute mark, but the Everblades couldn’t score with the man advantage. Ghost Pirates forward Alex Gilmour (6) scored the game’s first goal on a deflection from Brent Pedersen’s shot at 9:39; Logan Drevitch got the second assist on the goal. The pace of play picked up after that first goal with no results, and the period ended 1-0 for the Ghost Pirates. Shots were 18 for the Everblades and 13 for the Ghost Pirates.

It took just 24 seconds into the second period before the crowd erupted on a wrist-shot goal by Everblades forward Logan Lambdin (7). The Ghost Pirates would retake the lead at 11:45 on an absolute laser shot by Simon Pinard (13) that beat Cam Johnson over his left shoulder. Sebastian Vidmar (7) would add to the Ghost Pirates lead when he one-timed a pass from behind the net with just over two minutes left in the period. Again, the Everblades outshot the Ghost Pirates 14-8 but trailed in the game 3-1.

The third period saw a renewed rush by the Everblades, but they couldn’t sustain any quality pressure in the offensive zone. Keltie Jeri-Leon’s first goal of the season came at the ten-minute mark and sealed the victory for the visiting team. Penalties by Andrew Fyten for slashing and Zach Uens for interference effectively stopped any offensive momentum the Everblades had, and the game ended with a Ghost Pirates victory, 4-1.

Cam Johnson’s 27 saves on 31 shots was only good enough for a .871 save percentage, well below his season average of .903. Vikman took his first win in the ECHL, stopping 43 of 44 shots for a .977 save percentage. The Three Stars of the Game all came from the Ghost Pirates. Keltie Jeri-Leon took the Third Star with his one-goal performance, Simon Pinard was second with his one goal, and Jesper Vikman took the First Star.

The Everblades could only accomplish some of the game’s keys, as identified by Coach Ralph and Jake Maurice. The Everblades didn’t set the tone early and had poor puck management. Several pass attempts by Everblades players were off the mark, resulting in turnovers and missed opportunities. These turnovers allowed the Ghost Pirates to execute their transition play and break through the blue line, and even though they were outshot in every period, they were able to generate higher-quality chances that resulted in goals. Look for a different team in the Everblades as they resume the series this Friday at 7:30 p.m. at the Hertz Arena.

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.

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