ESTERO, Fla. — Overtime was necessary six times in 12 games between the Florida Everblades and Orlando Solar Bears in the regular season, and not surprisingly, overtime was again needed in the first postseason meeting between the two teams in Game 1 of the South Division Finals on Friday night.
But the extra session lasted all of 55 seconds, as Colby McAuley snuck a shot past Florida goaltender Callum Booth to send Orlando to a 2-1 win at Hertz Arena.
In a game devoid of offense, Florida finally struck for the game-opening goal less than four minutes into the second period. Riley Weselowski registered his first goal with Florida to put the ‘Blades on the board first at 3:49 of the second period. Just as the Solar Bears completed a penalty kill, the ‘Blades held possession in the offensive zone, and John McCarron set up Weselowski at the top of the crease with a feed from behind the net. Weselowski slapped it past Orlando goaltender Connor Ingram to make it a 1-0 game.
Orlando tied the game at one with ten minutes to play in the third period. With Orlando pressuring deep in the zone, Hunter Fejes managed to jam a loose puck past Booth before he could cover, a goal that would eventually force overtime.
The ‘Blades thought they had regained the lead with seven minutes left in regulation when John McCarron took an odd angle shot from the left corner. Ingram bobbled the puck along the goal line but managed to recover and make the save before the puck trickled into the net.
Ben Masella then saved the game for the Everblades with 2:48 to play in regulation. With an Orlando breakaway looming, Booth skated to the right circle and played the puck, but Orlando gathered possession behind the net to set up a chance in the left circle. As Booth was still trying to get back in goal, Masella stepped to the crease and blocked the ensuing shot to keep the game tied.
Booth finished with 25 saves but suffered his first loss of the postseason, which was also Florida’s first setback at home in the playoffs. Ingram made 29 saves to earn his fifth straight win in the playoffs.
Joe Cox made his return to the lineup for Florida after missing the last four games due to injury. He picked up an assist on Weselowksi's goal for his first postseason point.
Florida will aim to even the series when it hosts Orlando for Game 2 on Saturday night at 7 p.m.
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