ECHL: On the Bench with Florida Everblades Todd Skirving

Photo by: Patrick Onufer for Patrick O'Photos

The Florida Everblades entered Wednesday needing to win two of their last three games to lock up a playoff spot, but they will face stiff competition from their opponents as they battle for positioning. The Everblades play the Jacksonville Icemen for one game on Wednesday night at Hertz Arena. The Icemen have locked up a playoff spot and are currently in second place with 88 points. They are one point behind the Greenville Swamp Rabbits and five points ahead of the Everblades so that a win would move them into first place and home-ice advantage in the first round. The Everblades finish their season this weekend with two home games against the South Carolina Stingrays. The Stingrays are currently in third place, one point ahead of the Everblades and the Orlando Solar Bears.

6,205 fans descended on Hertz Arena on Wednesday to cheer on the Everblades. The Icemen have had the upper hand in the previous ten games, winning nine. Coach Ralph sent Cam Johnson into net for his seventh consecutive start. He faced off against Matt Vernon for the Icemen, who was also making his seventh consecutive start. 

The Everblades jumped out to an early lead in the first period off a power play goal from defenseman Will Reilly (10) at 2:36. Icemen Olivier Nadeau was serving the penalty for tripping. The Everblades would strike again at 11:26 with Oliver Chau’s 26th goal of the season. The Icemen answered at 12:41 with Matheson Iacopelli’s 26th goal. The game would swing in favor of the Everblades at 16:33 when Garrett Cockerill received a game misconduct and a major penalty for his cross-check on Everblades forward Jesse Lansdell. Bobo Carpenter (26) would score his first goal of the game, a power-play goal, at 19:30 off a rebound from Josh Ho-Sang’s shot from just outside the crease. The period would end with the Everblades still on the power play and leading the Icemen 3-1.

Photo by: Patrick Onufer for Patrick O’Photos

The second period started much like the first, as Bobo Carpenter (27) scored another power-play goal at 0:52. The play would go back and forth, with both teams firing high-quality shots at the opposing netminders. Jesse Lansdell would get revenge on the Icemen for the cross-check by scoring his first professional goal at 6:46. The Everblades’ fifth goal chased Matt Vernon from the net, and Joe Murdaca replaced him. Neither team would score, and the Everblades took a 5-1 lead to the locker room.

The third period saw the Everblades shut down the offensive pressure from the Icemen. The Everblades would have six solid scoring chances, while the Icemen only had four. The Icemen, however, would manage a goal at 19:56 when Brendan Harris (20) deflected a shot from the point by Garrett Van Wyhe. That goal was too little too late for the Icemen as they fell to the Everblades, 5-2.

Cam Johnson won his league-leading 26th game with a 0.926 save percentage. Bobo Carpenter and Oliver Chau both had three points on the night. The Everblades scored three power-play goals, two during the five-minute major, while killing off two shorthanded opportunities. Josh Ho-Sang had another multi-point night with two assists, which gave him twelve points in nine games. The win also ties the Everblades with their point total from last year’s Kelly Cup Winning season and puts them needing to win one out of the two-game series against the Stingrays to secure a playoff spot. 

Photo by: Patrick Onufer for Patrick O’Photos

I sat with newly signed Everblades’ forward Todd Skirving On the Bench on Wednesday morning to discuss the upcoming three games, how to beat the Icemen, his experiences with the Newfoundland Growlers, and what he sees as his next career after hockey. Todd did mention that he needed to figure out what exactly happened with the Newfoundland Growlers and the decision to fold the team, so we steered our conversation away from that topic.

Inside the Rink: You started your professional career in Orlando with the Solar Bears; how has it been returning to Florida?

Todd Skirving: It’s been nice. It’s always easy coming down to the Sunshine State. When I was with Newfoundland, we always looked forward to visiting Florida to play the Everblades or Jacksonville. It lifts people’s spirits. When the time is right, I’m looking forward to some downtime on the beach with the guys.

Photo by: Patrick Onufer for Patrick O’Photos

ITR: You’re coming off your best season for scoring last year with 31 goals and 58 points; what has been the difference this year in your scoring?

TS: It’s tough to pinpoint the issue. In previous seasons, I was allowed to play my game and the understanding from the coaches of what was expected of me. Last year, I had the coaches’ trust, and they put me in situations where I had yet to play in previous seasons. I had a lot of opportunities with good players. My role changed this year with being a leader. I helped a lot of young guys navigate their first year as a pro. I haven’t had the production you would want, but I’ve been doing many other things, like blocking shots, winning faceoffs, and keeping the team upbeat. I’m excited about a fresh start here in Florida.

ITR: How does the Everblades system differ from that used in Newfoundland?

TS: I decided to join the Everblades because they have a chance to win every year. They’re always one of the top dogs. Florida plays a rough and tough style that is needed to win in the playoffs. It’s hard, heavy, and needed to win and go on deep runs. I have friends on the team and guys I’ve battled against over the past five years. It was fitting to join the team. I don’t want to disrupt anything, but I want to continue to do what they’re doing and do anything to help the team win another championship. 

ITR: You have led the Growlers for the past three seasons, including being named team captain this season. How has your integration into the Everblades locker room gone?

TS: It’s been great. When the team folded in Newfoundland, Evan Cormier, who played for the Growlers a couple of years ago, asked me what I was doing. I’ve known Cam Johnson for several years; we played against each other in juniors and at the All-Star Game last year. We went out afterward, and he said he would make me an Everblade one day. We joke about that and how now I’m here. We’ve had a lot of battles against this team over the past five years. As much as we hated each other at the time, there’s always that respect for each other’s team and individuals. I can respect everyone on this team for who they are and what they bring. Knowing a few familiar faces, it was an easy, seamless transition when I got here. We were enemies for so many years, but now we’re coming together to win another championship. It’s easy to do with these guys; there are a lot of winners in the locker room. They’re always the top dog, and being part of this culture is fun. I’m trying to help them win. I’m just grateful for this opportunity to finish the season.

