ECHL: Icemen Weekend Recap – No April Fools

Jacksonville Icemen hockey player is skating towards the camera with the puck as a Solar Bears player follows behind over his left shoulder

The Jacksonville Icemen took on the Orlando Solar Bears in back-to-back games this weekend, contending for critical points in the ECHL’s South Division playoff race. Going into the weekend, the Icemen found themselves in the third spot in the division, just two points back from first place and just one point back from second. Orlando entered the weekend series sitting in sixth place in the division, two places out of playoff contention.

Points Race Push

Friday’s game saw Icemen goaltender Charles Williams post a 27-save shutout. A low-scoring occasion, Friday’s contest ended in a 1-0 win for Jacksonville, with Luke Lynch scoring the game-winning goal shorthanded in the second period. Lynch’s goal became his 14th goal this season and the Icemen’s 13th shorthanded goal of the year. Jacksonville out-shot the Solar Bears placing 37 shots on Orlando goaltender Jack LaFontaine. Icemen goalie Charles Williams stopped all 27 shots directed his way, earning his second shutout of the season. The veteran netminder defended against a frantic last-minute stand, ensuring the Icemen would avoid overtime and pick up a crucial late-season victory.

Saturday’s game between the two teams came with more energy and offense from both sides. Two goals from Derek Lodermeier and one from Matteson Iacopelli put the Icemen ahead 3-0 in the first period. Lodermeier registered his 19th and 20th goals of the season, respectively, with his first goal of the night coming from a shot banked in off of Orlando Solar Bears goaltender Garrett Sparks. Lodermeier’s 20th goal of the season came from an assist from new rookie defenceman Julian Kislin. Kislin, a recent waiver pick-up from South Carolina, recorded the first professional point of his career with the assist. Iacopelli’s goal was his 17th of the season. Acquired late in the season, the goal is his first as a Jacksonville Icemen. Late into the first period, Orlando would find a way onto the scoreboard with a powerplay goal from Eric Esposito.

Orlando would see two goals overturned, with the first being in the first period due to goaltender interference. Orlando’s only goal of the second period was overturned for high-sticking. The goal from Esposito would be the only Orlando goal scored until the first minute of the third period when Maxim Cajkovic netted a quick shot from in front of Icemen netminder Parker Gahagen. Gahagen ended the night with 34 saves on 36 shots, making big stops on dangerous scoring chances in the second and third periods. His efforts largely led to the Icemen staying competitive throughout Saturday’s game and earned him his 16th win of the season in net.

Weekend Wrap-Up

The ECHL South Division playoff race is still wide open. However, with a shutout performance Friday and a well-earned victory Saturday, the Icemen have given themselves much-needed security in the division’s points race. With the weekend sweep of the Solar Bears now complete, the Icemen pick up four points in the standings bringing their point total to 82. Division-leading Greenville had losses from both Florida and Savannah, leapfrogging the Icemen into second place with a one-point differential between them and the now third-place Swamp Rabbits (81). The second-place South Carolina Stingrays saw decisive victories against Cincinnati and Fort Wayne, propelling them into first with a points total of 83. The Florida Everblades remain fourth in the south, with 80 points.

There is no mistaking that every point in the standings matter. The weekend divisional shake-ups definitely squeeze an already tight playoff race even tighter. With some help from friends or foes and their foot on the gas, the Icemen look ready to sprint to the finish.

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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