ESTERO, Fla. — The Florida Everblades kicked off preseason action with a hard-fought 3-2 loss against their in-state rival the Orlando Solar Bears on Friday at Hertz Arena.
Justin Auger and Greg Campbell both registered goals, and the ‘Blades special teams excelled, but Florida couldn’t climb out of a 2-0 hole to tie the game and force overtime.
Orlando got on the board first at 16:32 of the first period off a rebound opportunity converted by Jimmy Lodge. A howitzer of a shot off the stick of Brent Pedersen in the slot rebounded hard off the pads of Florida goaltender Ken Appleby out to the right circle. Lodge was waiting there and slammed the rebound past the glove-hand side of Appleby to give Orlando the first lead of the game. That tally was part of an 18-shot barrage on Appleby in the opening period.
The Solar Bears extended their lead with a goal from Ivan Kosorenkov at 1:20 of the period. On a broken play by the Blades in the neutral zone, Kosorenkov snuck in behind the ‘Blades defense. Pierre-Luc Mercier snapped a pass to Kosorenkov who lifted it by Appleby’s blocker to move the Orlando lead to 2-0.
Auger, who tabbed 12 goals last season, brought the Blades back within one at 13:09 of the second period. Auger walked in over the blue line, skated to the middle of the left circle and ripped a wrist shot that beat Solar Bears netminder Spencer Martin by the glove.
The Solar Bears responded with a goal of their own to make it 3-1 at 15:58 of the second period. Trevor Olson stole the puck deep in the ‘Blades defensive zone and came in all alone on Appleby. Off a sharp angle, he took a shot that beat Appleby over the glove for the tally.
Two goalie changes occurred at the start of the third period. Cody Porter took over the net for the ‘Blades and Zach Sawchenko manned the crease for the Solar Bears. Appleby finished with 27 saves on 30 shots for the ‘Blades, while Spencer Martin stopped all but one of the 17 shots he faced.
The ‘Blades clawed within one on a bomb of a one-timer by Campbell on Florida’s second power play of the night. Setting up at the top of the Solar Bears zone, Patrick McCarron sent a perfect pass from the top left of the blue line down to Campbell at the top of the right circle. Campbell got all of his shot to beat Sawchenko bar down on the glove side.
With Florida still down a goal late in the third, Porter beelined to the bench to give the ‘Blades an extra attacker with 1:11 to play. Despite a hard attack by the ‘Blades, the Solar Bears withstood the late pressure.Porter finished with seven saves in the third period, while the 'Blades killed off all six power plays they faced in the game. Florida converted on 50% of its power plays.
Florida battles Orlando again on Saturday night in the final preseason tune-up before the regular season begins next weekend. Faceoff is slated for 7 p.m. at Hertz Arena.
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