ESTERO, Fla. – The Evansville IceMen followed up their record-tying shootout victory over Florida with a dramatic game-clinching goal late in regulation to complete the two-game sweep of the Everblades.
The IceMen engineered the sweep of the defending Kelly Cup Champions with a short-staffed roster. Evansville entered play Saturday with a mere 13 forwards as they were without the services of Josh Beaulieu, Mark Cody and Oliver Gabriel.
IceMen Forward Dylan Clarke notched his 16th goal of the season off a rebound of Center Todd Robinson’s initial shot. The game-winner was enough to hand Clarke the game’s second star honor. IceMen Right Winger Patrick Kennedy also received an assist on the triumphant Evansville marker.
Kennedy claimed two assists on Saturday and three in the two-game series with the Everblades.
Despite the loss of Beaulieu, Evansville’s top line remained the pulse of offensive production. IceMen Right Winger Kevin Baker, the game’s third star, followed Friday night’s two-assist performance with another pair of helpers on Saturday. Baker has accumulated 11 points (4G,7A) in his last six games.
IceMen Left Winger Stefan Della Rovere, filling in for the injured Beaulieu on the top line, was productive for Evansville against the Everblades Saturday. Della Rovere scored his second goal in as many nights 7:32 into the second period, giving the IceMen a temporary 3-2 lead. Della Rovere’s goal came on the man advantage.
After a supreme performance in Friday night’s shootout, IceMen Goaltener Paul Dainton followed up by saving 34-of-37 shots faced, mounting a .919 save percentage to up his record to (7-10-2) on the season.
Evansville owned the early lead behind a pair of goals scored by Right Winger Jason Dale and Defenesman Anton Blomqvist. Dale’s 11th goal of the season was scored shorthanded 3:02 into the first period. Baker was credited with the lone assist on Dale’s second shorthanded goal of the campaigh.
Evansville’s two-goal advantage was established via Blomqvist’s first goal of the season 10:07 into the initial period. Kennedy and Clarke received assists on the even strength lamp-lighter.
Florida refused to go easily as they came back with two goals of their own to equalize the score for the first of two separate occasions on the night. Everblades’ Forward Cody Crichton accomplished his first goal of the season just 1:30 after Blomqvist’s milestone mark. The opening Everblades goal was assisted by Defensemen Brent Henley and Josh Geary.
Everblades’ Forward Mike Merrifield broke through with his fourth goal of the season 3:49 into the second period to even the score at 2-2.
Florida’s Geary was awarded the game’s first consideration in his Everblades debut. Geary finished the game with one goal, one assist and a +2 rating.
Geary’s goal came 7:22 into the third period, equalling the IceMen at 3-3 before two more Evansville goals shut the door on Florida’s hopes.
Evansville’s Robinson added an empty net goal with six seconds left in regulation that resulted in the final score of 5-3. Robinson’s fifth goal of the season was assisted by Della Rovere and Dale.
Former IceMen and current Everblades’ Goaltender Rob Madore was strapped with the loss after allowing four goals on 27 shots faced. Madore earned a .852 save percentage as he declines his record to (11-11-3) on the season.
The IceMen power play went 1-for-5 (20%). Florida went 0-for-3 on Saturday and were unable to muster a goal against Evansville’s penalty kill for the series. The IceMen penalty killing unit continues to impress as they have now fought off 32 consecutive opponent power plays.
With their fourth win in five games, Evansville improves its record to (21-31-5)47 on the season. Florida falls to a (28-18-10)66 mark on the campaign.
The IceMen will return to the Ford Center to host familiar North Divison counterpart Toledo Walleye on Feb. 28. The puck is scheduled to drop at 7:15 and will be broadcast by ‘Magic 98.5’ FM and 1400 AM WEOA, as well as the rest of the IceMen Radio Network.