ESTERO, Fla. — It took only three minutes, 13 seconds for the Florida Everblades to effectively dash the Jacksonville Icemen’s hopes of a Game 7 in the South Division Semifinal series.
With the two teams tied at one in the first four minutes of the second period, the Everblades erupted for four goals in a span of 3:13 to surge ahead en route to a 5-1 win over the Icemen and a 4-2 series victory.
Blake Winiecki scored twice for the second straight game, and Nathan Perkovich (3a), John McCarron (1g-1a), Alex Tonge (1g-1a) and Kyle Platzer (2a) chipped in multiple points to lead Florida to the second round for the 15th time in 20 postseason appearances.
The ‘Blades got on the board early with Winiecki’s third goal in his last two games at 1:49 of the first period. With a Jacksonville defender stepping up in the neutral zone to make a hit, Nathan Perkovich sprung the puck up to Kyle Platzer right before the contact to create a two-on-one rush. Platzer found Winiecki all alone at the back post, and he slid it into the empty cage behind Jacksonville goaltender Mikhail Berdin.
The Icemen tied the game at one only two minutes, 29 seconds later with a goal from Maxime Fortier, their goal-scoring leader in the postseason. Kris Newbury worked his way in deep in the ‘Blades defensive zone and sent a pass to Fortier outside the crease for a quick-triggered one-timer.
Florida goaltender Callum Booth bounced back right away and made arguably the save of the series less than two minutes after Jacksonville had tied the game. Booth dove headlong to his left to stop a one-time blast from the low right circle to keep the game knotted at one.
With the game tied after the first period, Florida then took over in the middle stanza.
McCarron, the ‘Blades captain, started the offensive charge with a goal 4:04 into the period. Tonge started the play from the Everblades’ end of the ice, pick-pocketing an Icemen defender at the blue line and speeding back the other way. After entering the zone, Tonge ripped a wrist shot that caromed off the back wall into the slot to McCarron, and he quickly sent it on net on his backhand, a shot that knuckled past Berdin into the goal.
Tommy Thompson rode the wave of momentum from the first goal and punched in a rebound just 54 seconds later to extend Florida’s lead to two. Matt Finn’s initial shot from the slot bounced toward the front of the net, and Berdin kicked the rebound to his right, where Thompson was waiting to pound it into the goal.
One minute and 49 seconds later McCarron worked in one-on-four, stole the puck from Fortier and banked it off the pads of Berdin into the slot. Another rebound opportunity found the stick of Tonge, and he wristed it past Berdin’s blocker.
Then, just 36 seconds later, Platzer set up Winiecki for his second goal of the frame, his fourth in two games. Winiecki carried across the line, pulled the puck around a diving Jacob Cederholm and ripped a snap shot from the slot past Berdin to end his night.
Booth earned his second straight win with a 22-save effort. He yielded just two goals in his two starts in the series.
Florida now moves onto the South Division Final, where it will face the Orlando Solar Bears. The best-of-seven series starts Friday with a 7:30 p.m. matchup at Hertz Arena.
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