ECHL: On the Bench with the Everblades| 02|29|2024

Photo by: Christina Slemp for Inside the Rink

The Florida Everblades are riding high off their three-game sweep of the visiting Worcester Railers last week. The Everblades and Hertz Arena put on an incredible show during the three-game series, with two theme nights and two sellouts. The Everblades won game one on Wednesday night 3-1 in front of 5,805 fans. Goaltender David Tendeck won his second start for the Everblades on Friday night, making 35 saves on 36 shots for another 3-1 victory. The sellout crowd of 7,231 fans Friday night spotted Star Wars characters throughout Hertz Arena for Star Wars Night, and the team wore specialty Mandalorian-themed jerseys for the game. Saturday’s game had more scoring, but the result was the same: a 5-3 victory and sweep for the Everblades. A second consecutive sellout crowd of 7,650 fans was treated to members of the local police department rappelling from the rafters to deliver the game puck and the Everblades wearing specialty first responder-themed jerseys in honor of First Responders. A highlight of the night was captain Joe Pendenza’s 100th goal scored with the Everblades; he currently sits seventh on the Everblades’ all-time goal-scoring list. 

The Everblades will need the momentum from last week as they travel to North Charleston on Friday to play a three-game series against the South Carolina Stingrays. The Everblades and Stingrays are evenly matched this season. The Everblades have a record of 2-2-1-0 against the Stingrays, and the two teams split a two-game series in South Carolina two weeks ago. The Everblades sit fourth in the South Division, three points ahead of the Orlando Solar Bears and two points behind the Stingrays. Assistant coach Anthony Peters joined me On the Bench to discuss his duties with the team and what the Everblades need to do to win against the Stingrays. 

Photo by: Christina Slemp for Inside the Rink

Inside the Rink: You played five years in professional hockey here in the States and four years in Europe before becoming a coach; what brought you to Florida and the Everblades?

Assistant Coach Anthony Peters: I spent time in Florida as a player and played for Coach Ralph for one season. I was passionate about coaching and knew what it meant to be a Florida Everblade. Knowing that I had a chance to work with Coach Ralph was incredible; knowing his track record as a coach and knowing him as a person was essential to me. It was a no-brainer for me.  

ITR: Most people may not understand the role of an assistant coach. Can you tell us about your duties with the team?

AP: It’s a long list of job titles from running the defense, the penalty kill, and the goalies, mainly since I played as a goalie. I also book travel, hotels, and meals. I serve as a sounding board for Coach Ralph and learn from his experience.

ITR: What are some of the takeaways from the three-game sweep of the Worcester Railers that the team can use against the South Carolina Stingrays this week?

AP: Confidence in our game and knowing that if we execute our game plan, then we’ll have success against anyone; that involves competing, forechecking hard, coming back and supporting the defense, and managing the puck. The Stingrays are a divisional matchup, and we know the importance of the points in the standings. We must bring that same mentality and compete hard.

ITR: The Everblades have struggled to score and defend on the road this season; what must the team do to play better on the road?

AP: We’re hated by many teams and their fans, which is natural when you’ve won two championships. We’re going to get our opponent’s best game. We must weather that and have a simpler game: getting pucks in deep, managing the puck, and limiting turnovers. We get in trouble with that, finding ourselves behind and playing catch up. We must get good starts, manage the game, and play for 60 minutes.

ITR: The Everblades have had great fan support, and there were two sellout crowds last week against the Stingrays. How do the fans help the team on the ice?

AP: I remember playing here several years ago, and the fan support has always been here. That support has only gotten better with the two championships. It’s a lot of fun to play, and it’s a lot of fun to be a Florida Everblade here in Estero.

ITR: Roster transactions, injuries, and lineup changes are a fact of life in the ECHL. How do you deal with the fluctuation in the lineup? How has the loss of Cole Moberg and Nathan Staois to call-ups this week impacted the team?

AP: It’s a fact of life that happens yearly and will continue. We must ensure our players are prepared because one night, you might be on the first line, another night, the third line, or even out of the lineup. As an assistant coach, I try to keep everyone engaged and prepared for when they’re called on to play. We’re excited for guys when they get called up, but that creates a hole in the lineup. We have a lot of depth, so when a chance comes up, we need those guys to step up.

ITR: How do you like your goalie tandem going into the last 21 games of the season?

AP: Any time you have Cam Johnson in your goaltending duo, you’re more than comfortable. His resume speaks for itself, and he’s a fan favorite. He’s played a ton of hockey over the years, so there’s probably some fatigue and mental drain from doing that. As the season has gone, though, he’s hungry and motivated to win again. He has that ability to steal games. We also have David Tendeck here, who has given us two unbelievable games. We’re very comfortable in that position.

Goaltender David Tendeck joined me On the Bench to discuss his career as a professional, how he likes Florida, and what he sees from in the net.

Photo by: Christina Slemp for Inside the Rink

Inside the Rink: You had two dominant performances in the net against the Stingrays and the Railers. What has been the difference with the Everblades that allowed you to have those performances?

David Tendeck: This year has been a slow start for me, but coming here has been great. The coaches and players here have been professional, and everyone works hard. It’s an easy environment to play in and perform at our highest levels. 

ITR: Assistant coach Anthony Peters is a former goaltender; how has having him as a coach helped you?

DT: He’s been a huge part of my development already. He understands the position and has taught me a few things that have helped my game. I couldn’t be happier to be in this position with the Everblades. 

ITR: You’ve spent a lot of time playing up north; what has it been like being in Florida this past month? 

DT: It’s nice to leave the rink and sit in the sun for an hour. I’m starting to explore around here. I went to Fort Myers Beach the other day, which was incredible. I’m loving it here.

ITR: You’re playing on your third team this year; how has that been in preparing for games and understanding the game on the ice?

DT: It’s been interesting. I started in Wheeling and ended up in Idaho after Christmas before coming to the Everblades in February. Everyone generally plays the same way, but there’s something about this locker room. We have extra confidence, especially being back-to-back champions; you can feel it in the locker room. It has helped me and my game and helped my confidence. Everyone is supportive of each other. Something in this room is very powerful, and I’m excited to see through it this year. 

ITR: You have a tough three-game series against the South Carolina Stingrays this week; what do you think the team needs to do to get some wins on the road?

DT: We need to be smart on the ice. South Carolina is known to be an offensive team; one way to eliminate that is to be smart, make the right plays, and limit their offense. If we do that, our offense will take over, and we’ll come away with some points in the standings. 

ITR: You’re no longer the newest player on the team with the signing of Kieran Craig. Have you had a chance to welcome him to the team and help him adjust?

DT: I’ve met him and got to know him. He’s a great addition to the team. He seems to fit in perfectly, and all the guys like him. He’s a hard worker on the ice.

ITR: Goaltenders are known to have quirks and rituals; do you have any you’d like to share with us?

DT: I’ve noticed that, too, and I think my quirk is trying not to have quirks. I like to keep to myself before games and get my head in the game, so I’m not a big talker in general. I usually have my headphones in before a game. Other than that, I don’t think I have anything. 

Thanks to Coach Peters and David Tendeck for taking the time to join me On the Bench. Starting this Friday, you can catch the Florida Everblades in North Charleston for their three-game series against the South Carolina Stingrays. Puck drop on Friday is at 7:05 p.m

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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