JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Every time the Florida Everblades scored, the Jacksonville Icemen responded. Except for the last time. And the defending Kelly Cup champs are returning home with a 2-0 lead in the South Division Finals.
Joe Pendenza snapped a 3-3 tie with his fifth goal of the playoffs and lifted the Florida Everblades to a dramatic 4-3 victory over the Jacksonville Icemen in Game Two of the best-of-seven series Sunday evening at VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena. With a 2-0 series lead in hand, the Blades will host as many as three games with an opportunity to advance to the Eastern Conference Finals against either Newfoundland or Reading.
It was the second time in the last three playoff games that Pendenza snapped a tie in either the third period or overtime to seal an Everblades victory, previously ending the South Division Finals with an overtime game-winner in Game Six. Cam Johnson stopped a playoff career high 40 shots to earn the victory in goal.
Less than 24 hours after matching the team’s top offensive performance of the postseason with five goals in Game One, the Everblades continued to roll, jumping out to a 2-1 first period lead with goals in the first and final minutes of the opening frame. Florida’s Sean Josling opened the scoring with a power-play goal, his ECHL-best sixth tally of the playoffs, just 23 seconds into the contest. After Jacksonville’s Matheson Iacopelli knotted the game at 11:22, Oliver Chau’s second goal of the playoffs gave Florida a 2-1 lead with 26 seconds left in the opening frame. Johnson registered 15 saves in the first period as the Icemen outshot the Blades 16-9.
The teams traded goals in the second period as Florida took a 3-2 lead after 40 minutes. Jacksonville’s Ben Hawerchuk picked up the Icemen’s second equalizer of the night at 16:42, but Logan Lambdin’s fourth goal of the postseason at 18:57, restored the Everblades’ lead. Johnson made 15 saves for the second straight period as the Everblades were outshot 16-8.
For the third straight period, Jacksonville got a game-tying goal as Jacob Panetta pulled the home team even 3-3 at the 5:34 mark. That would be the final goal of the night until Pendenza blasted home his fifth of the playoffs off assists by Masella and Stefan Leblanc at 16:53 to seal the 4-3 victory and send 7,643 Jacksonville fans home in stunned silence.
In addition to the four goal scorers, seven different Everblades got onto the scoresheet with assists, led by Pendenza, who extended his postseason point streak to four games, Ben Masella, Blake Winiecki, John McCarron and Leblanc all notched at least one assist for the second straight game. Cole Moberg and Josling added helpers. With a goal and an assist, both Josling and Pendenza turned in two-point efforts, while Masella had two points by way of the assist.
Johnson improved to 6-2 in the playoffs with the victory, while former Everblade Parker Gahagen posted 24 saves in his first playoff appearance for the Icemen, who outshot Florida 43-28.
With a 2-0 series lead in hand, the 2023 Kelly Cup Playoffs, presented by Lexus Dealers of Southwest Florida, will move to Hertz Arena for Game Three on Wednesday, May 10 at 7:30 p.m. Fans can take advantage of our Hump Day Deals with $3.00 Bud Light Drafts and $3.00 hot dogs all night long. Game Four and, if necessary, Game Five will also be at Hertz Arena on Friday, May 12 and Saturday, May 13, respectively. Single game 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.
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The Florida Everblades are the proud ECHL affiliate of the NHL’s Florida Panthers and the AHL's Charlotte Checkers.