ESTERO, Fla. — Alex Tonge and Sam Warning both scored twice and Jeremy Helvig made a season-high 38 saves to lift the Florida Everblades to a 6-2 win and series sweep of the Norfolk Admirals on Saturday night at Hertz Arena.
In its highest-scoring game since Feb. 15, Florida (48-16-5-1, 102 pts.) tied its season-high by scoring four times on Norfolk (26-35-5-3, 60 pts.) in the first period en route to finishing March with 11 wins, a win total that tied a season-high for most wins in a month by the ‘Blades.
The 'Blades struck first at the 6:59 mark of the opening frame when Tonge was sprung on a breakaway by Phillipe Hudon. As Tonge came in alone on Admirals netminder Ty Reichenbach, he made a quick fake from his forehand to his backhand before forcing the puck along the ice past Reichenbach for the goal.
Warning extended the Everblades lead to two just one minute, 26 seconds later. Blazing into the Admirals end with numbers, Justin Auger sent a pass to Warning streaking through the slot, and Warning whipped a backhander with strength that bounced off Reichenbach and fell into the net. After missing 30 games due to an injury, Auger had the primary assist in his first game back.
Warning showcased his speed and puck control to net his second goal for the ‘Blades at 13:57 of the first. Receiving a pass in stride across the blue line from Slater Doggett, Warning blazed past a defender and lasered a shot past Reichenbach’s blocker from the bottom of the left circle.
Norfolk’s Ben Duffy broke through against Helvig with 5:25 left in the first to put the Admirals on the board.
The ‘Blades answered back 16 seconds before the end of the first period with a shorthanded marker from Josh Lammon. After stealing the puck just outside Norfolk’s blue line, Lammon made a beeline into the zone and went bar down past the glove side of Reichenbach to give Florida a commanding 4-1 lead heading into the first intermission.
Patrick Bajkov got in on the action for the ‘Blades at the 6:34 mark of the second with his fourth goal of the year. As he skated down the left-wing wall, Grant Arnold saucered a pass over a backchecking Norfolk player’s stick to the tape of Bajkov, who twisted a wrist shot over the shoulder of Reichenbach.
Tonge scored right off an offensive zone faceoff around the halfway point of the middle stanza to earn his first career multi-goal game. Following a save by Reichenbach on Tonge’s initial chance, the rookie tracked down the rebound and slammed it past the Norfolk netminder with 10:59 to play in the second.
Alex Rodriguez notched the final goal of the night, converting on a rebound to pull the Admirals within two in the early stages of the third period.
Helvig stretched his personal unbeaten streak to nine games and earned his 26th victory of the season.
Florida continues the three-week homestand next weekend with a pair of home games to finish the regular season. The Everblades start the weekend with a Friday matchup against the Orlando Solar Bears. Faceoff is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. at Hertz Arena.
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