ECHL Game Recap:  Florida Everblades vs. Worcester Railers | 02/21/2024

Photo by: Patrick Onufer for Patrick O'Photos

ESTERO, Fla.- The battle of the fourth-place teams in the Eastern Conference kicked off Wednesday night in front of 5,805 fans at Hertz Arena. The Florida Everblades, fourth in the South Division, are 4-3-2-1 over their last ten games, and the Worcester Railers, fourth in the North Division, are 5-4-1-0 over their final ten. This series marks the only time the two teams will face each other this season; they have only played each other three times in history. The Everblades won the game 3-1 after dominating play in the second and third periods. 

Photo by: Patrick Onufer for Patrick O’Photos

Former Everblades players forward Ashton Calder and goaltender John Muse returned to Hertz Arena Wednesday night for the first time since they left the team. Calder started his professional career with the Everblades last season, where he helped the team win its second Kelly Cup in a row. John Muse was the playoff MVP for the Everblades in 2012 when the team won its first Kelly Cup Championship. Everblades forward Oliver Chau entered the night on a home four-game scoring streak, and Joe Pendenza sat at 97 goals scored as an Everblade. Coach Ralph said that the Railers were a good, fast hockey team that played well within a structure. He added that they have a lot of younger players who put the work in to win. Coach Ralph didn’t change his lineup for the game but adjusted his lines throughout the night. Jake Maurice’s three keys of the game were.

· Be aggressive for 60 minutes,

· Have consistent specialty teams and

· Control the crease.

Goalie Cam Johnson made his 34th start of the season for the Everblades, while former Everblade John Muse got his 16th for the Railers. Neither team generated quality scoring chances in the first few minutes of the game until Sean Josling (13) deflected a shot from Evan Nause past John Muse. That goal was the highlight of the first period, as the teams couldn’t generate sustained offense. The period ended with the Railers leading in shots 8-7 but behind on the scoreboard 1-0.

Photo by: Patrick Onufer for Patrick O’Photos

The Everblades started to dominate play in the second period. They generated 16 shots on goal against the Railers’ six. The Railers, however, tied the game at 17:06 on Jake Pivonka’s 14th of the season off a one-timer from the left faceoff circle. Captain Joe Pendenza (16) redirected a pass from Sean Josling into the net just over a minute later to put the Everblades back on top. Tensions heated up at 19:25 when Railers defenseman Artyom Kulakov delivered a hard hit from behind to forward Mark Senden. Trainers came out and assisted Senden off the ice. Kulakov would receive a one-game suspension and monetary fine by the ECHL for an unpenalized boarding infraction. The Everblades took the lead into the period break 2-1.

Photo by: Patrick Onufer for Patrick O’Photos

Fans saw the first and only fight of the night when Everblades Cam Hausinger and Railers Artyom Kulakov dropped the gloves at 1:35. Forward Mark Senden returned to the lineup after recovering from the hit in the second period. Jake Pivonka would get called for tripping at 2:32 sending the Everblades on the man advantage. Oliver Chau (17) would score a powerplay goal at 2:56. The Everblades would hold on to win 3-1, outshooting the Railers 37-24. 

Photo by: Patrick Onufer for Patrick O’Photos

Oliver Chau extended his home scoring streak to five games, and Joe Pendenza moved within two goals of hitting 100 scored as an Everblade. Cam Johnson won his 16th game of the season, moving his record to 16-10-4 with a .918 save percentage. The win moved the Everblades to three points ahead of the fifth-place Orlando Solar Bears and six points behind the third-place South Carolina Stingrays. Although they didn’t have much success in the first period, the Everblades were able to score first. They adapted their play in the second period, which allowed them to generate more quality shots on goal. Even though they gave up a powerplay goal late in the second period, the Everblades quickly scored to retake the lead. The Everblades were able to get their powerplay going with a goal in the third to seal the win.  

The Everblades play game two in the series Friday at 7:30 p.m. at 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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