ESTERO, Fla. – With two wins in two games under their belts, the Florida Everblades will take to the Hertz Arena ice with a 2-0 lead in the Kelly Cup Finals. The series against the Toledo Walleye resumes with Game Three Wednesday night at 7:30 pm. The Blades will have three opportunities to win two games and secure the organization’s second Kelly Cup and first since 2012 in front of the Southwest Florida faithful.
Leading the team with 15 postseason points, Naples native Zach Solow returns home with a three-game point streak intact, including goals in each of the Everblades’ two prior Kelly Cup Finals victories. On the defensive end, netminder Cam Johnson continues his dominant play in goal, as he sports a league-best 13 victories in 15 postseason outings, including a three-game winning streak.
In the finals, Levko Koper has three points to lead a cadre of five Everblades who have picked up multiple points through the first two games. In total, 10 different Blades have collected at least one point in the 2022 Kelly Cup Finals. Solow and Alex Aleardi – who claimed the game-tying and game-winning goals in Game One – have two goals apiece in the Finals to place Florida ahead.
With a 14-2-1 playoff record, including 11 wins in their past 12 postseason games, the Everblades are just two wins shy of the 16 wins needed to capture the Kelly Cup. On home ice during the playoffs, the Blades are 6-2, while they improved to 8-0-1 on the road with the two victories in Toledo to open the Finals.
Fans unable to catch any of the Kelly Cup Finals games in person can watch every Florida Everblades game on FloHockey.TV. In addition, fans can listen to the exciting game action on ESPN Southwest Florida at www.espnswfl.com or 770 AM, 98.1 FM, 104.3 FM.
2022 Kelly Cup Finals Tickets are now on sale at the Hertz Arena Fifth Third Box Office and via Ticketmaster. Join the Blades in their pursuit for a second Kelly Cup title! To learn more, call or text (239) 948-7825 or purchase HERE.
2022 KELLY CUP FINALS AT A GLANCEEverblades Lead Series 2-0
Game 1 Friday, June 3 Everblades 3, Walleye 2
Game 2 Saturday, June 4 Everblades 3, Walleye 1
Game 3Wednesday, June 8Walleye at EverbladesHertz Arena7:30 pm
Game 4Friday, June 10Walleye at EverbladesHertz Arena7:30 pm
Game 5*Saturday, June 11Walleye at EverbladesHertz Arena7:00 pm
Game 6* Tuesday, June 14 Everblades at Walleye Huntington Center 7:35 pm
Game 7* Thursday, June 16 Everblades at Walleye Huntington Center 7:35 pm
Home Games in Bold * Games 5, 6 and 7, if Necessary
NEWS AND NOTES
GAME TWO RECAP: Florida opened the scoring 3:31 into the opening period when Levko Koper deflected an Xavier Bouchard shot past Toledo goaltender Billy Christopoulos with the teams skating 4-on-4. The Everblades doubled their lead with a shorthanded tally at 12:19. Joe Pendenza skated down the left-wing side and centered the puck to Dylan Vander Esch who notched his second goal of the postseason. The score remained 2-0 until the 15:52 mark of the second period when Zach Solow deflected a Stefan Leblanc shot past Christopoulos for his seventh playoff goal, and extending the lead to 3-0. Toledo got on the scoreboard 8:55 into the third period. Blake Hillman fired a wrist shot from the top of the right-wing circle which was tipped in front by Marcus Vela, giving him his fourth goal of the playoffs. Everblades’ goaltender Cam Johnson improved to 13-2 in the 2022 Kelly Cup Playoffs with 29 saves.
COMING HOME WITH A 2-0 LEAD: The last team to open the Kelly Cup Finals with two straight road wins was the 2010 Cincinnati Cyclones, which picked up a 3-2 win in Game One and a 1-0 victory in Game Two over the Idaho Steelheads. The Cyclones went on to secure the Kelly Cup in five games, all decided by one goal, bouncing back from a 4-3 double overtime loss in Game Three to pick up a 3-2 win in Game Four and a series-clinching 2-1 triumph in Game Five. Other teams opening the finals with two road wins and going on to claim the Kelly Cup include Trenton (2005), Idaho (2004), Atlantic City (2003) and South Carolina (2001).
TRYING TO REVERSE HISTORY: Of note when looking at teams winning Games One and Two on the road, the Everblades came up short in two different Kelly Cup Finals after losing the first two games at home, as the 2005 Trenton Titans and the 2004 Idaho Steelheads hoisted the trophy in six games and five games, respectively, after opening the Finals with two wins over the Blades in Estero.
JOHNSON KEEPS ROLLING: During his 2-0 start in the Kelly Cup Finals, Everblades goaltender Cam Johnson put together a nifty scoreless stretch in which he stymied Toledo for 90:42, just over the equivalent of a full game plus a half. After spotting the Walleye two goals in the opening 18:04 of Game One, Johnson hunkered down until the Fish got off the schneid at 8:55 of the third period in Game Two – four straight scoreless periods and nearly 11 minutes. Johnson has strung together 13 wins including four shutouts over 15 playoff appearances, tops among all ECHL netminders, while his 1.84 GAA and .930 save percentage both rank second. In the Finals, Johnson has been even better, posting a 1.50 GAA and a .954 save percentage.
