ESTERO, Fla. — Michael Huntebrinker and Hunter Garlent combined for four goals and eight points to help the Florida Everblades clinch a berth in the Kelly Cup Playoffs with a 5-2 win over the Jacksonville Icemen on Saturday night at Hertz Arena.
On a night where Cam Johnson picked up a win for the second straight night with a 35-save effort, the Everblades (40-13-3-2, 85 pts.) scored three times in the second period to secure a spot in the Kelly Cup Playoffs for the 21st time in their 22 seasons.
The ‘Blades took a 1-0 lead late in the first period when Huntebrinker buried his second goal in as many nights with 1:49 to play in the frame. A Hunter Garlent faceoff win in the left circle found its way to the tape of Huntebrinker in the slot, and Huntebrinker beat Jacksonville goaltender Ben Halford through his five-hole.
The Icemen (22-27-5-1, 50 pts.) answered back with 30 seconds to play in the period on a broken play to snap Johnson’s two-game shutout streak at 79 minutes, 30 seconds. Mike Hedden, the trailer on a three-man rush, picked up a pass intended for Chase Lang in the left circle and beat Johnson’s blocker side.
Johnson came up with a huge save for the 'Blades at the eight-minute mark of the second period when Hedden was sprung on a breakaway. With Hedden speeding into the zone, Johnson came out of his crease to challenge Hedden and poked the puck away to the corner to keep it a 1-1 game.
Huntebrinker found the back of the net for his second of the game at 12:41 of the second period. Deep in the Jacksonville end, Hunter Garlent fed the puck behind the net to Darik Angeli, and he quickly snapped a pass to Huntebrinker in the slot for a one-timer that cleanly beat Halford.
The Everblades’ high-flying penalty kill extended the lead to 3-1 only 53 seconds after the go-ahead goal. The speedy combo of Huntebrinker and Garlent went off to the races after Huntebrinker stole a pass at the right point. On the ensuing two-on-one, Huntebrinker zipped through the left-wing circle and backhanded a pass to Garlent while spinning. Garlent’s one-timer then beat Halford under the left pad.
Garlent continued his torrid month of February with his second goal of the period with 50 seconds to play in the second. It was Angeli who set the play up again, as he found Garlent streaking in alone through the slot. With a couple of quick, shifty dekes, Garlent strung out Halford on the ice and shoveled the puck around his toe for the ‘Blades third tally of the period.
Hayden Shaw deflected Adam Dauda’s point shot to cut the ‘Blades lead to 4-2 at 7:44 of the third period, but that was as close as the Icemen came the rest of the night.
In a panic to get back into the game, the Icemen pulled Halford for the extra attacker with 3:32 to play in the third period. Levko Koper iced the Icemen’s comeback hopes at 18:07 of the period with his second empty-netter in as many nights.
- The playoff berth for the ‘Blades marked the 21st in 22 seasons. Head coach Brad Ralph has led his club to the postseason in all four years as head coach.
- After dropping the first two meetings with the Icemen this season, Florida has won seven straight games in the series. The ‘Blades are 18-1-1 all-time against the Icemen on home ice.
- The Everblades went 4-for-4 on the penalty kill on Saturday and are 10-for-10 on the penalty kill over their last two games.
- Florida has scored a shorthanded goal in consecutive games and ranks second in the league with 13 strikes on the penalty kill this season.
- The line of Darik Angeli, Hunter Garlent, and Michael Huntebrinker factored into Florida’s first four goals and finished with 10 combined points (4g, 6a).
- Cam Johnson registered an assist on the empty-net goal to give both him and Ken Appleby an assist from the crease this season.
- Huntebrinker and Garlent finished off stellar months of February on Saturday night. Huntebrinker tallied 18 points (7g, 11a) and Garlent posted 19 points (7g, 12a) in the second-to-last full month of the season.
Next UpThe Everblades finish off this season's second-to-last stretch of three games in three days with a Sunday afternoon road game against the Orlando Solar Bears.
2020 KELLY CUP PLAYOFF PACKAGESPackages for the 2020 Kelly Cup Playoffs are now on sale. For more information on Everblades Playoff Packages, click HERE.
BLADES 365 MEMBERSHIPS Blades 365 Memberships are now on sale for the 2020-21 season! Get great seat locations, big savings and exclusive year-round experiences with a Blades 365 Membership!
Purchase a new Blades 365 Membership for the 2020-21 season and receive a $20 gift card to Ford’s Garage and an Everblades tote bag! To view the Blades 365 Membership savings, benefits and options click HERE.
The Florida Everblades are the proud ECHL affiliate of the NHL’s Nashville Predators and AHL's Milwaukee Admirals