ITR: You won the Kelly Cup in the 2018-19 season with the Newfoundland Growlers, and you’re now on a team that’s won two Cups in a row; how do you think this team is positioned to win a third?

TS: Teams like Toledo, Florida, Newfoundland, and Idaho always have an opportunity to win every year. Florida was the fourth seed last year, and we’re fighting for a playoff spot, and nothing is guaranteed yet. It doesn’t matter where Florida finishes, but they play that style all season. It’s not something they decide to switch on because it’s the end of the year or the playoffs. They build up all year playing a certain way because they know the recipe to win. There’s a lot of returning guys from those championship teams. It’s hard to win three in a row, but it is an excellent opportunity to make history. I know that’s on everyone’s mind in the locker room, and I’m excited to participate in this ride. 

Photo by: Patrick Onufer for Patrick O’Photos

ITR: The Kansas City Mavericks are the best in the league in point totals, which is an accomplishment. Will the Kelly Cup Championship go through Kansas City?

TS: They’ve had an unbelievable year. The thing about teams that do that in the regular season is that they’ve been consistent, which you shouldn’t take lightly. I have a few friends on the team, and they’ve had some career years. The thing about the playoffs in the ECHL is the trickle-down effect. Some teams can load up from their parent teams, and some teams can pick up some diamonds in the rough from college. Everyone’s trying to load up, and it doesn’t matter as long as you get to the playoffs. Every team has a chance. Teams that win the regular season have a hard time in the playoffs, but that doesn’t mean they’re bad. That’s how wide open it can be in the playoffs, and that’s exciting. Kansas City is a great team, and it is well-coached. It will be a battle, as it is every year, and it’s the most exciting time of the year. We look forward to taking care of these next three games and giving ourselves a chance at another Cup.

ITR: To end the season, you have a demanding three-game schedule, and you must win at least two of those to make the playoffs. How do you handle the pressure of knowing that you hold your destiny in your hands?

TS: The best thing about it is we control the outcome, and Coach Ralph says, “Pressure is a privilege.” We aren’t going to get any help. Not a lot of people like us, and rightfully so. It won’t be easy, but we’re excited for the opportunity and challenge ahead. We don’t want to look too far, as we have a game tonight. We have South Carolina this weekend, but we have yet to talk about it. Each guy needs to bring what they need to do to get tonight’s win, and we’ll move on from there. We can’t look too far ahead of ourselves, and we’re taking each day at a time and each game. 

ITR: The hockey season is long and tough, both mentally and physically. Have you considered next season and whether you’ll return to the ice?

TS: No, I have yet to think too far ahead. It’s been a whirlwind of emotions over the past week, from ending to starting back up with a new team, system, and environment. I’m trying to be present in the moment and enjoy this opportunity with this great group looking to make a run. I’m grateful for this opportunity. I’m worrying about the goal of winning a championship, and that’s what’s on my mind right now. When the dust settles, I’ll have time to digest what happened and go from there. I’m embracing this opportunity and having fun with it the best I can.

ITR: You mentioned in a social media post that you’d like to coach once you retire; what level would you like to coach at?

TS: I’m still determining. I enjoyed my time with Cranbrook. I always said I’d see what was available when hockey was over. It might not be in coaching, but maybe in the front office or something else. My future will have something to do with hockey; coaching would be fun. You don’t always know what’s available and where, so I’m open to what’s available. I enjoy being around the boys and in the locker room. I want to give back. When you go from the juniors to the pros, you must teach more in the juniors. You’re always teaching, but you must show the juniors a few more things. As guys get older, you can transition into new systems and new individual things. They both sound intriguing.

ITR Bonus Question: Who’s your team in the NHL, and do you think this is the year they’ll win the Stanley Cup?

TS: I grew up a Red Wings fan; my room at my parents’ house still has the Red Wings wall. Since I was in the Leaf’s organization, it’s become the team I’ve been following. I know many people within that organization and how badly they want to win. I’m not cheering for the team but for those individuals. A few former Growler players have been in the mix with the Leafs, so I’ve been rooting for them. I’ve been fortunate to play with many great players who have climbed. I’m past my time now, so when I see those guys getting called up and getting their opportunity, it’s rewarding for me and brings me happiness to see those guys succeed. The Leafs have had some tough playoff losses the past few years. They have a lot of great players, but you need to make the playoffs and give yourself a chance. It’s a toss-up as to who will win each year because there are so many great players and teams. It’s hard for me to say whether the Leafs will win the Cup; there are a lot of analysts who say yes or no, but it’s hard to get a feel unless you’re inside those locker rooms during those crunch times to know how a team is feeling mentally and physically. From the outside looking in, it’s always hard to tell who will win. They have a chance, and they’re in a good spot. I will be cheering them on. 

Thanks to Todd Skirving for joining me On the Bench this week. He made some excellent remarks on what the team needs to do to win these last three games and secure a playoff spot. Those remarks showed in their dominating victory over the Jacksonville Icemen 5-2 later that night. He also left it open as to whether he’ll continue playing next season, so we’ll need some fan appreciation and love to help entice him to sign an extension.

The Everblades return to the ice Friday and Saturday as they host the South Carolina Stingrays to close out their regular season. Puck drop is at 7:30 pm on Friday and 7:00 pm on Saturday.

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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