GO SHAWTY! IT’S YOUR BIRTHDAY!: Actually Game Two fell on Michael Neville’s 29th birthday, but six days before his 28th birthday, Dylan Vander Esch collected his first shorthanded goal of either the regular season or postseason, giving the Everblades their first shorthanded tally since Game One of the Eastern Conference Finals, when Jake Jaremko scored off an assist from Vander Esch. In 17 postseason games in 2022, the Everblades have scored three shorthanded goals, tied for third in the league, after collecting a total of 14 shorties during the regular season, which tied for fifth in the ECHL. Vander Esch’s shorthanded goal was the first allowed by Toledo during the playoffs after the Walleye were touched for eight during the regular season.
SOLOW FLIPPED THE SCRIPT: In addition to leading the Everblades with 15 points in the postseason, Zach Solow picked up a power-play goal in each of the first two games of the Kelly Cup Finals. Solow’s power play prowess helped the Blades score on two of their seven man-up opportunities, as the guys in green converted at a 28.6% clip in two games in Northwest Ohio. Toledo, which entered the Finals with a 33.3% success rate on power-play opportunities in the playoffs (17-for-51), has converted on just one of seven tries thus far in the finals, for a 14.6% rate. The Naples, Florida native is riding a three-game point streak (2 G, 1 A).
GAME BY GAME: With 14 wins in 17 playoff games across four different series, the Everblades (14-3) have posted a perfect 4-0 record in Game One and a 3-1 mark in Game Two. Looking ahead, the good guys are 3-0 in Game Three, 2-1 in Game Four, 1-1 in Game Five and 1-0 in Game Six.
SIX PACK: Toledo’s only goal in Game Two snapped a string of six straight goals in the Finals by the Everblades, as the boys held a 6-3 scoring edge in the finals. The six-in-a-row was the team’s longest stretch of consecutive goals in the playoffs since rattling off 11 straight tallies over three games. That long run started with five unanswered goals to close out Game Six of the South Division Finals versus Greenville and ended with five straight markers in two games to open the South Finals sweep of Jacksonville. The Blades also netted five goals in a row over the first three games of the Eastern Finals against Newfoundland.
OUR COACH ROCKS: With Games One and Two of the Finals in the books, Everblades head coach Brad Ralph has now served as a head coach in 105 ECHL playoff games, just three games short of the league record. Ralph, the league’s all-time leader with 61 head coaching wins, ranks second all-time in postseason games coached in the ECHL, trailing just Matt Thomas (1st, 108).
OH, CAPTAIN, OUR CAPTAIN: Throughout the 2021-22 season, Florida Everblades Captain John McCarron became the franchise’s all-time leader in goals scored, assists and points. Johnny Mac added one more milestone to his arsenal as Game Two of the Kelly Cup Finals marked McCarron’s 421st appearance in an Everblades sweater, including playoff games, giving Captain Everblade sole possession of the franchise mark in games played, passing Ernie Hartlieb, who appeared in 420 contests between 2004 and 2014, with one game on March 1, 2019 sprinkled in for good measure.
SPEAKING OF ERNIE: In that 2019 contest referenced above, Hartlieb scored a third-period goal in what proved to be a 7-2 setback to Orlando in which four current members of the Everblades saw action. Nathan Perkovich assisted on Ernie’s final goal as a professional, while Ben Masella, Michael Neville and Blake Winiecki all saw action for Florida.
BLADES IN THE KELLY CUP FINALS: The Everblades are making the franchise’s fifth appearance in the Kelly Cup Finals and are looking to hoist the hardware for the second time in club history. The Blades won it all in 2012, defeating the Las Vegas Wranglers four games to one. Other Kelly Cup Finals appearances include a 4-1 loss to the Idaho Steelheads in 2004, a 4-2 setback to the Trenton Titans in 2005, and a 4-3 series defeat at the hands of the Colorado Eagles in 2018.
JOIN THE FUN
2022 Kelly Cup Playoff Tickets are now on sale. Join the Blades in their pursuit for a second Kelly Cup title! To learn more, call or text (239) 948-7825 or purchase HERE.
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Purchase a new Voucher 12 package that allows you to use 12 tickets in any quantity during the 2022-23 season to earn the exclusive benefits of being a Blades 365 Member! To view the Blades 365 Membership savings, benefits and options click HERE.
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Watch every Florida Everblades game on FloHockey.TV. Listen to the exciting game action on ESPN Southwest Florida on 770 AM, 98.1 FM, 104.3 FM and online at https://espnswfl.com or Mixlr at www.mixlr.com/florida-everblades.
The Florida Everblades are the proud ECHL affiliate of the NHL’s Nashville Predators and the AHL's Milwaukee Admirals.