Round Two of the Kelly Cup Playoffs got underway tonight in Jacksonville, Florida. The second-seeded Jacksonville Icemen took on the fourth-seeded Florida Everblades for the first game in the South Division Finals. Both teams took their Round One series by a 4-2 games margin. The 2022-2023 season marks the second consecutive year the teams have taken The Battle Of Florida into the postseason for a divisional final round.
The first period set the pace for the back-and-forth action that would come the rest of the game. Both teams would get dangerous scoring opportunities, but the Everblades would fare better offensively in the first. Finding ways to get the puck into the offensive zone and cycle to the open man quickly, the Everblades outshot the Icemen 15 to 7 in the first period of hockey. Towards the middle of the period, a high-scoring opportunity would lead to a Jacksonville missed chance, with the net coming off its moorings amidst the chaos. Brandon Hickey would receive the first of two holding penalties the Everblades received in the first twenty minutes, but the Icemen failed to capitalize on either man advantage. With 3:09 left to play in the period, John McCarron would get the Everblades on the board first.
The second period was off to a better start for the Icemen defensively. Playing aggressively on the forecheck, the Icemen found ways to clog the passing lanes and disrupt the Everblades’ quick offensive attack. Still, it would be the Everblades that capitalized on those quick shots to the net, with the 2-0 goal coming at the 5:58 mark from Blake Winiecki. The Icemen would find a way to respond, however, with forward Christopher Brown cutting the Everblades’ lead in half with 13:09 left to play in the middle frame of hockey. Motivated by Brown’s goal, the Icemen turned up the pressure defensively, successfully creating turnovers deep inside their offensive zone. None too deterred by the defensive pressure, the Everblades’ would begin finding ways to stretch plays laterally and create open space for themselves. After a couple of big stops by Olof Lindbom, the final five minutes of the game would see the offensive floodgates burst open.
At the 16:46 mark, Florida forward Sean Josling would tally on the 3-1 goal. Icemen forward Derek Lodermeier would respond right back with a 3-2 goal scored with help from forwards Matheson Iacopelli and Benjamin Tardif at 18:04. Just 42 seconds later, the Everblades would answer with the 4-2 goal off of the stick of Joe Pendenza. Catching the Icemen scrambling and out of position, the Everblades would enter the second intermission with a two-goal lead.
After being outshot 27 to 14 through two periods, Jacksonville’s struggles would continue. Plagued by sloppy puck control and an inability to retain possession, the Everblades forced the Icemen to play hockey their way in the final twenty minutes of play. The Icemen would get good looks in the offensive zone at times but found themselves unable to establish any real offensive zone presence. Blake Winiecki would tack on the 5-2 goal with 12:50 left to play in the third. The fifth goal of the night for the Everblades was Winiecki’s second of the game, assisted by Oliver Chau and John McCarron. Otherwise, a disciplined night for both teams, tempers would begin to flare halfway into the last period of the game. Icemen forward Cristiano DiGiacinto earned a two-minute roughing penalty plus a ten-minute misconduct with just 3:26 left to play. Successfully defending a three-goal lead, the Everblades slowed things down and retained puck possession for the better part of the third period. Some extracurriculars at the final horn would earn Icemen forward Travis Howe and Everblades defenseman Brandon Hickey matching cross-checking minors.
Amidst the issues the Icemen faced in the first game of round two, puck control was the most critical. Missed time passes and attempting to force plays cost the Icemen good chances in the offensive zone. They barely allowed themselves time to set up plays and move the puck effectively. The shots total is also a glaring reflection of an inability to get pucks on net. Jacksonville was outshot every period, and not once did they have more than ten shots on net. In fact, Jacksonville only got seven shots on net in both the first and second periods. The Everblades allowed the Icemen 19 shots on goal while getting 30 of their own on Icemen goalie Olof Lindbom. The Icemen did have plenty of high-danger scoring chances, but they struggled and stalled on attempts to get the puck to the net. Defensively, the team saw flashes of success but often struggled to keep up with the quick puck cycling the Everblades managed in the offensive zone. Scrambling to stay with the Everblades’ skaters, the Icemen allowed for plenty of open ice for Florida’s offensive talent to work with. If there is a positive to be found, it’s that the Icemen didn’t allow any goals on the powerplay. Until the third-period meltdown, the Icemen played a relatively disciplined game, only picking up two penalty minutes in the first period. However, playing disciplined hockey is only the first part of accumulating postseason victories. If the Icemen want to be crowned the kings of the South Division, they must heat up and thaw out fast for Game Two.
Game two is scheduled for 5 pm ET at VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena on Sunday, May 7. A full schedule of round two action can be found below.
Game 3 – Wednesday, May 10 at 7:30 pm ET at Florida
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)