ESTERO, Fla. – Ben Masella snapped a 2-2 tie late in the second period, Blake Winiecki scored two goals and the Florida Everblades closed out a strong team effort with four unanswered goals to defeat the Newfoundland Growlers 6-2 and capture Game One of the Eastern Conference Finals Friday night at Hertz Arena.
For the 10th time in 13 games this postseason, the Everblades drew first blood, setting the stage with a solid opening 20 minutes on both ends of the ice. Winiecki opened the scoring with his fifth goal of the playoffs at 3:29 of the opening frame as the Blades jumped in front 1-0.
The Blades kept the pressure on through the remainder of the period and it paid dividends right before the first intermission, as Tyler Irvine’s fourth goal in the last two games made it 2-0 for the home team at the 19:27 mark. For Irvine, the goal was his team-high eighth marker of the Kelly Cup Playoffs.
In the early stages of the second period, the Everblades’ lead would vanish quickly, as Newfoundland scored twice and tied the game at 2-2. Orrin Centazzo converted at 1:57, just 10 seconds into the Growlers’ second power-play opportunity of the game, while Keenan Suthers scored the equalizer at the 4:09 mark.
The Everblades caught fire late in the middle frame, scoring three goals in a 4:19 span to pull ahead 5-2. Ben Masella’s first goal of the playoffs snapped the ties at 14:38, while Winiecki added his second goal of the game at 18:12 and Will Calverley picked up his first marker of the postseason at 18:57 to close out a busy second stanza.
Logan Lambdin closed out the scoring with an empty-net goal in the final minute of the game.
With two goals, Winiecki was one of six different Everblades to register two-point performances. Stefan Leblanc, John McCarron and Lukas Kälble each had two assists, while Masella and Calverley both had a goal and a helper.
On the night, Florida outshot Newfoundland 27-19 and Everblades goaltender Cam Johnson improved to 9-3-1 with a 17-save performance. Growlers netminder Dryden McKay made 21 saves and slipped to 8-2.
With a 1-0 series lead, the Everblades will host two more games at Hertz Arena. Game Two is slated for Saturday at 7:00 p.m., while Game Three will be on Monday at 7:30 p.m. Action shifts to Newfoundland for Game Four on Thursday, May 25.
Single game tickets for all home games in the Eastern Conference Finals 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. Monday’s Game Three will also feature a great Monday 239 Deal. Don’t miss out and be sure to secure two tickets, one program and a large bucket of popcorn for the great low price of $39! For more information, call or text the Blades at (239) 948-7825.
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The Florida Everblades are the proud ECHL affiliate of the NHL’s Florida Panthers and the AHL's Charlotte Checkers.