ECHL: Icemen Keep Division Title Hopes Alive

The second-place Jacksonville Icemen took on the sixth-place Orlando Solar Bears Friday evening in a late-season showdown at the Amway Center. Jacksonville entered the game on a three-game win streak continuing an end-of-season points push for playoff position. Orlando started the evening on a four-game winless streak, with their most recent victory being a 6-4 win over the Icemen on March 24th. Netminder Charles Williams started in net for the Icemen, while newcomer Drennen Atherton got the nod for the Solar Bears.

First Period:

The first period was an even tempo period, with both teams failing to get on the scoreboard. Goalies Charles Williams and Drennen Atherton both made big stops to keep the score even. Icemen forward Derek Lodermeier would spend two minutes in the penalty box early. However, the Solar Bears were unable to capitalize. The Icemen would get a powerplay of their own seven minutes into the period but were also unable to get on the scoreboard during the man advantage, despite being able to move the puck around well. Jacksonville put 12 shots on goal to Orlando’s six shots in the period.

Second Period:

Things would start to get more energetic in the second period for both teams. The Solar Bears started the second period by putting heavy pressure on the Icemen and controlling much of the game’s flow. A shot tipped in off of Tyler Bird’s stick would see Orlando take a 1-0 lead two minutes and 32 seconds into the period. Charles Williams kept things competitive for the Icemen, making critical stops before the team could apply some pressure of their own midway through the frame. A two-minute interference call on Orlando defenseman Jimmy Mazza at 15:45 would put the Icemen on the powerplay. Derek Lodermeier would ensure the powerplay would count, netting a Cristiano DiGiacinto pass to make it a 1-1 game late in the period.

Third Period & Overtime:

The final frame of hockey was full of fast pace, coast-to-coast action. Icemen goalie Charles Williams made six key stops to keep the Icemen in the game. Rookie goalie, Drennen Atherton of the Solar Bears, did not make it much easier for the Icemen, stopping all 11 shots the Icemen directed at him. Although there was no lack of action in the last period of the game, both teams failed to score the game-winner, taking the game into overtime.

Charles Williams stole the show in overtime, saving all nine shots he faced. Williams held off the Solar Bears’ attack while the Icemen’s offense continued to push the pace. It wasn’t until the last 10 seconds of the game that forward Luke Lynch could fire off a shot that beat the Orlando goaltender, securing the win. Lynch’s goal is his 17th of the season, with assists coming from Tim Theocharidis and Matheson Iacopelli.

The Takeaways:

Friday’s game was the 43rd win of the season for Jacksonville; the most wins for the Icemen so far in a single season. Both teams found ways to push the pace and get high-danger scoring chances, but an outstanding performance by goaltenders at both ends kept the game at a stalemate most of the time. The win Friday night secured a second-place finish in the division for the Icemen. The Icemen hold the tiebreaker over the third-place Greenville Swamp Rabbits, who put a 7-1 beating on the first-place South Carolina Stingrays Friday evening. The Icemen will face off with the Stingrays Saturday in a game that could be for all the marbles. With a game in hand on South Carolina, a win would put the Icemen in the position to secure the South Division title this season. However, to take first place, Jacksonville will also need to close out the season with another win over Orlando on Sunday.

Andrew Willis

Andrew Willis is a sports media content creator and freelance journalist covering the Jacksonville Icemen of the ECHL. He can be found on twitter @fromthedrewline.

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