50 Club: 'Blades Silence IceMen to Hit 50 Wins for Second Straight Season
ESTERO, Fla. - The Florida Everblades closed out the regular season with yet another milestone on Saturday at Hertz Arena.
Florida (50-16-5-1, 106 pts.) scored once in each period and received a 26-save performance from Evan Weninger in his ECHL debut to reach 50 wins for the third time in franchise history with a 3-1 victory over the Jacksonville Icemen.
Despite being held to a season-low 17 shots on goal, the Everblades got goals from three sources and some air-tight defense to finish the regular season with a win over Jacksonville (36-31-2-2, 76 pts.) and a six-game point streak (5-0-0-1).
The first save of Weninger's professional career didn't come until 7:53 of the first period, but he made his presence known with a sweeping glove save on Jacob Benson, who swung a shot from the slot.
Forward Alex Tonge has been streaking for the Blades in the home stretch, and his hot hand continued Saturday. He set up the first strike of the game with an assist on Michael Neville's tally 11:31 into the first period. Breaking into the zone on the right-wing side, Justin Auger sauced a pass to the slot that Neville deflected over the glove side of Jacksonville goaltender Angus Redmond.
With the 'Blades shorthanded around the eight-minute mark of the second, Tonge scored the next goal to boost the lead to two. Justin Wade started the play by knocking a Jacksonville player to the ice and zipping the other way with the puck. As Wade crossed the blue line, he dropped a feed to Tonge. He made his way across the slot and fired a blazing wrister back to the far post past the glove of Redmond.
The Icemen answered back right after the penalty had expired at 9:32 of the second with a goal from Alexis D'Aoust, bringing them within one goal. Upon receiving a one-time feed in the slot from Justin Woods, D'Aoust blasted a shot past Weninger's glove.
Mitch Vandergunst tacked on an insurance goal for the 'Blades with 7:16 to play in the game, deflecting Josh Lammon's shot from the right point to make the lead two goals.
Despite a three-man advantage for Jacksonville-two penalties assessed to the 'Blades and Jacksonville's pulled netminder made for a 6-on-3 advantage-the 'Blades and Weninger hung on for the final 28 seconds to win for the ninth time in 13 meetings with the Icemen.
With the win, Florida earned a 50-win season for the second consecutive season under head coach Brad Ralph, the first time in franchise history the Everblades have won 50 or more games in consecutive campaigns.
Florida opens the 2019 Kelly Cup Playoffs presented by Smile Direct Club with a Thursday night matchup at Hertz Arena. The Everblades will find out their opponent on Sunday and will host either the Atlanta Gladiators or South Carolina Stingrays at 7:30 p.m.
Ticket packages for the 2019 Kelly Cup Playoffs presented by Smile Direct Club and 2019-20 Season Tickets and Flexible Packages are on sale now!
Join the FUN and 'Blades FAMILY by SAVING with Season Tickets or a Flexible Package that fit into your schedule and budget, plus receive FREE gifts and benefits!
SPECIAL OFFER! Purchase a new Season Ticket or Flexible Package for the 2019-20 season and receive a $20 gift card to Ford's Garage and an Everblades tote bag!
Private tours of Hertz Arena are available to select your season seats! Call the Florida Everblades Front Office at 239-948-7825 to schedule your tour today!
Images from this story
Florida Everblades defenseman Michael Downing
(Kevin Bires Photography)
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