ESTERO, Fla – The Florida Everblades took the series lead against the South Carolina Stingrays two games to one after a 5-1 win on Saturday night at Hertz Arena. Forward Levko Koper recorded a hat trick to lead the charge for Florida. Netminder Jake Hildebrand played like the reigning ECHL Goaltender of the Year as he stopped 33 of 34 shots.
FIRST STAR: Levko Koper (FLA) - three goals, +3, four shots
SECOND STAR: Jake Hildebrand (FLA) - 33 saves
THIRD STAR: Stefan Leblanc (FLA) - one goal, one assist, +2, two shots
Game three started off fast with a quick tally from South Carolina and Justin Florek just over two minutes into the first (2:06). The Stingrays surrendered the lead over a minute-and-a-half later thanks to a Stefan Leblanc wrister that snuck past South Carolina’s netminder Hunter Shepard (3:50).
Florida pulled ahead early in the second period off a breakaway score from forward Blake Winiecki (2:52). Stefan Leblanc lifted the puck towards a streaking Winiecki who buried the wrister to put the Blades up 2-1. A few minutes later, Zach Solow fed Levko Koper at the crease to slide the puck past Shepard to build the lead to 3-1 (6:03). Koper wasn’t done on the night as he skated all alone into the Stingrays zone and lifted a backhander into the net for his second goal of the game, just three minutes after his first (9:13).
Levko Koper sealed the win for Florida with an unassisted tally just past midway through the third period (11:13). The score earned a hat trick for Koper, his second career playoff hat trick during his tenure with the Everblades and the first in the ECHL Kelly Cup Playoffs this year.
The Blades are back at home for game four tomorrow, Sunday, June 13 at 6:00 p.m. as they look to close out the Stingrays. Find tickets to the game HERE.
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The Florida Everblades are the proud ECHL affiliate of the NHL’s Nashville Predators and the AHL's Milwaukee Admirals