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Everblades Welcome Solar Bears Again in Saturday Night Preseason Action

October 16, 2021 - ECHL (ECHL) - Florida Everblades News Release

ESTERO, Fla. - For the second straight night, the Florida Everblades and in-state rival Orlando Solar Bears will meet in a preseason contest at Hertz Arena. The Saturday evening faceoff is scheduled for 7:00 pm and will be the final tuneup for both teams before the squads open regular-season play on Saturday, October 23.

LAST NIGHT: Blake Winiecki banged home a pass from Zach Remers to snap a 1-1 tie early in the third period and Austin McIlmurray scored two goals to lift the Florida Everblades to a 4-1 victory over the Orlando Solar Bears in preseason ECHL action Friday night at Hertz Arena.

Both teams lit the lamp in the opening period. Orlando's Joe Garreffa struck first, finding the net at the 6:32 mark to take a 1-0 lead, but the Solar Bears' early advantage would be short-lived. McIlmurray's first goal of the evening off a feed from Jake Kearley at 13:42 knotted the score at 1-1 heading into the first intermission. Neither team struck in the second period.

Following the Winiecki game winner, the Everblades would add a pair of insurance goals two minutes apart midway through the final stanza. Xavier Bouchard extended the Florida lead to 3-1 at the 8:59 mark off assists by Jordan Sambrook and John McCarron.

McIlmurray's second goal came at the 11:01 mark, thanks to assists by Levko Koper and Zach Wilkie. Everblades goaltender Tomas Vomacka registered 27 saves for the victors. The Blades outshot Orlando 31-28 and also claimed a 27-25 edge in penalty minutes.

THE SERIES: The longtime Sunshine State rivals met 27 times during the 2020-21 season and the Everblades came away with a 17-8-1-1 advantage. In the all-time ECHL series, Florida has an impressive 86-33-10 edge.

LOOKING BACK ON 2020-21: Last season, the Everblades turned in a 42-19-5 record en route to a first-place finish in the ECHL's Eastern Conference before advancing to the Eastern Conference Semifinals. Orlando posted a 36-29-6 record and finished fifth in the conference. With a fifth-place finish, the Solar Bears did not qualify for the ECHL Kelly Cup Playoffs.

THE RALPH REPORT: Florida is guided by sixth-year head coach and director of hockey operations Brad Ralph. In five seasons leading the Everblades, Ralph has compiled a 234-82-28 (.721) record. Over 11 seasons as a professional head coach, Ralph has piloted his teams to a 366-146-47 (.673) record.

NEXT STOP... REGULAR SEASON OPENER: The Everblades open the 2021-22 regular season against the Jacksonville Icemen on Saturday, October 23 at Hertz Arena. Game time is 7:00 pm. Every Saturday home matchup this season will kick off with a free pregame tailgate party from 5:00 to 7:00 p.m. featuring live music, kids' activities, and food and drinks for all ages!

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