ECHL Kelly Cup Finals: Florida Everblades vs. Kansas City Mavericks Game 2 | 06/01/2024

Photo by: James Slemp for Inside the Rink

Independence, Mo.- The Kansas City Mavericks were looking for redemption on Saturday night in game two of the Kelly Cup Finals against the Florida Everblades. The Mavericks lost the night before, 8-1, in which the Everblades found their offense, and the Mavericks left theirs in the locker room. 5,807 fans, an increase of almost 500 from Friday night’s game, brought their cowbells and voices to fire up the home team. Their efforts paid off as the Mavericks defeated the Everblades 5-1 to tie the series as one game each.

Kansas City head coach Tad O’Had made two changes to his lineup for Saturday’s game. He inserted forward Bradley Schoonbaert for Nolan Sullivan and defenseman David Noel for Justin MacPherson. Schoonbaert brings more offensive production, and Noel brings more size and experience. Coach O’Had continued his goalie rotation, starting Jack LaFontaine in net. LaFontaine played the third period of Saturday’s game, stopping nine of the ten shots he faced. Head coach Brad Ralph kept his lineup the same, and goaltender Cam Johnson started his 20th consecutive game in the playoffs.

The first period started much like game one, with the Everblades scoring the game’s first goal early. Defenseman Zach Berzolla scored his first goal of the playoffs at 1:30. Oliver Chau recorded his twelfth assist, giving him 18 points in the playoffs for the Everblades, which was good enough to move him into a scoring tie with Bobo Carpenter. Eleven seconds later, Everblade Logan Lambdin received a double-minor for high sticking when he missed an attempt to lift the stick of a Mavericks player. The penalty marked the first of six that the Everblades would take on the night, a continuing trend for the team from their last series against the Adirondack Thunder. The Mavericks could not score on the four-minute man advantage and failed to muster a shot on Cam Johnson. Riese Zmolek would put the Everblades on the penalty kill at 8:09 for tripping; he stopped a quality scoring chance by tripping the Mavericks player. Kansas City would get their power play rolling on Jeremy McKenna’s team-leading tenth goal and 20th point. McKenna’s sharp-angle laser found a small gap in Johnson’s coverage. Both teams would get another chance on the power play in the period, but the horn would sound with the game tied 1-1. Florida outshot the Mavericks 10-7.

Photo by: James Slemp for Inside the Rink

With Jordan Sambrook still in the penalty box from his interference penalty at the end of the first period, Kansas City needed 18 seconds in the second to take their first lead in the series. Max Andreev (4) launched a one-timer off a pass across the crease from David Cotton, and captain Jake Jaremko recorded the secondary assist. Cade Borchardt was sent to the penalty box for tripping at 5:11, but the Everblades could not get a puck past Jack LaFontaine to tie the game. Jesse Lansdell received an interference penalty at 7:50. Jacob Hayhurst would make the Everblades pay for the infraction when he wristed the puck past Johnson for his fourth goal of the playoffs at 8:21, extending the Mavericks’ lead to two goals. Jeremy McKenna and Cole Coskey assisted on the third power-play goal of the game. The period ended with the score 3-1 Mavericks. The Everblades doubled the shot count in the period, 14-7.

Photo by: James Slemp for Inside the Rink

The Everblades pushed their play in the third period, attempting to tie the game. They fired everything toward the net, hoping to beat LaFontaine. Florida had 12 shots in the period, but only three were quality. With Cam Johnson pulled for an extra attacker, the Mavericks added two empty-net goals to their total; Cole Coskey and Max Andreev each had an empty-netter. The final horn sounded, and the Mavericks took the win 5-1.

Takeaways

Special Teams- The Mavericks went 0-5 on the power play in game one, but they jumpstarted their special teams with three goals in six opportunities on Saturday. Their 27.7 percent on the power play is a huge advantage, especially since the Everblades are averaging 16.3 penalty minutes a game, and they lead the league in total penalty minutes with 326 in 20 games. Special teams for the Everblades were less effective on Saturday. The usually solid penalty kill was shredded for three goals on Saturday night, and their power play continues to struggle. They are 0-4 in the series and 7-59 for 11.9 percent success in the playoffs with the man advantage. Both teams need to stay out of the penalty box but given the renewed success of the Mavericks’ power play, it is essential for the Everblades.

Defense- Jack LaFontaine has an impressive 0.957 save percentage in the four periods he’s played in the Finals. The Mavericks improved their defensive play in front of their goaltender on Saturday, limiting the quality scoring chances for the Everblades. The Everblades played solid team defense, limiting the Mavericks to 21 shots for the game and keeping the puck from the back of the net when skating five-on-five. Cam Johnson was solid in even-strength play but had challenges when the Mavericks were on the man advantage. The Mavericks had a better effort from their defense on Saturday, and both goalies played a solid game. The team maintaining their defensive play will fare better in the upcoming games.

Photo by: James Slemp for Inside the Rink

Physical Play- The Mavericks looked surprised and a step behind on Friday night as the Everblades played a heavy, hard-hitting style. They were anything but surprised on Saturday as they finished more of their checks and played harder along the boards. Kansas City’s physical play hampered the Everblades’ ability to find open space and create offensive advantages. It will be interesting to see which team can continue the physical play and energy in the rest of the series.

Florida hosts games three through five at Hertz Arena. Puck drop is at 7:30 pm on Wednesday.

James Slemp

I write for and photograph the Florida Everblades for ITR. I am a retiree that has turned my hobby of photography into a business. I currently live in Sarasota, Florida with my wife, Christy, but I'm originally from California. My previous career has taken me all over the US and the world and I definitely enjoy traveling. I've played hockey for over 30 years, learning as an adult, and love the game.

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