ESTERO, Fla. — Five different players scored a goal and Jeremy Helvig stopped 29 shots to help the Florida Everblades clinch the Eastern Conference regular season title with a 5-2 win over the Norfolk Admirals on Friday night at Hertz Arena.
In a victory that ensured Florida (47-16-5-1, 100 pts.) home-ice advantage through the Eastern Conference Final in the 2019 Kelly Cup Playoffs, three different players netted their first goal of the season to extend the ‘Blades home point streak to six games and secure the second straight win over the Admirals (26-34-5-3, 60 pts).
The ‘Blades struck first at 7:29 of the first period with Sam Warning’s first goal of the season in his third game back from an injury that sidelined him for the first 66 games. With play at four-on-four, Grant Arnold won the faceoff forward in the Admirals’ end and chipped a pass from along the goal line to Warning in the slot. Warning quickly snapped off a wrist shot that beat Norfolk goaltender Jeremy Brodeur five-hole.
Christian Horn scored his second goal in as many games against the ‘Blades at 12:12 of the first period to tie the game at one. Horn curled from the left-wing corner to the high slot and fired a shot through a screen that beat Helvig above his blocker.
With a minute to play in the opening frame, the ‘Blades wrestled the lead back on Alex Tonge’s first career goal. The play started on the stick of Tonge in the Norfolk end, with Tonge throwing a pass to Slater Doggett streaking into the slot. Doggett fired the shot on net, and it rebounded to the stick of Patrick Bajkov just outside the crease. Bajkov zipped the puck off the post and off the backside of Brodeur before Tonge potted the rebound from the crease.
Derek Sheppard scored late in the second period to give the ‘Blades a two-goal lead. Intercepting a clearing attempt at the blue line, Sheppard bolted through the circle toward the slot and shifted to a backhanded shot that caught Brodeur off guard to beat his glove hand.
Josh Lammon struck for his first career ECHL goal at the 8:07 mark of the third period to stretch the Everblades’ lead to 4-1. Brodeur made the initial save on Patrick McCarron’s blast from the high slot, but Lammon found the rebound at the side of the net and shoveled it in.
Norfolk climbed back within two on a goal by Don Olivieri with six minutes, 36 seconds left in the third.
The ‘Blades regained their three-goal lead with the final goal of the night at the 17:28 mark of the final period. Blake Winiecki set up Michael Downing for a one-time shot from the top of the left circle, and Philippe Hudon hammered in the rebound from Downing’s initial shot to give the ‘Blades five goals for the second straight game.
Helvig stopped 25 shots over the final two periods to earn his 25th win of the year. He improved to 7-0-0-1 over his last nine appearances.
Florida wraps up the three-game series with Norfolk with a 7 p.m. matchup on Saturday night.
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The Everblades are the proud ECHL affiliate of the NHL’s Carolina Hurricanes