Offensive Explosion Gives 'Blades 7-2 Win over Atlanta
ESTERO, Fla. - Seven different players scored a goal, six different players registered multiple points, and Jeremy Helvig made 35 saves to lead the Florida Everblades to a 7-2 win over the Atlanta Gladiators on Saturday night at Hertz Arena.
Florida (23-7-5-0, 51 pts.) scored four times in the second period to open the lead on the way to its highest-scoring home game of the season, the second time it had put up seven or more goals on Atlanta (8-19-5-1, 22 pts.) this season.
Ben Masella got the 'Blades on the board at 4:01 of the first period with his fourth goal of the year, a career high. With the 'Blades buzzing in the Gladiators end, Olivier Malka sent the puck up to Masella on the right side. As he received the pass, Masella stepped up into the top of the circles and fired a twisted wrister that beat Bitzer on the glove side. Blake Winiecki picked up the secondary assist on the play, extending his career-high point streak to six games (4g-4a).
The 'Blades started the second period with 1:18 of penalty kill time due to a boarding penalty to Patrick McCarron late in the first. The penalty proved costly as the Gladiators scored 36 seconds into the frame when Brett McKenzie stepped into the slot and fired a shot that squeaked through Helvig to tie the game at one.
The 1-1 tie didn't last long as the 'Blades answered with a goal of their own from Joe Cox only 23 seconds later to start the offensive surge in the second frame. On a faceoff in the Atlanta end, Kyle Platzer won the draw to Cox on the right of him in the slot. Cox wasted no time firing a shot on net that squeezed through Bitzer to help the 'Blades regain the lead.
Logan Roe added to the 'Blades lead with his first goal of the season, a tally that came on a power play at 11:22 of the second period. Patrick Bajkov (2a) picked up the first of his two points in the game, finding Roe at the point. Roe flipped a puck through traffic and past the glove of Bitzer for the 'Blades third goal.
Winiecki added a fourth goal for the 'Blades late in the period, his third goal in his last four games. As Florida entered the zone, Bajkov slowed up along the right side and threw a pass to Winiecki cutting through the middle of the ice. Just before reaching the circles, Winiecki took a wrist shot that beat Bitzer's glove yet again to make it a 4-1 game.
Josh Wesley, who finished with a career-high four points, added to the second-period offensive onslaught shortly after by picking up a turnover in the Gladiators' end in the low slot. He turned and fired the puck on net to beat Bitzer for the fifth time on only 17 shots.
The Gladiators capitalized on a five-on-three power play at the start of the third period, scoring 15 seconds into the final frame. Olivier Galipeau scored the goal for the Gladiators with a slap shot from the point.
After killing off the remainder of the penalty, the 'Blades regained their four-goal lead with a goal from Michael Neville. Platzer led the 'Blades into the Atlanta end with a deke that gave Florida a two-on-one advantage. Following his maneuver around the Atlanta player, Platzer went to the back door to Neville for the tap-in tally.
An incredible individual effort from Justin Auger then gave the 'Blades their seventh and final goal of the night. Auger made an entire lap around the offensive zone and ripped a shot from the right circle, where he had started the play, past Bitzer to cap the scoring with 7:31 gone in the third. The goal increased Auger's point streak to seven games, which is the longest point streak of the season for a Florida player.
Helvig, who had not faced more than 30 shots in eight straight starts before Saturday, earned his seventh straight win and 10th total victory of the season.
Florida continues its six-game homestand with a three-game set against the Greenville Swamp Rabbits, starting with a Wednesday night matchup at Hertz Arena at 7:30 p.m.
Single-game tickets for all regular season home games are on sale now!
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