By Keaton Hanley
ESTERO, FL -- Levko Koper recorded a hat trick to lead the Florida Everblades to a 5-2 victory over the South Carolina Stingrays in Game 2 of the South Division Finals at Germain Arena Saturday night. With the win, Florida evens the series at one game apiece.
The Blades got out to a hot start for their fourth straight game, scoring three goals on their first three shots, similar to the night before where they scored two goals on their first two shots. However, the physical side of the rivalry returned off the opening draw with Mitchell Heard taking on Domenic Monardo, along with a few others grabbing a partner.
Soon after killing off the two-minute power play to open the game, the Blades were able to get on the board at 17:32 with Matt Hatch coming from behind the net and scoring from his knees with a shot that surprised Stingrays goaltender Parker Milner.
Just 25 seconds later, Levko Koper continued his hot streak, scoring on the power play while stationed in front of the net slamming it to the back of the net to put the score at 2-0.
However, Koper wasn’t finished as he would score another at 5:45 if the opening period drifting into the zone on a 2-o- 1 with Brant Harris. Koper took a quick look at Harris which froze Milner just enough to snipe his glove side to make it 3-0.
The Stingrays were able to get a goal of their own with 2:41 left in the period, while on the power play Andrew Cherniwchan used Jake Baker as a screen in order to fire the puck past Florida neminder Alex Nedeljkovic to cut the Blades lead to 3-1 prior to the first intermission.Cherniwchan added his second of the night 6:53 into the second with a hard wrister from the top of the circle, beating Nedeljkovic to make it a 3-2 game.
In the third, Brendan O’Donnell added to the lead with his league leading eight goal of the postseason with a power play tally on a shot from the bottom of the right circle that deflected in front before ending up in the back of the net. The O’Donnell tally early in the third put the score at 4-2 in favor of the Everblades.
Florida would get into penalty trouble just before the midway point of the third with both Berry and Heard ending up in the box to set up a 5-on-3 power play for the Stiingrays. The Blades were able to kill off the penalties, drawing a long cheer from the 3,599 Blades faithful in attendance.
Parker Milner scurried to the bench for the extra attacker with 2:23 left in the game and Koper would use the empty net to his advantage to score his third of the night to complete the hat trick with 1:14 left in the game.
That wouldn’t be all for the game with another series of fights breaking out with 1:08 left, with the main event consisting of Mitchell Heard and Marcus Perrier with a spirited fight lasting for a while that ended with Heard having his jersey over his head at one point but still continued to throw punches before both player falling down to the ice.
That would conclude the action in the game, ending it with a 5-2 Florida win to tie the series at 1-1 as the Blades head up to South Carolina for the next three games of the series.
Alex Nedeljkovic picked up his first win of the post season with a 21-save performance that on paper may be a bit misleading as he was able to come up with saves at crucial times to keep the Blades leading throughout the game. Milner takes the loss allowing four goals on 22 shots faced. The series will now shift to North Charleston for Game 3 on Monday at 7:05 p.m.
Fans can listen to Monday's game on 99.3 ESPN Radio, or online by CLICKING HERE
South Division Finals Playoff ScheduleBest-of-Seven Series(Series tied 1-1)
Game 1: Friday, Apr. 28, South Carolina - 3 at Florida - 2 (2OT)Game 2: Saturday, Apr. 29, South Carolina - 2 at Florida - 5 Game 3: Monday, May 1, Florida at South Carolina, 7:05 p.m. (North Charleston Coliseum)Game 4: Wednesday, May 3, Florida at South Carolina, 7:05 p.m. (North Charleston Coliseum)Game 5: Thursday, May 4, Florida at South Carolina, 7:05 p.m. (North Charleston Coliseum)Game 6: Saturday, May 6, South Carolina at Florida, 7:00 p.m. (Germain Arena)** Game 7: Monday, May 8, South Carolina at Florida, 7:30 p.m. (Germain Arena) **
Ticket InformationPlayoff Tickets Now on Sale: Playoff game tickets may be purchased at the Florida Community Bank Box Office located at Germain Arena, or online via Ticketmaster by CLICKING HERE
Discounted Group Tickets: Bring your group of 10 or more to a game at a discounted price, and you may also receive an Everblades souvenir! Group tickets are available for all home games. For more information on group tickets, call 239-948-7825.
This release courtesy of Fort Myers Technical College & Cape Coral Technical College
The Everblades are the proud ECHL affiliateof the NHL's Carolina Hurricanes###