ECHL: Icemen Head Into Christmas 14-9-3 After Trio of Games at Home

Photo & story credit: Andrew Willis for Inside The Rink

The Jacksonville Icemen head into the short holiday break in third place in the South division. It isn’t exactly the place where the team would have liked to be at Christmas. After a solid road trip performance,  the team had a chance to leap ahead into the second place position in the standings with a pair of wins against the current second-place team, the South Carolina Stingrays. 

A homestand bookended by match-ups with South Carolina was the perfect opportunity to pick up a few more wins on home ice and leapfrog the Stingrays in the standings. Though after last Saturday’s comeback against South Carolina was cut short, the Icemen struggled to fare much better in Friday night’s game, the last of the homestand.

Before a rematch with South Carolina, however, the team had to take on their in-state rival, Florida Everblades, for some weeknight action.

Wednesday 12/20 vs. Florida Everblades 4-3 W

On Wednesday, the Icemen took on the Florida Everblades. The team defeated the Everblades in their three prior meetings and looked to continue their dominant ways against the defending cup champs. Special teams were hard at work, as Luc Brown tacked on his seventh goal of the season on the powerplay to open up the scoring in the first period. Rookie forward Riley Fiddler-Schultz provided the 2-0 goal on a beautiful shorthanded chance during the middle frame, with a third Icemen goal coming off of a Matheson Iacopelli snipe, also on the powerplay.

The Everblades looked to respond, registering their first goal of the evening in the second period. Defenseman Jordan Sambrook got the puck past Icemen goalie Matt Vernon. Florida tried to claw their way back in the third, with a powerplay tally of their own coming off the stick of forward Joe Pendenza at 8:05 into the period. The tying 3-3 Everblades goal came just 16 seconds later from forward Andrew Fyten, but Matheson Iacopelli registered his second powerplay goal of the evening to secure the 4-3 Icemen win.

Friday 12/22 vs South Carolina Stingrays 3-2 OTL

Friday Night, the team had a chance to add another home win before a post-holiday break road-trip begins. The Icemen struggled to get any offense going in the early periods, though, and the Stingrays jumped to an early 2-0 lead before the halfway mark of the first period. Jacksonville held the Stingrays scoreless in the second period, with both teams playing tough on the puck and stalling one another in the neutral zone. 

The Icemen offense didn’t go without good looks in the first 40 minutes of play, despite the Stingrays having the upper hand in shots and goals. Fast on the break in transition, the Icemen did well to drive to the net and open up scoring chances. Solid opportunities for Jacksonville to get on the board were squandered by shots not making it on net in prime scoring locations. 

Things would heat up around the midway point of the final period. Icemen forward Chris Grando bagged his fourth goal of the season at 10:11 into the period before the post-goal celebration turned into a full-fledged skirmish. The rough stuff would result in a 10 minute misconduct penalty for Stingrays forward Jackson Leppard. The list of penalties from the post-goal altercation put the Icemen on the powerplay, and riled up for a late-period comeback. Icemen captain Christopher Brown seized the chance to capitalize on the Stingrays mistakes, scoring his 11th goal of the season on the powerplay with 8:02 left to play.

The 2-2 score would stand until the final whistle, pushing the game into overtime. Jacksonville played quick during the 3-3 period, sniffing out open ice and driving the puck end-to-end with speed. Chances were there for the Icemen, but the team couldn’t get a bounce to fall their way. With just 2:43 left to play in the overtime period, South Carolina’s Patrick Harper picked up the game-winning 3-2 goal.

The Icemen finish the three-game homestand 1-2 and sit in third place in the division. The team will venture north on a post-Christmas road trip, with three games against opponents outside of their division. Jacksonville takes on the Cincinnati Cyclones on Dec. 28 and Dec. 31 and sees one game in Indy against the Indy Fuel on Dec. 29. The four-game trek will wrap up in Orlando on Jan. 3 before the Icemen return home for their first home game of 2024 on Jan. 5 versus the Savannah Ghost Pirates.

Andrew Willis

Andrew Willis is a freelance hockey reporter covering the ECHL's Jacksonville Icemen for Inside The Rink and the Vancouver Canucks for The Canuck Way. His work has been featured on Hockey of Tomorrow and The Daily Faceoff, and can be found on Twitter/X @FromTheDrewLine.

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