DULUTH, Ga. — Joe Cox recorded his team-leading fourth multi-point game of the season and six different players scored a goal to send the Florida Everblades to a 6-3 win over the Atlanta Gladiators on Saturday night at Infinite Energy Arena.
On the heels of being shut out on Friday night, Florida (6-5-2-0, 14 pts.) responded in a big way, tying its largest single-game offensive output this season in the series opener against Atlanta (4-7-2-0, 10 pts.).
Cox helped the Everblades jump out to an early lead with his team-leading seventh goal of the season. After defenseman Olivier Dame-Malka kept the puck in the offensive zone, Kyle Platzer located it in the left circle and dished to Cox as he crashed the net. Cox promptly slammed the puck past Atlanta goaltender Miroslav Svoboda at the back post just 2:45 into the first period for Florida’s fastest goal to start a game this season.
Less than three minutes later, Nathan Perkovich doubled the advantage with the Everblades’ first shorthanded goal of the season. Perkovich won a foot race to a puck sliding into the Atlanta defensive zone and then snapped off a shot from the slot that beat Svoboda at the 5:28 mark of the opening frame.
Derek Sheppard then increased the lead to three with Florida’s fastest goal to start a period this season. Just 18 seconds into the second, Sheppard hammered a feed from Mitch Vandergunst past the glove hand of Svoboda. Prior to that tally, Florida’s quickest goal was 28 seconds into the second period of a 6-2 win over Jacksonville last Saturday.
Atlanta finally solved Florida goaltender Jamie Phillips with less than five minutes remaining in the middle frame. Nolan LaPorte whacked a loose puck past Phillips at the right side of the crease to trim the ‘Blades lead to 3-1.
The two teams ramped up the offense in the third period, combing for five goals in the final 20 minutes. Jordon Southorn provided the eventual game-winning tally, his second goal of the season, at the 5:45 mark of the third on a blast from the left point.
Atlanta clawed back within two on a goal from Alex Overhardt, but Florida responded exactly two minutes later to push the lead to three once more. On a 2-on-1 rush into the offensive zone, captain John McCarron drew Svoboda out of his net and tucked it around him at the left post to make it 5-2 with 8:06 left in the game.
With less than six minutes to play, Atlanta whittled the deficit back to two on a power-play goal from Justin MacDonald. MacDonald tracked down a rebound at the side of the net and lifted it over Phillips to trim Florida’s lead to 5-3.
But, the ‘Blades had one last response to ensure the final margin of victory was three. David Friedmann slipped a backhand shot through the five-hole of Svoboda on a breakaway to cap the scoring. Cox helped set up the play with his second assist of the night and finished with three points (1g, 2a).
Kyle Platzer posted two assists for his first multi-point game of the season as Florida earned its 14th straight regular-season win in the all-time series with Atlanta.
Florida concludes its busiest weekend of the season to-date with a Sunday afternoon matchup against Atlanta at 3:05 p.m. at Infinite Energy Arena. Fans can watch Sunday’s game on ECHL.TV. There will not be an audio stream available for Sunday’s game.
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The Everblades are the proud ECHL affiliate of the NHL’s Carolina Hurricanes