After clinching a spot in the playoffs last Friday in a 4-3 win at home over the Atlanta Gladiators, the Jacksonville Icemen took a trip down to Estero, Florida, Wednesday evening to take on the Florida Everblades. The Icemen, currently second in the ECHL’s South Division, are in a race for first place in the South. Florida came into the game Wednesday in fourth place in the division standings with a chance to move up in playoff seeding. With the home-ice advantage in the postseason on the line, the Icemen arrived in Estero ready to tally up another victory before the end of the regular season.
Things got off to a fast and furious start for the Everblades. New addition Tyler Irvine got the Everblades on the board with the first shot of the evening just 37 seconds into the game. Not giving the Icemen any time to recover a second goal came from a Joe Pendenza tip off a Ben Masella shot, putting the Everblades up 2-0 within the first 1:08 into the first period. The Icemen settled their game a bit, with big saves from Olaf Lindbolm preventing any more early damage. A resounding hit from forward Derek Lodermeier came midway through the period helping the Icemen to regain some energy. A double minor to the Everblades would lead to the game’s first goal at 16:45, as it was Jacksonville’s 15th short-handed goal of the year. Jacob Panetta got the goal in the final minute of the period, and Craig Martin got the assist in his first game back from injured reserve.
Building off the momentum that came with Panetta’s late first-period goal, the Icemen could control the tempo and pace in the middle frame much more effectively. Although the man advantage was unsuccessful in the second period, the Icemen were able to apply pressure with fluid puck movement and getting shots on goal. Six minutes into the second period, a four-on-four opportunity would come after minors to Everblades defenseman Stefan Leblanc and Icemen forward Derek Lodermeier were doled out. That opportunity would turn up fruitless, but the Icemen would see success just moments later. Luke Lynch was able to tie things up at two with a redirection goal at the 9:49 mark. Lynch’s goal would be the only goal scored in the second frame. The goal is Lynch’s 17th of the year.
The last period of the game started with some high energy from Florida, but it would be the Icemen who notched the first tally of the final period. A goal scored by Ben Tardiff from Cristiano DiGiacinto made it a 3-2 game at 6:49. The goal is the first from Tardiff in an Icemen uniform. Tempers would get testy in the third period making the special teams units from both sides work overtime. Eight penalties would be given in the final frame, with the Everblades getting a 4-on-3 opportunity at one point. Neither team would see success on the powerplay, though, with both squads coming away empty-handed. The Everblades found a way to make it a tie game with a little over two minutes remaining. A shot from Logan Lambdin on a play from behind the net made it 3-3. It wasn’t until the game’s final minute that the Icemen would get the go-ahead and insurance goals from Derek Lodermeier. Scoring on a play also set up from behind the net at 19:19 and potting the empty netter at 19:45, Lodermeier’s last-minute effort sealed the deal for Jacksonville.
The Icemen were able to withstand the intense pressure faced by Florida in the first period and rewrite the game’s storyline by settling down and dictating the game’s pace. Never shying away from the challenge, the Icemen were able to find a way to win. Finding ways to win challenging games is a key part of any postseason run, and the Icemen will need that kind of tenacity to make a deep run for the Kelly Cup. Eleven players found a way to contribute on the scoresheet, with Derek Lodermeier, Craig Martin, and Cristiano DiGiacinto all having multi-point nights. Lodermeier ends the evening with a new career high in goals, as his empty net goal was his 23rd of the year. Scoring contributions are also critical to bringing a Kelly Cup to Jacksonville. Although struggling early, goaltender Olaf Lindbom ended the evening with 31 saves on 34 shots. Special teams could use improvement, as the powerplay was able to move the puck around well but found themselves unable to score. On the flip side, the penalty kill was pristine as the Icemen did not allow the Everblades to have any luck on the man advantage. There are a few adjustments the Icemen could make, but they look to be a ferociously determined team here at the end of the regular season.