Preview: 'Blades Take on Stingrays, Aim to Close Division Deficit
ESTERO, Fla. - Following a four-game road trip, the Florida Everblades (12-6-1-2, 27 pts.) try to close their deficit for the South Division lead to two points when they host the South Carolina Stingrays (15-2-1-0, 31 pts.) in the first game of the two-game series on Friday at Hertz Arena.
Game 22: Everblades vs. South Carolina Stingrays
When: 7:30 p.m. ET
Where: Hertz Arena
Watch: ECHL TV
Listen: WJBX (101.5 FM, 104.3 FM, 770 AM)
Social: Twitter | Instagram
Last time out
Blake Winiecki tallied his team-leading 11th goal less than four minutes into the third period to give Florida a lead on Wednesday night in Jacksonville, but the Icemen scored with just 1:17 left in regulation to force overtime in an eventual 3-2 shootout win over the Everblades. Florida held a 2-1 edge in the shootout heading into the bottom of the third round, but Jacksonville's Dajon Mingo beat Florida goaltender Ken Appleby to force sudden death. Brendan Warren then found the back of the net in the sixth round to secure the extra standings point for the Icemen.
Series At A Glance
The Everblades have played the Stingrays more than any other ECHL team and Friday's contest will mark the 197th all-time meeting between the storied rivals. Florida holds a 104-70-22 record against South Carolina in an all-time series that dates back to the Everblades first season in the ECHL in 1998-99. Friday is actually 21 years and one day since the first-ever meeting in Estero between the two teams. Florida earned a 5-1 win over South Carolina on home ice on Dec. 5, 1998. Friday and Saturday are the final two meetings of the four total matchups in Estero this season.
Players to Watch
Michael Neville (FLA) - After missing the first 20 games of the season, the second-year 'Blades forward made his return to the lineup on Wednesday in Jacksonville. Though he didn't find the scoresheet, Neville tied his career-high by posting five shots on goal. The Woodbridge, Ontario, native potted 11 goals and 24 assists in his rookie season with Florida last year.
Parker Milner (SC) - South Carolina's backstop has been a key piece of the team's stalwart defense to start the season. The seventh-year pro ranks first in the ECHL in both shutouts (3) and save percentage (.939). He yielded just two total goals on 58 shots in the two-game series against Florida on Nov. 22-23 and picked up his third shutout of the year with a 30-save effort in the series finale on Nov. 23.
That's A Plus
The 'Blades have outscored opponents by 11 goals in the third period this season, a third-period goal differential that is the best in the league by three goals. Last season, Florida led the league in second-period goal differential by outscoring opponents by 40 goals in the middle frame. South Carolina and the Wheeling Nailers are the next-closest teams in terms of goals allowed in the third period. Those two squads have each permitted 16 goals in the third period, while the 'Blades have allowed just 12 tallies in the third.
Extra, Extra Time
Though the ECHL introduced a new seven-minute overtime format this season in order to reduce the number of shootouts, Florida has now played in consecutive shootouts. However, that's not unfamiliar territory for the 'Blades over the last two seasons. Florida played in consecutive shootout affairs twice last season, including one stretch of three straight shootouts from March 9-15, 2019. The 'Blades won all three of those shootouts and finished with a 5-1 record in shootouts last year.
Close, But No Cigar
After starting the season with a 5-0-0-0 record in one-goal games, the 'Blades have failed to record a win in their last five one-goal affairs. However, only two of those five one-goal losses have come in regulation, one of which was against South Carolina on Nov. 22.
Although Florida still has six road matchups remaining against the Stingrays, the 'Blades will play South Carolina on home ice for the final time on Saturday at 7 p.m.
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