Written by Keaton Hanley
ESTERO, FL -- The Florida Everblades ended March on a high note with a 4-2 victory over the Atlanta Gladiators on Pucks and Paws night in front of their furry friends and fans at Germain Arena on Saturday night. The dogs at the game barked with support of the 'Blades who collected their sixth consecutive victory. Following a loss by South Carolina on Saturday, the 'Blades (49-13-2-4, 104 pts) extend their lead in the division to seven points.
The Blades got on the board first and early courtesy of Brett Bulmer’s third goal in two nights. Michael Kirkpatrick sauced a pass over the stick of a Gladiators defender’s stick to Bulmer who was entering the zone with speed. As Bulmer skated in on Dan Vladar, he got him to open up the wickets and he fired a shot through his five-hole to give the Blades a 1-0 lead.
The Gladiators had a few good chances in the first, but Ouellette proved to be better as he put away the 11 shots fired his way.
There was some barking back and forth as the period ended---but it wasn’t the dogs---it was Kyle Neuber finishing his checks and making sure to introduce himself to the Gladiators.
In the second period, red-hot rookie defender Derek Sheppard extended the Blades lead right as a power play expired. Joe Cox circled in the left corner down low before whipping it to Sheppard right above the right circle. Sheppard for a one-timer that snuck over the outstretched leg of Vladar.
Just nine seconds later, Matt Berry potted the third goal of the night for the Blades. John McCarron won the faceoff back to Matt McKenzie, who sent it to Gus Young, and in tic-tac-toe fashion stretched a pass to Berry who had snuck in behind the Gladiators defense at the blue line. Berry used his blazing speed to further separate himself from the defenders and got in alone before faking a forehand move to stay on his backhand for the shot that ruffed over Vladar’s blocker.
The physicality came to its peak at the end of the period as Gladiators players were yapping in the Blades end near Martin Ouellette. The Blades pack of players heard enough and decided to take the Gladiators to the pound, putting a muzzle on the Gladiators as they headed to the second intermission with a 3-0 lead.
The Gladiators were able to steal a goal while on the power play at 5:21 of the third period. A shot that was fought off by Ouellette was jammed away multiple times by several Gladiators players. Eventually Taylor Stefishen was able to spear the puck into the back of the net to the put the score at 3-1.
The Gladiators attempted to mount a comeback late as they came within one goal with 3:15 to play. Eric Shand sent the puck to Derek Nesbitt in front. Nesbitt directed the puck on goal which was stopped by Ouellette, but it rebounded to Alex Rauter who was there to backhand it by Ouellette to make it 3-2.
The goal for Rauter was his first pro goal and he couldn’t have chosen much better of a time to score it.The Gladiators pulled Vladar with 1:23 as time was whittling down off the clock. The Gladiators got a shot off through traffic, but Ouellette saw it all the way and froze it. The Gladiators called a timeout before the ensuing faceoff to draw up one last play to try and get the tying goal. With twenty seconds left Stephen MacAulay put a fork in the Gladiators comeback attempt with the Blades fourth tally from just outside the Gladiators blue line for the empty-netter.
With the 4-2 victory, the Blades completed a 10-game season sweep of the Gladiators, giving them only one point in a shootout.
Game Notes: Matt Berry extended his point streak to eight games, adding a goal in the win....Martin Ouellette (30-5-1-2) picked up his 30th win of the season....When scoring the 1st goal of the game, the Blades are 17-1-0-0 at home and 34-4-1-1 overall.....The Blades finished the month of March with a 12-1-0-0 record. In the last two seasons combined the Blades are 21-1-0-1 against the Gladiators.
Upcoming Home Games & EventsSaturday, April 7, vs. Jacksonville, 7:00 p.m. Join us for the final home game of the regular season!. The game is Fan Appreciation Night as well as Blackout Night presented by the Passion Foundation. The team will wear special black jerseys that will be auctioned off following the game! There will also be a team award ceremony prior to the start of the game. Fans will also receive a coupon voucher for free product at Wawa! There will also be a team photo giveaway.
Ticket InformationTicket & Playoff Packages are Currently on Sale! Flexible partial plans are available. These packages will best fit your schedule and budget! To view pricing and benefits of all available ticket packages CLICK HERE
Purchase Single Game Tickets 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! Group tickets are available for all home games. Fundraising opportunities are also available. For more information on group tickets, call 239-948-7825, or stop by the Everblades offices at Germain Arena Monday thru Friday from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
The Everblades are the proud ECHL affiliateof the NHL's Carolina Hurricanes###