Game six of the first-round series between the Jacksonville Icemen and the Greenville Swamp Rabbits took place at VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena on Tuesday Night. The Icemen took games two, three, and five to take a 3-2 series lead going into game six. With only games six and seven left in round one, the Icemen had opportunities to move on to round two. The Icemen took it upon themselves to ensure a game seven wouldn’t be necessary, icing the Swamp Rabbits Kelly Cup dreams with a 4-2 victory and a 4-2 series win.
In the first period, they got off to a slower start than previous games in the first-round series. Both the Icemen and the Swamp Rabbits had a measured pace to start the first, taking a more defensive stance to begin the game. The Swamp Rabbits were able to control the puck for most of the first but only had four shots on goal for their efforts. Neither team had much success getting set up for too long in the offensive zone, as the Icemen put just nine shots on net. Icemen goaltender Olof Lindbom shut down all four Swamp Rabbit shots, including a big stop on Greenville forward Alex Ierullo, who had a Grade A breakaway chance seven minutes into the game. Ara Nazarian would get the Icemen on the board with a powerplay goal with just 1:15 left to play in the first frame of hockey. The 1-0 goal came with assists from forwards Luke Lynch and Brendan Harris.
The pace of the game picked up to start the second period. As the game got more testy, the Icemen found more space to work with on the ice. Like the first period, both teams struggled with getting pucks through on net, although both teams found chaos in the crease at times. The Icemen successfully won battles along the boards and moved the puck out of the defensive zone. Their aggressive defending held Greenville to just six shots on goal in the second period. It would be the Icemen that got the single goal in the second twenty minutes of hockey. Forward Ara Nazarian potted his second powerplay goal of the evening at the 16:57 mark to take a 2-0 lead late in the period. His second goal of the night was assisted by forward Craig Martin and defenseman Brandon Fortunato.
Things would take a turn in the third and final twenty minutes of regulation. Greenville started the period guns blazing, getting on the board 1:17 into the third. Carter Souch would get one past Olof Lindbom unassisted to make it a 2-1 game. Inspired by the 2-1 goal, Greenville’s pace would not relent. Finding ways to keep the pressure on the Icemen and keep Lindbom active in net, the Swamp Rabbits would score with nine and a half minutes left to play to make it a tie game. The game-tying goal came from Brett Kemp, assisted by Alex Ierullo and Miles Gendron. Jacksonville would find themselves unphased by the Swamp Rabbits growing momentum by finding ways to control the puck and drive offensively down the ice. After taking a high stick that would warrant a Greenville double minor, Icemen forward Craig Martin scored the go-ahead goal with 5:00 left to play in regulation time. The goal was Martin’s fourth of the playoffs, assisted by Ara Nazarian and Luke Lynch. Captain Christopher Brown would tack on an empty net goal to solidify the Icemen’s win with 40 seconds left to play. Cristiano DiGiacinto and Ara Nazarian assisted the 4-2 empty netter. Contributing to all four Icemen goals, Nazarian finished the night with four points.
What’s that feeling where your heart beats out of your chest, the sweat starts beading along your forehead, and you find yourself gripping the nearest object for dear life? Anxiety? Oh! Playoff hockey, that’s what it’s called. That’s the feeling many Icemen fans had with nine minutes left to play and a tie game staring back at them from the scoreboard. The playoff emotions were running high in Jacksonville Tuesday night. After a tepid start to the game, both teams found a way to control the pace on their own terms. The Swamp Rabbits were able to keep play bouncing back and forth but weren’t given much room to set things up or get any prolonged time in the offensive zone. The Icemen did a fantastic job at getting the puck out of their own zone and down the ice quickly, finding shooting lanes to work with when possible. Icemen players who found themselves personally victimized by the Swamp Rabbits were able to find retribution on the powerplay, a part of the Icemen’s game that’s been missing at times during the postseason so far. Playing a disciplined game, the Icemen were able to battle back when it counted the most and respond on the scoreboard rather than in the penalty box.
Icemen fans, wipe the sweat from your forehead. The Jacksonville Icemen are moving on to round two.