ECHL Weekly Recap:  Florida Everblades | 01/15-01/21/24

Photo by: James Slemp for Inside the Rink

The Florida Everblades entered the All-Star Classic break last week on a two-game winning streak, both against the Savannah Ghost Pirates. Sitting in fifth place in the South Division, the Everblades needed to maintain momentum to push them into a playoff spot. The Everblades tested that momentum Saturday night and Sunday afternoon when they renewed their extended series against the Savannah Ghost Pirates in Savannah.

Saturday

The All-Star Classic was held on Monday, January 15th, in Savannah, Ga. The ECHL All-Stars took on the home Savannah Ghost Pirates, winning the game 18-11. Everblades defenseman Nathan Staois represented the team in Savannah, and he had three assists and was +4. The rest of the Everblades used the six-day break as an opportunity to rest, heal minor injuries, and work on critical areas of play on the practice rink. There were three roster changes for the Everblades during the week. 41-year-old forward Charles Linglet was released from his standard player contract (SPC). He was on the Everblades’ roster for only one week and played in two games, both against the Savannah Ghost Pirates, recording one assist. The most significant impact on the Everblades’ roster came on the blue line. Defenseman Cole Moberg was loaned to the Syracuse Crunch in the AHL. He had been a mainstay on the Everblades’ blueline, having played in all but one game this season, recording eight assists and 18 penalty minutes. Defenseman Patrick Holway was suspended by the team and removed from the roster; this allowed him to sign with another team. Holway signed with HC Slovan Bratislava in the Slovak Extraliga. Holway played in 31 of the team’s 33 games this season and led the defensemen in scoring with seven goals, nine assists, and 16 points. The absence of both Holway and Moberg is a huge hit to the Everblades’ blueline, requiring some new defensive pairings, including bringing Nathan Staois back on defense. Forward Joe Pendenza led the team in assists with 15 and total points with 25 entering last week; forward Bobo Carpenter led the team in goals with 15.

Saturday night’s game at Enmarket Arena was the fourth straight between the Everblades and the Savannah Ghost Pirates. The Everblades took two of three in Estero and had won the last two games, shutting out the Ghost Pirates 4-0 on Saturday, January 13th. The Ghost Pirates were looking to get back in the win column and exact some revenge on the Everblades, especially after Everblades goalie Cam Johnson, who was the First Star for his shutout on the 13th, commented after the game that the team would enjoy a break for the All-Star Classic and then they would kick the heck out of the Ghost Pirates. The Everblades, however, would jump out to the lead when team-leading forward Joe Pendenza scored. Everblades forward Sean Josling scored late in the first period, causing tensions between the teams to boil over. Everblades forward Kyle Neuber and Ghost Pirates forward Anthony Collins each received a five-minute major penalty for fighting 20 seconds after the goal. The Ghost Pirates took the lead in the second period off three straight goals, the last coming at the 12-minute mark. Everblades’ defenseman Will Reilly scored his third goal of the season at 15:05, tying the game at 3-3. Neuber and Collins tangled again 50 seconds later when they both received a two-minute penalty for roughing and a 10-minute misconduct penalty. Everblades forward Oliver Chau scored late in the second, sending the Everblades back in front, 4-3. Physical play increased in the third period, resulting in five two-minute penalties for the Ghost Pirates and four for the Everblades. The Everblades added three goals against the Ghost Pirates, giving the Everblades the 7-4 victory. Ghost Pirates goalie Michael Bullion took his third straight loss, all against the Everblades, managing only a .739 save percentage, while Evan Cormier won his seventh game of the season with a .915 save percentage.

Sunday

The teams met again at Enmarket Arena on Sunday for a matinee game. Cam Johnson would get the start in net for the Everblades, and Michael McNiven would get his fifth start for the Ghost Pirates. McNiven was looking for his first win of the season, having a record of 0-3-1. The Ghost Pirates would get the lead at 13:18 in the first when Brent Pedersen scored his 10th goal of the season. The teams traded goals in the last two minutes of the period, and the buzzer sounded with the Ghost Pirates up 2-1. Everblades forward Oliver Chau scored his second goal of the game with less than a minute left in the second period, tying the score 2-2. The Everblades took over the game in the third period, scoring three times. Tempers flared at the nine-minute mark when Ghost Pirate Anthony Collins earned a match penalty for an illegal check to the head. Everblades Kyle Neuber received a ten-minute misconduct for retaliating. The teams got into an on-ice brawl with two seconds left, including a fight between the goaltenders. Michael McNiven and Cam Johnson received five-minute penalties for fighting and 10-minute game misconducts for secondary altercations. Kyle Nueber received a five-minute major for fighting and a 10-minute game misconduct for being the aggressor. Ghost Pirates Carter Long received the loan two-minute penalty in the altercation for roughing. The game concluded on the subsequent puck drop 5-2, giving the Everblades their fourth-straight win and the series victory.

The two victories last week for the Everblades gave them a much-needed four points in the standings. Their four-game winning streak is the best in the South Division, and their record over the past ten games of 7-2-1-0 was good enough for second. The Everblades’ 43 points place them in fifth place behind the Orlando Solar Bears and South Carolina Stingrays; both are tied for third at 44 points on the season; they did not gain any ground for the playoff spot, but, just as importantly, they didn’t lose ground. The Everblades have played fewer games than three of the four teams ahead of them, which gives them an outstanding opportunity to leapfrog an idle team. Forward Oliver Chau led the team with three goals last week, and forward Joe Pendenza and defenseman Will Reilly each had five points for the best on the team. Kyle Neuber added 42 penalty minutes to his team-leading 70 minutes over the two games. Goalies Cam Johnson and Evan Cormier added victories to their season totals, each posting over a .915 save percentage. 

The Everblades will need this momentum as they resume play this week. They host the Atlanta Gladiators Wednesday night at Hertz Arena, a must-win game. Atlanta currently sits in last place in the South Division with 28 points. This game is an excellent opportunity for the Everblades to win their fifth game against the Gladiators this season. The Everblades will take Thursday off before hosting the Division-leading Greenville Swamp Rabbits for a two-game series at Hertz Arena on Friday and Saturday nights. The Everblades must split that series to maintain pressure for that last playoff spot. The Everblades have a slight edge on the head-to-head matchup this season with a record of 3-2-2. The Swamp Rabbits, however, have won the last two meetings, both in Greenville. Regardless of how the games end this week, the Everblades will make the race for the final playoff position a nail-biter. Puck drop at Hertz Arena Wednesday at 7:30 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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