Opening Statement: Strong First Pushes 'Blades Past K-Wings
KALAMAZOO, Mich. - The Florida Everblades scored three times in the opening period, and Ken Appleby turned out 20 shots in a 4-1 victory over the Kalamazoo Wings on Saturday night at the Wings Event Center.
For the second straight matchup against Kalamazoo (13-20-4-0, 30 pts.), Florida (25-11-2-2, 54 pts.) raced out to a 3-0 lead in the opening period en route to its ninth win in its last 12 games.
In his first game back with the 'Blades, Zach Magwood started the scoring with his 14th goal of the year with 7:06 left in the first. Following a stretch pass from Logan Roe, Michael Neville slid the puck to his right for Magwood, and he ripped it over Kalamazoo goaltender Jake Hildebrand's glove on the two-on-one zone rush.
Levko Koper increased the lead to two goals just 76 seconds later. Brandon Fortunato recovered the puck in the slot and pushed it to the slot for Koper. With room to work, Koper zipped a shot past Hildebrand's blocker.
Florida's Hunter Garlent then completed the scoring in the first with a goal off a two-on-zero rush. Koper reeled in Joe Pendenza's breakout feed at Kalamazoo's blue line, faked a shot in the left circle and then went to his right for Garlent. Garlent immediately fired the puck past Hildebrand's outstretched glove.
Kalamazoo got on the board in the second period to trim its deficit to two. With a loose puck near the crease, Justin Taylor tracked it down and shoveled it past Florida goaltender Ken Appleby with 10:20 gone in the frame.
Justin Auger pushed Florida's lead back to three on his third tally in as many games. With Florida on its first power play of the night, Auger jetted into the zone and managed to get a shot off that squirmed past Hildebrand. The play was initially ruled as no goal but was overturned following a video review.
Florida's three-goal first period was its second spurt of three goals in the first period this week and the fifth time total this season that it has racked up more than two goals in the opening frame.
Saturday was the eighth time this season that Florida has led by multiple goals after the first and the fourth time it has happened in a road game.
Levko Koper excelled in the two games against Kalamazoo and posted a goal and three assists, including a goal and an assist on Saturday.
With his start on Saturday, Ken Appleby has appeared in 20 of the last 23 games and started in 18 of those contests. He is tied for the league lead with 17 wins.
Justin Auger has goals in three straight games, an individual season-high goal streak for the forward.
After two straight weeks on the road, Florida returns home to face the Greenville Swamp Rabbits on Friday night at Hertz Arena. Faceoff is set for 7:30 p.m. ET.
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