JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – After a five-day respite, the first-place Florida Everblades returned to the ice holding a four-point lead in the ECHL South Division, but the second-place Jacksonville Icemen came away with a 3-1 victory over the Blades Friday night at VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena. The loss snapped the Everblades’ three-game winning streak, while the Icemen won for the fifth-straight game.
The rivals traded goals midway through the opening period, with Jacksonville’s Jacob Friend striking first at the 10:09 mark, before Levko Koper brought the Everblades even just 53 seconds later. Koper potted his seventh goal of the season, while Cam Darcy and Zach Uens collected assists. Despite the Icemen claiming a 9-6 edge in shots, red-hot Everblades netminder Evan Fitzpatrick came up big down the stretch, thwarting several point-blank attempts by Jacksonville late in the period to keep the game knotted at 1-1 after 20 minutes.
In the second period, the 1-1 deadlock continued deep into the frame, but Jacksonville’s seventh-ranked power-play unit converted on its first man-up opportunity of the night, as Derek Lodermeier put the hosts ahead 2-1 at the 15:10 juncture. Opportunities were hard to come by for the Everblades over the middle 20 minutes, as Florida was outshot 10-3, giving the Icemen a 19-9 edge in shots through two periods.
The third period saw Florida stave off a crucial power-play opportunity that ended at the 14:04 mark, but Jacksonville went on another man-up advantage exactly one minute later. With just six seconds to go in in that power play, as Craig Martin put the Icemen on top 3-1 at 3:01 of the final frame.
Evan Fitzpatrick was a hard-luck loser, making 21 saves and falling to 6-2 on the season, as his five-game winning streak came to an end.
The Everblades were outshot 24-14, posting their lowest shot total of the season.
One more road game awaits on Saturday before the Everblades head home to Southwest Florida, as the Blades and Orlando Solar Bears will lock horns at 7:00 p.m. inside Central Florida’s Amway Center. After the mini two-game road trip, the Everblades will be back home at Hertz Arena for a 7:30 p.m. contest versus Jacksonville on Wednesday, February 8.
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The Florida Everblades are the proud ECHL affiliate of the NHL’s Florida Panthers and the AHL's Charlotte Checkers.