ECHL Playoff Preview: South Division Finals Preview: (3) Florida Everblades vs. (4) Orlando Solar Bears

Christina Slemp/InsideTheRink

Well, another playoff year for the Florida Everblades and the Orlando Solar Bears, and once again, another playoff matchup between the two squads. We take a look first at how each team got to the second round of the 2024 ECHL Kelly Cup Playoffs:

HOW THEY GOT HERE:

Orlando Solar Bears: The Orlando Solar Bears clinched the playoffs on the final day of the regular season, scoring the winning goal with 27.8 seconds left as Alex Frye with his 20th of the season, along with an Evan Fitzpatrick 29 save shutout against the Reading Royals. Orlando then went to the playoffs as they had to battle the #1 seed in the South Division- Greenville Swamp Rabbits. The Solar Bears would have all kinds of issues against the Greenville Swamp Rabbits as they were outshot most of the series except in games 3-5. Despite the pressure the Swamp Rabbits had against Greenville, Orlando would win the series 4-2 as goaltender Fitzpatrick played all six games in the series, including a 43-save shutout in game one.

Rookie forward Spencer Kersten had a huge series, scoring a playoff-leading six goals for the Bears while adding two assists for eight points, which included the GWG in game one in OT. Kersten, having points in all six games, set a Bears playoff record for games played with at least a point recorded in each. Six other players on the Solar Bears each had two goals throughout the first round. For the Bears, it was a massive team effort in the first round, as they got contributions from everyone in the locker room.

Florida Everblades: If you are an Everblades fan, you can breathe a sigh of relief as the Everblades had a much scarier first round against the Jacksonville Icemen, as they were down 3-1 in the series, ultimately coming back, as Florida won game five at home 3-1, and dominating games six and seven up in Jacksonville, with a combined score of 8-1, including a game seven shutout by Cam Johnson, who faced all 27 shots he faced. The Everblades became the 9th team in ECHL history to come back from a 3-1 deficit and the third team to win both Games 6 & 7 on the road. Florida got to the playoffs just a day before the Solar Bears did.

Sean Josling led the Blades with six points (3G,3A). It was an all-around effort from Florida, and they stunned the Icemen in the first round. It was a much different shooting battle, as Florida outshot Jacksonville in four of the seven games, and if they were outshot, it was a closer battle in the shots-on-goal category.

As the battle of Florida happens once again, let’s take a look at the schedule for the South Division Finals: HOME TEAMS IN BOLD, *=if necessary

  • Game 1: Friday, May 3, 2024; Orlando at FLORIDA; 7:30 pm EDT
  • Game 2: Saturday, May 4, 2024; Orlando at FLORIDA; 7 pm EDT
  • Game 3: Tuesday, May 7, 2024; Florida at ORLANDO; 7 pm EDT
  • Game 4: Thursday, May 9, 2024; Florida at ORLANDO; 7 pm EDT
  • Game 5: Sunday, May 12, 2024, Florida at ORLANDO; 3 pm EDT
  • Game 6: Tuesday May 14, 2024; Orlando at FLORIDA; 7:30pm EDT*
  • Game 7: Wednesday May 15, 2024; Orlando at FLORIDA; 7:30pm EDT*

RIVALRY RENEWED AGAIN:

Once again, the Solar Bears and the Everblades meet in the playoffs for the fifth time in the last nine years. For some reason, if you’re an Orlando fan, it’s ok to believe this time around as the teams split the regular season series as the Bears went 6-6-1 against the Everblades, while the Everblades went 7-5-1. The Solar Bears last faced off in the playoffs back in 2019, where Florida won the series 4-1. One of the most memorable series in this rivalry will never be forgotten was in the 2017 playoffs, where Florida took down Orlando in seven games after trailing three games to one. This series is known for the comeback Florida had, but it is most memorable for what happened in game four of that series: Shortly after the Bears went up 3-0 in that game, a massacre ensued as a full-out line brawl, including the goaltenders which resulted in everyone on the ice being ejected and 95 penalty minutes for Florida and 87 for Orlando.

Orlando’s Goaltender Ryan Massa was a brick wall in that series until the line brawl. He got tackled onto the ice by Alex Nedeljkovic, causing another concussion and forcing him to end his career early. Florida and Orlando have been the biggest rivals for years, ever since the Solar Bears joined the ECHL in 2012.

WHAT TO WATCH FOR:

If you love rivalries, this series should have everything from great goals and big saves to, depending on how this series goes, possibly some very physical action, including fights. If the teams want to win, they will have to play some solid defense in front of their respective goaltenders. Like that series, I expect Johnson to start every game, while Fitzpatrick will start for Orlando.

During the last series, Johnson played in all seven games for Florida, having an excellent 1.95 goals-against-average and a .932 save percentage. Fitzpatrick had a 2.50 GAA while grabbing a .929 save percentage, stopping 209 of the 225 shots he faced in the first round while playing 384 minutes.

Florida will try and go for an ECHL record 10 consecutive playoff series wins, they are currently tied with the 2015-2017 Allen Americans. Florida has proved they are a dangerous team as they go for their third straight Kelly Cup Title. In the season series, Joe Pendenza led Florida with an outstanding 11 points, which included six goals and five assists. On the Orlando side Tyler Bird and Alex Frye both had four goals each against Florida, while Brayden Low had nine points (2G,7A).

PREDICTIONS:

This series is a very hard one to choose. I won’t be shocked if it ends in six or seven games, especially with these two teams being big rivals. This series will be a toss-up; however, Orlando will finally beat their demons and beat the Everblades in six games.

insidetherink.com/join-us

Elijah Webb

I am Elijah. Hockey is my biggest passion, however I have love for all sports. I got into hockey from day one of my life. I currently am the writer for the Orlando Solar Bears of the ECHL, and one day, I hope to become a broadcaster

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

ECHL: Liam Finlay Heading Overseas

Forward Liam Finlay is heading overseas to Scotland after spending just two seasons with the Allen Americans, where he would put up 44 goals and 45 assists for 89 points in 80 games. The 27-year-old winger would have a fantastic rookie year in which he would put up 33 goals and 37 assists for 70 […]

Read More

Jets and Moose Extend ECHL Affiliation With Norfolk

The Winnipeg Jets and their American Hockey League affiliate, the Manitoba Moose have made it official that they’ve extended their ECHL affiliation with the Norfolk Admirals. The Admirals spent the 2023-24 season as the Jets’ ECHL affiliate and they will do it for the second consecutive year in 2024-25. Winnipeg Jets draft picks Dmitry Kuzmin […]

Read More

ECHL: Worcester Railers Announce Coaching Changes

The Worcester Railers announced a couple of changes on Tuesday morning. The team and as well the fanbase knew what was coming as they were the last team in the ECHL with a head coach vacancy for the 2024-25 season. The first of which was promoting assistant coach Bob Deraney to head coach and the […]

Read More