ESTERO, Fla. - The Florida Everblades (32-11-0-2) emerged on top of the Jacksonville Icemen (16-18-3-3) after a 6-4 affair on Wednesday night at Hertz Arena. Florida bagged five goals in the third period to finish off Jacksonville. Rookie goaltender Devin Cooley earned the win in his first start with the Everblades since being recalled to the Nashville Predators (NHL) in early March.
FIRST STAR: John McCarron (FLA) - two goals, two assists, +2, six shots
SECOND STAR: Myles Powell (FLA) - one goal, one assist, five shots
THIRD STAR: Christopher Brown (JAX) - one goal, one assist, +1, two shots
Devin Cooley had a strong start manning the net for Florida in his first Everblades start since Feb. 26. Despite stops on several high danger scoring chances by the rookie Cooley, the Icemen found the back of the net in the first period with a slap shot from Michael Kim (15:47).
Max Cook got Florida on the board in the second period after he picked the top right corner on Jacksonville goaltender Charles Williams (7:22). Cook’s second tally of the year came after a crisp passing play involving Michael Huntebrinker and Myles Powell to tie the game at 1-1.
Tensions in a spirited second period boiled over when Florida’s Cody Sol and Jacksonville’s Travis Howe dropped the gloves and energized their benches. With just over five minutes left in the second, the Icemen grabbed a 2-1 lead when Mike Szmatula backhanded a rebound past Cooley (14:38).
The Everblades exploded out of the gate in the third period with a barrage of goals to take a 4-2 lead. John McCarron led off the parade with a power-play score just 12 seconds into the frame to bring the game to a 2-2 tie (0:12). Powell quickly followed suit by notching a power-play tally of his own with an authoritative wrister from the low slot (1:26). Less than a minute after Powell’s goal, Luke Nogard gave Florida a 4-2 lead when he cut loose a shot through traffic that narrowly snuck inside the right post (2:19). The three-goal sequence spanned 2:07 and marked the second-fastest trio of Blades goals this season. The only time Florida scored three goals in quicker succession came in the first period on Jan. 3 at Orlando.
Blake Winiecki lengthened the Everblades lead later in the third when he slid the puck underneath Williams on an odd-man rush (8:14). The goal gave Florida a 5-2 lead and was the first goal for Winiecki since the birth of his daughter Riley on Apr. 1.
Jacksonville started a comeback when Christopher Brown tipped in a shot from the point (11:07). The play was examined to see if Brown had in fact interfered with Cooley but the goal stood to shorten Florida’s lead to 5-3. Just over two minutes later, Pascal Aquin jumped out on a breakaway and hit the top left corner on Cooley to cut Florida’s advantage to 5-4 (13:18).
The Icemen comeback ultimately fell short, and McCarron hit the empty net for his second goal of the game and the fifth of the period for Florida. Wednesday’s third period served as the first occasion this season the Everblades scored five goals in a single frame.
Cooley finished the night with 37 saves on 41 Jacksonville shots. The rookie now holds a 9-4-0-0 record on the season with Florida.
The Everblades and Icemen will meet three times this weekend in Jacksonville. Friday’s and Saturday’s affairs will take place at 7:00 p.m., and Sunday’s tilt will get underway at 3:00 p.m.
The next home game for Florida comes on Wednesday, Apr. 14 at 7:30 p.m. against the Greenville Swamp Rabbits (20-13-8-3). Enjoy Hump Day Deals at Wednesday’s game! $3 Bud Light Drafts, $3 Barefoot Wine, $3 John Morrell Hot Dogs, and $4 New Amsterdam and Pink Whitney Vodka! Calling all College Students – Show your College ID at the Hertz Arena Box Office and receive $5 tickets at every Blades Wednesday Night home game! Find tickets for the game on Apr. 14 HERE.
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