Estero, FL – Staring down the barrel of a 5-2 third period deficit and the prospect of being swept at home by their arch rivals, the Florida Everblades dug deep and rattled off four goals in the final frame to shock the Orlando Solar Bears 6-5 Saturday at Germain Arena.
Behind by three after two, the Everblades started their improbable comeback on an impressive individual effort by Carl Nielsen, who tipped a Mathieu Roy centering feed into space then twisted his body around a defender and chopped the puck over the glove of Orlando goalie Christopher Gibson three minutes into the third to cut it to 5-3.
Roy then cut further into the Orlando lead with 10:16 remaining in the stanza, getting free on a breakaway thanks to a stretch pass by Brian Rafalaski and beating Gibson stick side to bring Florida within one at 5-4.
A broken play turned into an equalizing goal for the Blades as Kyle Bonis lost the puck on the rush at the side of Gibson’s net, but the disc sat still on the ice for Mike Merrifield to hammer past a sprawling Gibson, bringing the crowd of 5,888 to its feet with 7:35 to go.
The partisans at Germain Arena saved their loudest roar for 3:17 remaining, however, as Olivier Dame-Malka collected a point pass from Carl Nielsen and ripped a low liner through Gibson’s legs that trickled over the goal line and gave the Blades their first lead of the night at 6-5.
Netminder Scott Stajcer—called on in relief after Riku Helenius surrendered three first-period goals—made two saves in the final two minutes on Orlando’s Cody Wild and Mickey Lang to preserve the unlikely victory for the Everblades.
Orlando earned those three opening frame goals in a 50-second flurry as Jacob Cepis, Eric Baier and Mike Duco struck on the Solar Bears’ first three shots of the night to post the visitors to a 3-0 lead less than nine minutes into the game, ending Helenius’ night prematurely.
Trevor Bruess scored on a short breakaway, going post-and-in from beside the net, to pull Florida within 3-1 after one.
Duco and Blades blueliner Bryce Lampan traded goals in a three-minute span in the second, but Cepis picked up his second goal of the night with 3:11 left in the middle frame to give the visitors a seemingly commanding lead of 5-2 after two.
Stacjer made 16 saves to pick up his first win as an Everblade and fifth overall on the year. Gibson offered 19 saves in defeat for Orlando.
The Blades now strike out on a three-game divisional road trip, starting Friday with a 7:05 date at North Charleston Coliseum against the division-leading South Carolina Stingrays.
Friday’s top-two South showdown 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 6:50pm.
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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 the Blades’ next home game on January 18.
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.