ESTERO, Fla. – The Florida Everblades (23-15-3-3) struck first, but the Orlando Solar Bears (22-16-3-0) scored three third-period goals as the Blades came up on the short end of a 3-2 decision in front of a spirited crowd of 6,940 Southwest Florida faithful Saturday night at Hertz Arena.
Unlike the first two games of the series, which saw both teams combine for five first-period goals, neither side managed to light the lamp in the opening stanza. The Solar Bears claimed an 11-9 advantage in shots on goal over the first 20 minutes.
The scoreless drought continued past the midpoint of the second period, but at the 12:05 mark, Levko Koper slapped home a feed from Alex Aleardi following a pass from Dylan Vander Esch who was stationed just inside the right end of the blue line to put the Everblades ahead 1-0. Koper’s goal was his ninth of the season, while Aleardi and Vander Esch picked up assists 21 and seven, respectively.
The goals would come quickly after the second intermission for Orlando, which struck twice in the first 2:27 of the third period to take a 2-1 lead. Luke Boka converted the equalizer just 34 seconds into the frame off a pass from Luke McInnis, while Tye Felhaber snapped the tie with an unassisted tally less than two minutes later while both teams were down a man.
The Solar Bears added an insurance goal from Tyler Bird with an assist from Jake Transit at 15:30 to give the visitors a 3-1 lead.
With 21 seconds remaining in regulation, Joe Pendenza blasted his 18th goal of the season to pull the Everblades within one, 3-2, but Florida could not manage another score. Aleardi claimed his second assist of the night, with Stefan Leblanc adding a helper.
Both goaltenders made 28 saves in the contest, as Orlando claimed a slight 31-30 edge in shots on goal. Parker Gahagen slipped to 8-7-1-1 for the Everblades, while Orlando’s Ben Barone improved to 15-7-2-0.
The Blades will be idle until Saturday, February 12 when they visit the Solar Bears for the first of two back-to-back games at the Amway Center. The puck drops at 7:00 pm. Both squads will also meet up on Sunday, February 13 with action in Orlando beginning at noon. Please note that the noon start time on Sunday the 13 is a change from the originally published start time.
Following next weekend’s games in Orlando, the Everblades will return to Hertz Arena on Wednesday, February 16 for a 7:30 pm tilt against the Jacksonville Icemen in a key ECHL South Division matchup. Every Wednesday home game at The Swamp features some awesome Hump Day deals, including $3 John Morrell hot dogs and Bud Light drafts. Also, college students can show a valid student ID at the box office to purchase their student ticket for only $5. Students can also purchase tickets online 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.