Everblades turn attention to playoffs
With the long grind of the regular season behind them after their 4-1 defeat of the Mississippi Seawolves this past Saturday night, the Florida Everblades shift focus on the next task: the playoffs and winning their first ever Kelly Cup.
To that end, this year’s version of the Florida Everblades was built for this purpose. From that day in May of last year when coach Malcolm Cameron was hired, the clear goal was to win the Kelly Cup.
Veteran ECHL stars Kevin Baker, Mark Lee and Ryan Lang were signed over the summer and Everblades veteran Earnie Hartlieb was retained to help build the offensive core.
As the season wore on, Peter Metcalf and Doug O’Brien were added to a youthful mix of defensive talent, solidifying the notion that this year’s Everblades squad had the pieces to win it all.
After wrapping up the regular season on an eight-game winning streak, the Blades appear ready to begin their quest for the Kelly Cup.
The last four of those eight wins came against two squads who were fighting for their playoff lives – the Gwinnett Gladiators and Mississippi Seawolves.
Thanks to their two-game sweep of Mississippi, the Blades essentially chose their own first round opponent, the Gwinnett Gladiators.
The Everblades have dominated Gwinnett over the regular season, going 10-4, with two of those wins being shutouts.
Cameron, though, knows beating Gwinnett won’t be easy.
“Gwinnett is a good hard working hockey team. They have good special teams and good team speed,” he said.
Fortunately for the Blades, they have secured home ice throughout the playoffs as this year’s Brabham Cup winners, which will be a big advantage for Florida against Gwinnet. The Blades were 6-1 against the Gladiators at home this season.
To guarantee a victory over the Gladiators in the first round, Cameron knows exactly what his team needs to do.
“Us playing our game for 60 minutes,” he explained. “Nothing more (complicated) than that, just us sticking to our game plan for 60 minutes.”
As for whether or not the Everblades can accomplish their goal of winning the Kelly Cup, Cameron said, “I think we have the balance, the depth, the size, the speed, the skill. The only Achilles heel we have had all year has been ourselves.”
Despite Cameron’s confidence, Florida will still have to perform at an even higher level than they did during the regular season.
In their four losses to Gwinnett this year, the Blades were perpetually in the penalty box, and one of goaltender David Leggio’s worst performances of the year came at Gwinnett in a 6-3 loss.
Gwinnett cannot match Florida’s skill on the ice, but they do have the size to be more physical, and the possibility that Blades enforcer Patrick Bordeleau may not make the playoff roster due to a call up to the Lake Erie Monsters of the AHL would be a big blow to Florida’s ability to play big on-the-puck defense.
More importantly, however, is that the Everblades stars and leaders must simply be themselves and play to the standard they’ve shown all season.
“Kevin Baker has to be Kevin Baker, but not necessarily the Kevin Baker of the regular season,” said Cameron. “Jacob Micflickier is a key guy. Brad Zanon will be a huge guy for us and Colin Nicholson is our key shut down guy who finished at the top of our plus/minus charts for the regular season. They will all have to be huge for us in the playoffs.”
Games One and Two of the Everblades-Gladiators series are Friday and Saturday night at Germain Arena in Estero. Visit www.floridaeverblades.com and www.germainarena.com or call 239-948-PUCK for more information.