ESTERO, Fla. —The Florida Everblades start their quest for the second Kelly Cup in team history when they open their South Division Semifinals series against the Jacksonville Icemen on Thursday night at Hertz Arena.
Last Time OutFlorida closed out the regular season with its fifth consecutive win, a 3-1 triumph over Jacksonville on Saturday, to hit the 50-win plateau for the second straight year and third time in franchise history. Michael Neville opened the scoring with his 11th goal of the season in his first game back after missing five due to injury, while Alex Tonge had his fifth goal in his last four games for what proved to be the game-winning goal. Mitch Vandergunst added the other tally for Florida. BOX SCORE | RECAP
Players to WatchJohn McCarron (FLA) – The Everblades captain missed the final 16 games of the regular season while on his second AHL call-up of the year but still finished as Florida's fourth-highest scorer with 53 points (26g-27a). McCarron experienced a good deal of success while in the AHL with the Stockton Heat, recording multiple points in two games and seven points (3g-4a) in total in 13 games. He is second among 'Blades players in goals with his 26 tallies, while his 15 multi-point games this year are also second-most on the team.
Wacey Rabbit (JAX) - The 12th-year pro finished as Jacksonville's leading scorer in the regular season with 60 points (29g-31a) in 70 games. Rabbit also led all Jacksonville players with nine points (5g-4a) in head-to-head matchups against the 'Blades. The Lethbridge, Alberta, native has played a bulk of his career in the AHL, suiting up in 309 career games and posting 95 career points (36g-59a) in the AHL.
Series historyFlorida and Jacksonville have squared off 27 times over the last two seasons, but Thursday is the first-ever postseason meeting between the South Division rivals. The Everblades hold a 22-3-2 all-time record against the Icemen and posted a 9-3-1 mark against Jacksonville in the regular season this year. The home team had the upper hand in the regular season series, with Florida going 6-0-0 at Hertz Arena and Jacksonville compiling a 4-3-0 mark at Veterans Memorial Arena.
Helvig in GoalRookie goaltender Jeremy Helvig shouldered a bulk of the workload down the stretch for Florida, appearing in 11 of the final 15 games of the regular season. He finished the regular season off with a 10-game unbeaten streak, posting a 9-0-0-1 record in 11 appearances from March 2-April 5. The Markham, Ontario, native allowed less than three goals in seven of his 10 starts in that span. With the strong finish to the season, Helvig tied the 'Blades single-season record for wins by a rookie netminder (27).
Home Ice AdvantageHertz Arena has been synonymous with success for the Everblades under the three-year watch of head coach Brad Ralph. Florida finished the regular season with the second-most home wins in the ECHL (27), giving it 79 home victories since Ralph took over for the 2016-17 season. That three-year home win total is the best in the ECHL and is two wins ahead of the next closest team, the Toledo Walleye. Florida's home success keyed its run to the Kelly Cup Finals last year, as the 'Blades went 7-1-2-0 at home in the postseason.
Battle of Penalty KillsThe series between Jacksonville and Florida pits two of the league's best penalty kills against each other. The Icemen finished the regular season as the top-ranked penalty kill with a conversion rate of 87.5% (267-305) and killed off 38 of 39 penalties against the 'Blades in the final 10 head-to-head meetings with Florida. The Everblades' penalty kill ended the regular season on its longest scoreless streak of the year, holding opposing power plays without a goal on 23 straight chances over the final six games. Florida finished the year with the ECHL's fourth-best home penalty kill conversion rate at 87.2%.
Next UpFlorida hosts Game 2 of the best-of-seven series against Jacksonville on Saturday at Hertz Arena at 7 p.m. The fun gets started with a pregame tailgate from 5-7 p.m.
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The Everblades are the proud ECHL affiliate of the NHL’s Carolina Hurricanes