Wheeling, WV – In Saturday’s clash of two of the Eastern Conference’s top three teams, the result came down to the final second—and then some—as the Florida Everblades survived a last-gasp rally by the Wheeling Nailers to claim a 5-4 shootout win at WesBanco Arena.
The Atlantic-leading Nailers claimed the first lead of the night at 1-0 just 4:51 into the game as Sahir Gill turned a defensive-zone turnover by the Blades into an easy goal on a one-timer from Chaz Johnson.
Following a successful penalty kill late in the first, the Blades got two goals in a matter of 95 seconds as Olivier Dame-Malka and Kyle Bonis went runner-runner to give the visitors a 2-1 lead heading into the first intermission. Kellan Tochkin provided the primary assist on each goal and would finish the night with four helpers.
It would take the Nailers just 37 seconds into the middle frame to tie it back up at 2-2, however, as another turnover inside the Florida blue line turned into a short snap-shot strike for Max MacKay.
Wheeling pulled back ahead at 3-2 nearly 15 minutes later on the power play as Carter Rowney attracted both defenders on a 2-on-2 rush, freeing Tyler Fernandez to tap a short rebound in past Blades goalie Trevor Cann with 4:28 to go in the second.
Given a 5-on-3 power play in the final two minutes of the second stanza, the Everblades forced another tie at 3-3 as Jordan Henry sailed a low liner that Mathieu Roy deflected over the blocker of Wheeling netminder Mike Condon with just 49 seconds to spare before intermission.
Both sides battled to a deadlock through the first 18 minutes of the third before Mike Merrifield corralled a centering feed from Bonis on a 2-1, kicking it to his forehand and ripping home a low snap shot to boost the Blades to a 4-3 lead with 1:52 left in regulation.
Though things looked promising for the Everblades to sneak out with a regulation win, the Nailers managed to even the score once again at four and force overtime with just one second left on the clock as top-scoring winger Zack Torquato grabbed a back-door pass from Mike Ratchuk and slipped it through Cann’s five-hole.
Neither side was able to gain the edge in the extra frame, sending the contest to a decisive shootout.
Though Ratchuk was able to beat Cann with a backhand tuck move, the Florida keeper stopped the other four Wheeling shooters while Brandon MacLean and Matthew Pistilli each struck for the Everblades to boost the visitors to a 5-4 win.
All told, the game featured four ties and three lead changes.
Cann turned in 24 stops for his fourth consecutive win; Condon made 26 saves but could not avoid his fourth shootout defeat of 2013-14.
Both sides will reconvene Sunday at 3:00pm to try and top Saturday’s instant classic at WesBanco Arena.
Sunday’s road trip finale will be broadcast live online at FloridaEverblades.com and on the Everblades’ app for iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch, with a video webcast available through America ONE, the official broadband and mobile broadcaster of the ECHL, at www.americaonesports.com. Pregame coverage will get under way at 2:45pm.
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Don’t want to pay the box office rate for Everblades tickets? You don’t have to! Save up to $7.00 per ticket with great 10 and 20-game flex plans and group rates for the remainder of the 2013-14 campaign. Lock in your flex plan or group seats now for Ugly Christmas Sweater Night on December 20.
For more information call 239-948-7825, or stop by the Everblades main office located at Germain Arena.
Office hours are Monday – Friday 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.The Everblades are the proud ECHL affiliate of the Carolina Hurricanes and Tampa Bay Lightning.###