After a rough loss to the Florida Everblades in Game One of Round Two, the Jacksonville Icemen looked to right the ship in Game Two. Issues with puck control and defending the rush caused problems for the Icemen in Saturday’s Game One. Adding insult to injury, the Icemen had difficulties generating offense, getting woefully outshot 30 to 19. The Icemen needed a big response in today’s Game Two match-up as the series moves to Hertz Arena in Estero, Florida, for Games Three, Four, and Five.
The first twenty minutes of hockey didn’t exactly get off to the start the Icemen hoped for. Just twenty-three seconds into the game, Everblades forward Sean Josling would find the back of the net, making it a 1-0 game. The Everblades’ first goal of the night was a powerplay goal after Icemen forward Travis Howe was sent to the box for roughing at just twelve seconds in. The Icemen would not be shaken by the Everblades’ quick powerplay strike, opening up the ice and finding ways to create chances in the offensive zone. Pushing the pace and driving the play, the Jacksonville offense would find success. 11:22 into the first period, Matheson Iacopelli would make it a 1-1 game. The goal is Iacopelli’s fourth of the postseason, assisted by forward Ara Nazarian and defenseman Jacob Friend. Although the Icemen got the response they wanted after the first Everblades goal, the period would be bookended by yet another Everblades tally. With just twenty-six seconds left in the first, Florida’s Oliver Chau would make it a 2-1 game.
Down one goal to start the second period, the Icemen would continue to be the team that dictated the game. Doubling down on the physical play and opening up the ice, positive strides would be taken to regain ground and respond to the Everblades on the scoreboard. At 16:42 of the second period, Ben Hawerchuk scored his first goal of the playoffs, making it a 2-2 game. Hawerchuk’s tying goal would be assisted by Jacob Friend and Ara Nazarian, who both finished the game with a pair of points. The Icemen stayed patient and continued to control the pace as the Everblades tried to regain ground. Icemen goaltender, Parker Gahagen’s play kept the Icemen competitive, making critical stops in the Icemen’s defensive end. With 1:03 left in the second, Florida’s offensive push would result in the 3-2 goal to take the lead, once again, in the last few seconds of play in the period. The 3-2 Everblades’ goal was scored by Logan Lambdin, assisted by Cole Moberg and Sean Josling.
Third-period magic is something the Icemen do well, and the third period of today’s game would need some of that magic. After outshooting the Everblades 32-17 through the first two periods, the Icemen looked to continue their offensive success and battle back for the final twenty minutes of hockey. Just 5:34 into the last period, Icemen defenseman Jacob Panetta would find the net for the 3-3 goal, giving the Icemen a fair chance to finish the game in the win column with 14:26 left to play. However, the Everblades found ways to adjust on the fly, getting the puck into the Icemen’s end and getting shots on goalie Parker Gahagen. Hemming in the Icemen in the zone at times, the Everblades would score the game-winning 4-3 goal with 3:07 left to play. The game-winning goal came off the stick of Everblades forward Joe Pendenza with help from Ben Masella and Stefan Leblanc. Although left with time to pull off some late-game theatrics, the Icemen would fail to close the gap one last time, falling 4-3 in Game Two.
Unlike Saturday night, the Icemen had no trouble moving the puck and getting shots on goal. Judging from the total shots for both nights, it is almost a tale of two games. Some problems still carried over from Game One, though. Getting caught up in the play and out of position left space for the Everblades to find the back of the net. Even though they could set up in the offensive zone, most of the time was spent chasing Florida out of the Icemen’s end. Increasing the level of physical play may have helped to create more open ice and take the body out of the Everblades, but Florida was still able to answer back where it counted most – on the scoreboard. Although there was no abundance of penalty minutes to be found, special teams also did not shut down the Florida powerplay the way they could in Game One. Staying out of the box and getting shots to the goal are important parts of finding playoff success, but the Icemen must figure out ways to defend the rush and slow down the Everblades in transition. With Games Three, Four, and Five taking place on Everblades’ home turf, the Icemen will need to create opportunities for success by forcing turnovers and stopping the Everblades offense from being able to get quick puck movement in the offensive end. There are more positives to take away from Game Two than in Game One, but the adjustments to the Icemen’s game will need to be made rapidly. Now down two games in the series, the margin for error is getting slimmer and slimmer.
Game three is set for a 7:30 pm ET start time in Estero, Florida. A full schedule of the remaining round two action can be found below.
Game 4 – Friday, May 12 at 7:30 pm ET at Florida
Game 5 – Saturday, May 13 at 7 pm ET at Florida (If Necessary)
Game 6 – Monday, May 15 at 7 pm ET at Jacksonville (If Necessary)
Game 7 – Tuesday, May 16 at 7 pm ET at Jacksonville (If Necessary)