ESTERO, Fla. – After Wednesday night’s exciting 2-1 victory over the South Carolina Stingrays, the Florida Everblades will welcome the Rays back to Hertz Arena for the second game of the teams’ three-game set Friday at 7:30 p.m.
Thanks to Jake Smith’s game-winner that snapped a 1-1 tie with under three minutes to play, the Everblades moved into sole possession of second place and sit just four points back of Jacksonville in a tight South Division. With 70 points in 55 games, Florida remains one point ahead of both South Carolina and Greenville, both of which have 69 points. The top four teams in the South Division each have 17 regulars-season games remaining on the schedule.
Besides snapping a four-game winless streak, Wednesday night’s win helped the Everblades improve to 6-0 this season versus South Carolina, including a 4-0 mark at Hertz Arena. Over the past two seasons, Florida is 13-1 against their archrivals from the Palmetto State. In the six meetings between the bitter rivals this season, the last four Florida victories have come by just one goal, while all six have been by two goals or less.
Along with the dramatic and crucial win, Wednesday night saw the return of the organization’s all-time leading scorer, as John McCarron was back in the Everblades’ lineup for the first time since the squad hoisted the 2022 Kelly Cup last June 11 on Hertz Arena ice. McCarron’s second-period assist on Wednesday was his 204th as an Everblade in the regular season, three shy of the franchise record of 207 compiled by Tom Buckley from 1999-2004. McCarron did extend a couple of his Everblades organization records, including playoffs, with his 417th point and 245th assist.
Both Florida goaltenders, Evan Fitzpatrick and Cam Johnson, are 3-0 against the Stingrays with GAA’s of 1.62 and 1.67, respectively, and save percentages above .950. In the season series, Joe Pendenza leads all players from both sides with seven points and five assists, while Smith is tops in the series with three goals. Smith also enters Friday’s game with a team-best three-game point streak, having scored goals in the Blades’ last two contests and picking up a helper in the previous game.
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The Florida Everblades are the proud ECHL affiliate of the NHL’s Florida Panthers and the AHL's Charlotte Checkers.