ESTERO, FLA – The Florida Everblades improved to 2-0-0-0 after Saturday’s 4-2 victory over the Orlando Solar Bears (0-1-0-0) at Hertz Arena. Rookie goaltender Devin Cooley started in his first professional game and made 20 saves to earn his first win as a member of the Everblades.
Well That Escalated Quickly: The Everblades wasted no time in finding the scoreboard. After forward Cameron Hebig stole the puck behind Orlando’s net, he fed Blake Winiecki at the left post. Solar Bears goaltender Clint Windsor stopped Winiecki’s initial offering, but Hebig returned to the scene to bury the rebound and give Florida a 1-0 lead only 26 seconds into the game.
Harper Strikes Again: Rookie forward Patrick Harper scored his second professional goal at the 6:27 mark in the first period to put Florida up 2-0. After cleaning up a rebound for his first professional tally on Friday, Harper sniped the top corner against the Solar Bears and Windsor.
2-1 After 1: Orlando got their first score of the night on a tap-in by Ryan Lohin late in the first period (17:59). Nikita Pavlychev and Tad Kozun linked up across the blue line, then Kozun placed a perfect back-door pass to Lohin to make it 2-1.
Big Hit Sparks Offense: Both teams had relatively sleepy starts to the second period until Orlando defenseman Dmitry Semykin delivered a devastating hit to Florida’s Lukas Craggs. The hit riled up both benches and Semykin was awarded a match penalty and a five minute major penalty for contact to the head.
The ensuing five-minute power play did not lack excitement. 43 seconds into penalty time, Michael Huntebrinker tucked in a Winiecki rebound to put Florida up 3-1 (9:50). Less than a minute later, Orlando returned with a shorthanded two-on-one and Alexander Kuqali knocked the puck past a sprawling Cooley to slice the Everblades’ lead to 3-2 (10:44).
4-2 Finish: Forward Joe Pendenza finished off the Solar Bears with an empty net goal for his first score of the season. Florida controlled play for the majority of the game, much in part to seven (1/7) power play opportunities. Hebig finished the game with a goal and an assist to lead the Everblades offensively.
First Action: Saturday against the Solar Bears was rookie goaltender Devin Cooley’s first professional action in net. Cooley stood tall in net for the Blades and stopped 20 of 22 Orlando shots, including a handful of crucial stops while the Bears were on the power play in the first and second periods. Through three years at the University of Denver, Cooley posted a 15-9-4 record. The 6-4 Los Gatos, California native published a wildly impressive 1.72 goals against average and .927 save percentage.
Rookie defenseman Cole MacDonald saw his first action of the season on Saturday night. MacDonald played two games with Florida, but is still designated as a rookie by the ECHL.
Killers:After stopping all four Orlando power plays, the Everblades remain perfect on the penalty kill this season (13/13).
The Everblades will hit the ice next on Friday and Saturday as they visit the Greenville Swamp Rabbits for a weekend set.
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