DULUTH, Ga. – The Florida Everblades needed a critical win in the Peachtree State on Saturday night, and that is exactly what they got. Sean Josling scored game-tying and game-winning goals 16 seconds apart late in the third period to lift the Everblades to a thrilling 4-3 come-from-behind win over the Atlanta Gladiators at Gas South Arena. With the victory, the Everblades can clinch a playoff berth with a regulation win over Atlanta on Sunday.
The Everblades blistered Atlanta goaltender Joe Murdaca with a season-high 53 shots and picked up two critical points in the race for a berth in the 2023 Kelly Cup Playoffs. Florida (36-21-4-4, 80 points) now lead the Gladiators (33-27-6-1, 73 points) by seven points in the race for the fourth and final playoff spot in a tight South Division. Florida also remains three points behind first place South Carolina (39-21-4-1, 83 points) with seven regular-season games left on the team’s schedule.
The South Division rivals played scoreless hockey for the better part of the first period until Michal Mrazik broke through for Atlanta, giving the hosts a 1-0 lead at 14:35. The opening goal marked the fifth time in seven games between the rivals this season that the Gladiators drew first blood. Mike Pelech doubled Atlanta’s lead to 2-0 with a tally in the frame’s final minute.
Florida managed to get one goal back at 13:27 of the second period, as Logan Lambdin potted a power-play goal to trim the deficit to 2-1, as Jake Smith and Stefan Leblanc earned assists. Lambdin’s tally landed him in the goal-scoring column for the second straight game.
Keeping the pressure on Murdaca, the Everblades pulled even at 11:18 of the third period, as Nolan Kneen collected his fourth goal off assists from Kyle Neuber and Ted Nichols to tie the game at 2-2.
The offense continued in the final stages of the third period, as Cody Sylvester put Atlanta back on top 3-2 at the 13:19 mark, before the Blades took a 4-3 lead with the game-tying and game-winning goals from Josling at 14:41 and 14:57.
With assists on both of Josling’s goals, John McCarron registered his franchise-record 208th and 209th regular-season assists, passing Tom Buckley’s career mark of 207. McCarron also has 250 assists including playoffs, also an Everblades career record.
The Blades took a season-high 53 shots on goal, while holding the Gladiators to just 30. Both teams posted 12 shots on goal in the opening period, but Florida claimed a 41-18 advantage over the final 40 minutes,
In goal for the Everblades, Cam Johnson registered 27 saves and improved to 25-16-4-3. At the other end of the ice, Atlanta’s Murdaca chalked up an impressive 49 saves, but slipped to 6-4-0-0.
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The Florida Everblades are the proud ECHL affiliate of the NHL’s Florida Panthers and the AHL's Charlotte Checkers.