ESTERO, Fla. – Jake Smith snapped a 1-1 tie with 2:35 to play as the Florida Everblades picked up a crucial 2-1 victory over the South Carolina Stingrays Wednesday night at Hertz Arena.
Smith’s game-winner put a bow on a special night at The Swamp, as the Blades welcomed the organization’s all-time leading scorer John McCarron back to the lineup for the first time since the squad hoisted the 2022 Kelly Cup last June 11 on Hertz Arena ice.
With the victory, the Everblades moved into sole possession of second place and sit just two points back of Jacksonville in a tight South Division. Florida also snapped a four-game winless streak and improved 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.
The bad guys drew first blood midway through the opening period, as Anthony Del Gaizo put the Stingrays ahead 1-0 at the 10:40 mark. Everblades goaltender Evan Fitzpatrick stopped 14 of 15 shots over the first 20 minutes, as the visitors claimed a 15-11 edge in shots on goal in the first stanza.
It took a while for either team to break through in the second period, but the Everblades picked up the equalizer at 17:22 as Nathan Staios struck just nine seconds into Florida’s first power play opportunity, knotting the score at 1-1. Everblade Captains past and present, McCarron and Ben Masella, earned the helpers on Staios’ third goal this season.
After more than 17 minutes of scoreless hockey in the third period, the Everblades faithful erupted as Smith blasted the game winner with his 20th marker of the season off passes from Levko Koper and Lukas Kälble.
In his much-anticipated return to action, McCarron’s second-period assist 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 245thassist.
Florida ended the contest with a massive 39-24 edge in shots on goal, including a 28-9 advantage over the final two periods. In between the pipes, Fitzpatrick registered 23 saves for the night, while his South Carolina counterpart Clay Stevenson made 37 stops.
The Blades and Stingrays will lock horns for the middle game of the three-game set Friday, March 10 at 7:30 p.m. Be sure to take advantage of the always popular 239 Friday deal. Enjoy two tickets, two programs and two orders of cotton candy for just $39. For tickets, click HERE. And remember, kids eat free at Breakaway Sports Pub. For information and reservations, click HERE.
Looking ahead, the series wraps up Saturday, March 11 at 7:00 p.m. Saturday’s tilt will feature a fan favorite in Blackout Night, as the Everblades will don black specialty jerseys. The Blackout jerseys will be auctioned off to benefit the Passion Foundation and its fight against Melanoma. Fans should plan to come out early for live music and bounce houses at our popular Saturday Tailgate party from 5:00-7:00 p.m. Get your Saturday tickets by clicking HERE.
JOIN THE FUN
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.
Group Packages are available for a group of 10 or more!Everblades put the FUN in FUNdraising! There is no handling of money or tickets and no limit to the amount of money your group can make with the Everblades easy-to-run online Fundraiser! For more information, or to reserve a Fundraiser Night at an Everblades regular season home game, call or text (239) 948-7825.
Grab the newest and hottest Everblades merchandise by checking out the entire collection that is available online by visiting shop.floridaeverblades.com or at the Hertz Arena Pro Shop!
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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 everblades.mixlr.com.
The Florida Everblades are the proud ECHL affiliate of the NHL’s Florida Panthers and the AHL's Charlotte Checkers.