GREENVILLE, S.C. — Blake Winiecki scored the only goal of the shootout and goaltender Jeremy Helvig stopped all three shooters he faced to lift the Florida Everblades to a 3-2 shootout win over the Greenville Swamp Rabbits on Friday night at Bon Secours Wellness Arena.
Justin Auger and Matt Finn both registered goals in regulation for Florida and Helvig finished with 26 saves to give the Everblades (20-6-5-0, 45 pts.) their third straight win and at least one standings point in 18 of their last 19 games.
The second to last to go in the shootout, Winiecki snuck a shot five-hole on Greenville goaltender Chris Nell to put the ‘Blades ahead in the shootout, 1-0. Johno May then appeared to have tied the shootout for Greenville (12-18-3-1, 28 pts.) after tapping a shot past Helvig at the near post, but the goal was waived off to make Florida the first team in the Eastern Conference to 20 wins.
Greenville struck for the first goal of the game on a two-on-one rush into the offensive zone. While moving through the left circle, Stephen Pierog managed to squeeze a shot past the short side on Helvig at the 9:04 mark of the first period.
Florida answered with a pivotal goal in the last minute of the opening frame to tie the game at one. On a strong shift by the ‘Blades top forward line of Justin Auger, John McCarron, and Blake Winiecki, Auger finally capitalized on the extended pressure in the offensive zone. After his initial shot was stopped, Auger retrieved the puck at the near side of the net and tucked the wraparound past the far post with just 49 seconds left in the opening frame.
Matt Finn helped propel the ‘Blades ahead in the second period with his second goal in his last three games. With Florida on its first power play of the night, Finn unleashed a blast from the high slot that beat Nell seven minutes, six seconds into the middle frame.
Greenville bounced back in the early stages of the third to tie the game with a goal from Will Merchant that eventually forced overtime. Merchant created a turnover just outside his own blue line and scored from between the circles on the ensuing breakaway to knot the score at two.
Helvig earned his fifth straight win to equal the longest win streak by a ‘Blades goaltender this season.
Florida wraps up its third consecutive three-in-three weekend with the finale of the two-game set against Greenville on Saturday night at Bon Secours Wellness Arena. Faceoff is slated for 7 p.m.
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The Everblades are the proud ECHL affiliate of the NHL’s Carolina Hurricanes