The Florida Everblades would love to forget last week, having entered the week in fifth place in the South Division and two points out of the final playoff spot. The Everblades have been hot in 2024, going 7-2-1-1, and last week’s opponents should have given them at least two wins. All three games last week were on the road, with the first in Jacksonville against the Icemen and the previous two in Savannah against the Ghost Pirates. The Everblades struggled against the Icemen this season, managing only one point in four games and posting a 0-3-1-0 record. They fared better against Ghost Pirates this season with nine points and a 4-2-1-0 record. The team, however, struggled in every game, losing all three games; the only point they managed was an overtime loss on Saturday against the Ghost Pirates. The games this week mark a pivotal moment for the Everblades’ season.
Once teams hit the mid-season point, they see an increase in roster moves. NHL and AHL teams look to fill holes due to injuries and poor play and strengthen their roster for the playoff push, and that creates a domino effect throughout the affiliated teams. The Everblades have yet to be immune to this. Defenseman Cole Moberg (Syracuse Crunch) and forward Mark Senden (Charlotte Checkers) were reassigned from their AHL affiliate. Forwards Zach Tsekos and Chris Ordoobadi were placed on injured reserve. For Tsekos, he had just come off injured reserve and was re-injured after only playing in two games. Forward Luke Santerno joined the Everblades from a trade with the Kansas City Mavericks. During the three games last week, coach Brad Ralph made eleven changes to his lineup. This high number of changes to the team’s chemistry influenced the play, as they gave up eleven goals while only scoring six.
The game Wednesday night in Jacksonville started on a good note for the Everblades as Bobo Carpenter scored his 17th goal of the season at 2:17 in the first period. The Icemen, however, would score seven minutes later and then add another goal with just over a minute left in the period. Logan Lambdin (9) would tie the game 19 seconds into the second period, but that would be their last goal. The Icemen would score three more times, including an empty netter, to win the game 5-2. Evan Cormier took the loss for the Everblades, allowing four goals before being pulled for Cam Johnson at 7:29 of the second period. The Icemen outshot the Everblades 37-28, and the team went a collective minus 16. Cole Moberg and Mark Senden were in the lineup for the game, fresh off their reassignment from the AHL.
Game one against the Ghost Pirates in Savannah was closer. The Ghost Pirates struck first at 13:56 in the second period with Keltie Jeri-Leon’s tenth goal. Nathan Staois (7) would tie the game at 3:38 of the third, but Nolan Valleau (4) would put the Ghost Pirates back in front at 14:15. The Ghost Pirates would hold on for the 2-1 win; they outshot the Everblades 32-30. Cam Johnson would take the loss, making 30 saves on 32 shots. Forward Kyle Neuber was back in the lineup for the Everblades after his three-game suspension.
The second game against the Ghost Pirates went much like the first. Joe Pendenza (15) and Will Reilly (4) scored in the first period, giving the Everblades a 2-0 lead going into the locker room. The Ghost Pirates, however, would score two goals in the second period, tying the game 2-2 going into the last period. Newcomer Luke Santerno (4) would score his first goal with the Everblades at 15:35. Alex Gilmour (7) would tie the game at 18:16, sending the game into overtime. Simon Pinard (14) would seal the win for the Ghost Pirates 27 seconds into the extra frame. Evan Cormier made 22 saves on 26 shots in the loss. The Everblades were outshot again, 26-24.
The Everblades’ five-game losing streak and 5-3-1-1 record over their last ten games has put a massive kink in their playoff push. Their opponent this week will make it incredibly difficult to break out of their losing streak. This week, they host the Adirondack Thunder for a three-game series at Hertz Arena. The Thunder lead the season series 2-1 after winning the three-game series in Glan Falls in November. Cam Johnson went 1-1 against the Thunder, and Evan Cormier lost his only start against them. The Thunder, however, are on an incredible winning streak, getting points in their last 17 games. They also outscore their opponents by 49 goals and have 30 more goals than the Everblades.
The Orlando Solar Bears, the team ahead of the Everblades in the standings, are playing a three-game series against the Jacksonville Icemen. The Icemen have a 3-1-0-0 record against the Solar Bears this season, so they should take at least two of the three games. If the Solar Bears lose their series and the Everblades can win theirs, they will move into fourth place. The Everblades can do that if they channel the energy and chemistry that resulted in a five-game winning streak in January. They have skilled players to push an aggressive forecheck, clog the neutral zone, and prevent high-quality scoring chances. Forwards Joe Pendenza, Sean Josling, Oliver Chau, and Bobo Carpenter must score often to give the goalies and defense breathing room.
The Everblades’ next game is Wednesday at 7:30 p.m. at Hertz Arena.