ECHL Game Recap:  Florida Everblades vs. Worcester Railers | 02/24/2024

Photo by: Christina Slemp for Inside the Rink

ESTERO, Fla.- The Florida Everblades held a First Responders Night at Hertz Arena Saturday night for the third and final game against the Worcester Railers. Hertz Arena was packed to the rafters for the game, with 7,650 fans filling the seats and the standing-room-only overflow areas. The Everblades wore black specialty jerseys with flames on the sleeves and body, and two police officers rappelled from the rafters to deliver the game puck. The sparks wouldn’t end with the puck drop as both teams exploded for eight combined goals. The Everblades took an early lead, lost it in the second period, and rallied to win the game with a three-goal third period. The win completed the sweep for the Everblades and further solidified their position in the standings with 21 games left in the regular season.

Photo by: Christina Slemp for Inside the Rink

During the Coach’s Corner, Coach Ralph said, “We got off to a slow start on Friday. We weren’t as emotionally charged as we have been. David Tendek played well and kept us in the game. Our powerplay got going for us, and we had some strong penalty kills in the third period to secure the win.” When asked how the Everblades could complete the sweep against the Railers Saturday night, Coach Ralph said, “We need to find the energy and an aggressive mindset. We need to score early and stay on top of the Railers.” Everblades forward Chris Ordoobadi returned to the lineup for Saturday’s game after coming off injured reserve; forward/defenseman Nathan Staois was scratched. Railers defenseman Artyom Kulakov returned to the lineup after serving his one-game suspension for his boarding hit against Mark Senden in Wednesday’s game. The Everblades were looking for the sweep against the Railers to maintain their lead over the Orlando Solar Bears for the final playoff spot in the South Division. This would be the Everblades’ last game in February, and they kick off March on the road against the tough South Carolina Stingrays. Cam Johnson returned to the net for the Everblades, while Cole Ceci got the start for the Railers. Jake Maurice’s three keys to the game were:

· Feed off the energy of the sell-out crowd.

· Continue to capitalize on the powerplay.

· Control the neutral zone to slow the Railers’ rush.

The Everblades started fast, preventing the Railers from getting a shot on goal until 10:22 of the first period. During the first ten minutes, the Railers were penalized twice, but the Everblades couldn’t get the puck past Cole Ceci. At 14:00, Sean Josling (14) completed a tic-tac-toe play with Oliver Chau and Joe Pendenza, one-timing the puck into the net and putting the Everblades on the scoreboard. With the man advantage, Joe Pendenza (18) one-timed a pass from Sean Josling past Cole Ceci to give the Everblades a 2-0 lead. The goal was Pendenza’s 100th as an Everblade, he is currently seventh in scoring all time for the Everblades. The Railers would answer 27 seconds later with Jack Quinlivan’s wraparound goal, his fourth goal of the season. The period ended with the Everblades leading 2-1 and outshooting the Railers 10-5.

Photo by: Christina Slemp for Inside the Rink

With Zach Uens serving a two-minute penalty for interference, Zsombor Garat would blast a one-timer into the net at 7:29; this was his first of the season. The Railers would take the lead at 15:09 when Andrei Bakanov (7) fired a wrist shot past Johnson’s glove. The Railers outshot the Everblades 12-8 in the period, resulting in a 3-2 lead.

Photo by: Christina Slemp for Inside the Rink

Will Reilly (6) tied the game at 7:49 in the third with a wrist shot from the point. This was the second powerplay goal for the Everblades on the night. Mark Senden (9) would beat Cole Ceci under his blocker at 14:03 off a rush down the left side of the ice. The goal put the Everblades back in front 4-3. Brett Davis (3) scored an empty net goal at 18:29, securing the win for the Everblades. Cam Johnson got the win with an uncharacteristically low .864 save percentage. Cole Ceci got the loss with a .839 save percentage. The Everblades took all three Stars of the Game. Mark Senden was named the third star with his game-winning goal. Sean Josling was the second star, with one goal and two assists. Captain Joe Pendenza received the first star with his one goal and one assist performance. 

Photo by: Christina Slemp for Inside the Rink

The win moved the Everblades to within two points of the third-place South Carolina Stingrays. The Everblades started strong with their two-goal first period. They were more lethargic in the second period, resulting in the Railers scoring two goals and taking the lead, but the crowd and the team leadership got the team rolling in the third period. The Everblades’ second powerplay goal tied the game, and the resulting energy resulted in two more goals to seal the win. The recent struggles on the penalty kill have dropped the Everblades to third in the league at 85.1 percent. The Everblades travel north on Friday for a three-game series against the South Carolina Stingrays, a team they’ve struggled with this season. The Everblades will have to rely on team leadership and individual motivation to maintain their energy to defeat the Stingrays. They must also keep scoring on the powerplay while preventing the Stingrays from capitalizing on the man advantage. The Everblades must sweep the Stingrays to pass them in the standings.

The Everblades travel to North Charleston Friday to play the South Carolina Stingrays in North Charleston Coliseum at 7:05 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.

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