ESTERO, Fla. – The Florida Everblades fought back from a 2-1 first-period deficit to tie the game in early in the third period, but the South Carolina Stingrays snapped the tie midway through the final stanza to earn a 4-2 victory in Game Four of the South Division Semifinals Friday night in front of 6,197 fans at Hertz Arena. With the series tied at two games apiece, the Blades and Rays will meet in Game Five Saturday night in The Swamp before the series shifts back to the Palmetto State.
Quick goals were the story of a fast and furious first period in which the teams combined for three goals and 27 shots. Oliver Chau paid immediate dividends in his return to the Everblades lineup after being sidelined for 19 games. Just 2:20 after the opening draw, Cam Darcy won a faceoff in the right circle and Chau promptly rifled home the puck to give the Blades a 1-0 lead.The visitors answered quickly with two goals, as Jarid Lukosevicius picked up his third goal of the series at 3:22, while Josh Wilkins followed with a power-play tally at the 4:00 mark. South Carolina’s 2-1 lead remained intact for the final 16 minutes of the opening frame, despite the Blades holding a 15-12 edge in the shot department.
Business was slow in a scoreless second period, as both squads put eight shots on goal, but neither team was able to find the net.
In the third period, the Everblades got back on track right after the opening whistle as Sean Josling evened the scored at 2-2 just 43 seconds into the third period, beating South Carolina netminder Clay Stevenson. Josling potted his fourth goal of the playoff, while Ben Masella and Stefan Leblanc picked up the helpers. Much to the chagrin of the spirited crowd, the Stingrays regained the lead on Lukosevicius’ second goal of the night and fourth of the series at the 10:39 mark, putting the visitors ahead 3-2.
The Stingrays Anthony Del Gaizo added an empty net goal in the closing seconds to close out the scoring
Blades netminder Cam Johnson made 22 saves and slipped to 2-2 in the series, while South Carolina’s Stevenson turned aside 34 shots and improved to 2-0-1. Florida outshot the visitors 36-26.
The final home game of the South Division Semifinals of the 2023 Kelly Cup Playoffs, presented by Lexus Dealers of Southwest Florida, is slated for Saturday, April 29 at 7:00 p.m. Tickets are on sale at the Fifth Third Bank Box Office at Hertz Arena, online HERE or by calling the Everblades office at 239-948-PUCK. Game Five will be preceded by a great Saturday Tailgate Party featuring live music by Thomas Carter from 5:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m.
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The Florida Everblades are the proud ECHL affiliate of the NHL’s Florida Panthers and the AHL's Charlotte Checkers.