JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — The Florida Everblades fired a season-high 52 shots on goal, but Ken Appleby made 50 saves to help the Jacksonville Icemen hold on for a 4-2 win on Saturday night at Veterans Memorial Arena.
In the final game of a stretch of three games in three days, Florida (16-6-4-0, 36 pts.) got goals from Ben Masella and Mike Neville but couldn’t complete the comeback, as its season-long six-game win streak and ECHL-best 13-game point streak ended in the setback to the Icemen (15-10-1-0, 31 pts.).
Jacksonville took the lead, a lead it never relinquished, on a goal more than halfway through the first. ‘Blades goaltender Jamie Phillips stopped the initial shot from the left wing from Wacey Rabbit, but Kayle Doetzel tracked down the rebound in the slot and beat Phillips five-hole on a wrist shot to give Jacksonville a 1-0 edge 11:32 into the first period.
Nikita Korostelev doubled the lead for the Icemen in the waning minutes of the opening frame. He skated to the front of the net from the right-wing wall and beat Phillips with a backhand shot to push Jacksonville ahead 2-0 with three minutes, four seconds to play in the first.
Masella pulled Florida within one in the first seven minutes of the middle period on his second goal in as many days. The second-year pro fired a shot from the left point that beat a screened Appleby to make it a 2-1 game at the 6:16 mark of the frame.
But Jacksonville responded just 3:04 later to reinstate its two-goal advantage. After Garet Hunt tried a wraparound at the far post, Cameron Critchlow found a loose puck in the low slot and lifted it past Phillips to give the Icemen a 3-1 edge.
Following a 14-shot edge in shots on goal in the second period, Florida continued to pressure Jacksonville in the third. The ‘Blades held a 19-4 edge in shots on goal in the third period as they attempted to rally again.
Neville trimmed the deficit down to one goal again on a shorthanded tally, his third goal of the season. On a zone rush, Neville snapped a shot off from the right circle to beat Appleby glove side with 8:54 left in the game.
Still trailing by one in the final minute, Florida pulled Phillips for an extra attacker to try to tie the game. But Kris Newbury scored an empty-net goal with just four seconds remaining to seal the win for Jacksonville.
Florida will endure another stretch of three games in three days next week, starting with a two-game set in Orlando against the Solar Bears on Thursday and Friday.
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The Everblades are the proud ECHL affiliate of the NHL’s Carolina Hurricanes