Preview: 'Blades Face Solar Bears to Start Regular Season's Final Weekend
ESTERO, Fla. - The Florida Everblades (48-16-5-1, 102 pts.) start the final weekend of the 2018-19 regular season with the first of two straight rivalry matchups, hosting the Orlando Solar Bears (40-25-4-1, 85 pts.) in the last regular-season meeting between the two teams on Friday at Hertz Arena.
Game 71: Everblades vs. Orlando
When: 7:30 p.m. ET
Where: Hertz Arena
Listen: 99.3 FM ESPN
Social: Twitter | #ORLvsFLA
Last Time Out
Sam Warning and Alex Tonge both registered two goals and Jeremy Helvig turned out a career-high 38 shots to lead the Everblades to a series sweep of the Norfolk Admirals with a 6-2 win last Saturday at Hertz Arena. Florida tied its season-high by scoring four times in the first period, the second time in the three-game set against the Admirals it had done that, and extended its unbeaten streak at home to seven games (6-0-0-1).
Players to Watch
Alex Tonge (FLA) - The rookie impressed in his first week with the 'Blades last week. After going scoreless in his pro debut on Wednesday against Norfolk, Tonge finished the weekend with three goals in the final two games of the three-game set. He potted his first career goal on Friday in a 5-2 win over Norfolk and registered his first career multi-goal game on Saturday to help the 'Blades to a sweep. The Kingston, Ontario, native racked up 39 points (19g-20a) this season in his senior campaign with Robert Morris University (NCAA/Atlantic Hockey).
Troy Bourke (ORL) - Though he's played in only 29 games this season, Bourke has been one of the most dynamic players in the league. The fifth-year pro has posted 43 points (11g-32a) and is averaging 1.48 points per game, the highest points-per-game average in the ECHL among players who have suited up in at least 25 games. He has recorded five points (2g-3a) in four games against the Everblades and scored the game-winning shootout goal in the most recent meeting with Florida on March 23.
Friday is the 12th and final regular-season matchup between Florida and Orlando. Entering Friday, the Solar Bears have the slight edge in the season series, with six wins through the first 11 meetings. In a series that has been dominated by close contests, the two teams have required overtime or a shootout in five games, and each of the last two meetings has gone to overtime. Orlando won the most recent matchup in Estero on March 23 with a 4-3 shootout triumph. The 'Blades have a 60-24-7 all-time record against Orlando since the Solar Bears joined the ECHL in the 2012-13 season.
Scoring has been the name of the game of late for the Everblades. Florida has notched five goals in three consecutive games, which is the first time it has done that since January. The 'Blades posted 29 tallies in a four-game stretch from Jan. 5-12, which was their highest goal output in a four-game span this year. Last Saturday's six-goal effort against Norfolk was Florida's highest-scoring game since Feb. 15, when it put up six goals on the Manchester Monarchs.
Home Ice Advantage
The Everblades have been a tough team to beat at home in the three-year tenure of head coach Brad Ralph. Florida has racked up 77 home wins since the start of the 2016-17 campaign, a win total that is tied for the ECHL-lead in that time frame. The 'Blades currently sit second in the league with 25 home wins this season. Florida's highest home win total under Ralph was 27 victories last year, and it can match that total by winning its final two home games of the regular season this weekend.
Promising Penalty Kill
Since yielding power-play goals in three straight games from Feb. 27-March 2, including a season-high three power-play goals on March 1 against Orlando, Florida's penalty kill has ratcheted up the pressure on opposing power plays. The 'Blades have allowed just four power-play strikes over their last 12 games and have converted on 92.2% (47-of-51) of their penalty kills in that 12-game span. In terms of league rankings, Florida is eighth overall on the penalty kill at 84.3%, while it is fourth in home penalty kill rate at 86.3%.
Friday's broadcast against Orlando will air on 99.3 FM ESPN. The change in the station is just for Friday's game, and WJBX will continue to be the home of 'Blades hockey in the 2018-19 season. Both 99.3 ESPN and WJBX are owned and operated by Beasley Media Group. Fans can listen live online at 993espn.com.
Florida wraps up the regular season with Fan Appreciation Night and Blackout Night presented by the Passion Foundation on Saturday at 7 p.m. against the Jacksonville Icemen.
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!
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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!
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