Blake Winiecki and Zach Magwood scored in the shootout, while goaltender Ken Appleby stopped both attempts to give the Florida Everblades a come-from-behind 2-1 shootout victory over the Orlando Solar Bears on Saturday night at Hertz Arena.
Appleby was stellar in between the pipes, stopping 27 of the 28 shots he saw to push Florida (4-1-0-0, 8 pts.) to a split of the home-and-home series with Orlando (1-3-0-1, 3 pts.), Florida’s fourth win in five games this year.
Looking to rebound from their loss in Orlando on Friday, the ‘Blades put the pressure on the Solar Bears early. Florida forward Kyle Neuber decked Orlando’s Hunter Fejes along the boards by Florida’s bench in the first moments of the game as part of the tone-setting play by Florida in the opening period.
Despite the early physicality, neither team found the back of the net until the third period when Orlando took the game’s first lead. As the Solar Bears entered the zone, the puck came to the point to Tristan Langan who whipped a shot towards the net. As it knuckled towards Appleby, it bounced off the skates of Olson and into the goal with 6:33 gone in the third.
But the ‘Blades bounced back to even the score at 1-1 with 7:28 left in regulation. Ben Masella brought the ‘Blades into the offensive zone on the rush, sliding around 6-foot-9 defenseman Oleg Sosunov. As he came hard to the net, Masella generated a rebound opportunity that Michael Huntebrinker cashed in on as he crashed the net.
Florida’s penalty kill then came up big down the stretch to push the game to the shootout. The Everblades killed a minor penalty to Magwood with under four minutes left in regulation to get the game to overtime. Then, with less than two minutes to go in overtime, Florida converted a penalty kill after Patrick McCarron was whistled for slashing.
That momentum from the penalty kill carried into the shootout. Winiecki scored on Florida’s first attempt, and after consecutive saves by Appleby on Orlando’s first two shooters, Magwood sealed the deal in the third round.
Everblades head coach Brad Ralph earned his 81st home victory during the regular season, the most among active ECHL coaches over the last four seasons…Michael Huntebrinker has a goal in every other game this season, bringing his total to three in five games thus far…The Everblades improved to 62-25-7 all-time against the Solar Bears…Winiecki’s shootout goal was his fourth in seven attempts in his ECHL career. All four tallies have stood up as the game-winning goal…Florida’s penalty kill was perfect for the first time this season, converting on all four opportunities.