ESTERO, Fla. – When the Florida Everblades pulled away for a 5-1 victory over the Elmira Jackals Friday night, no one seemed surprised. After all, the defending champion Everblades have a high-powered offense that can score at will. Saturday night’s game two of the teams’ best-of-seven Eastern conference quarterfinal series turned out to be an even bigger blowout but this time it left some in shock.
Chaz Johnson and Jordan Pietrus each scored twice during a six goal outburst in the third period as the Jackals stunned the Everblades 8-2 in front of an announced attendance of 3,126 at the Germain Arena. Andrew Rowe also scored twice in the victory as Elmira evened the series at one win each as the teams head north for the next three games beginning Wednesday.
The surprising third period capped a contest that was emotionally charged from the get go as the teams nearly got into a brawl during pre-game warm-ups. Order was restored before things got out of hand but it was obvious that the bad blood from Friday’s final minute had carried over. A good portion of the first period saw either one or both teams have someone in the penalty box – a theme that would account for four of the first five goals and five overall.
Florida hit the board first on the power play. At the 12:58 mark of the first period, Mathieu Roy got to a loose puck in the crease and poked it past Elmira goalie Ian Keserich for the early lead. It was the only goal of a period dominated by the Everblades to the tune of a 14-6 shot advantage.
Having survived the opening stanza only down one, the Jackals began pushing back in the second period. Jesse Deckert, Florida’s netminder who had been near perfect on Friday, was called on early to thwart an odd-man rush by stopping Louie Caporusso’s scoring bid. Just past the twelve minute mark, Elmira pulled even when Rowe fired from the half boards and the puck snuck its way past Deckert for a man-advantage tally.
Less than two minutes after Rowe’s score, the Everblades went back in front. Once again on the power play, A.J. Jenks won an offensive zone face-off to Matthew Pistilli. Pistilli’s initial shot was stopped by Keserich but Pistilli followed in and popped the rebound home.
At the 16:49 mark of the period, the game took a swing in Elmira’s favor. A mad scramble broke in front of the Florida net. With the puck lying loose in the crease and a Jackals player moving toward it, Everblades defenseman Mike Ratchuk instinctually dove for the disc but he made the mistake of covering the puck with his hand, forcing referee Geoff Miller to give the visitors a penalty shot. Caporusso was chosen to take the shot and he scored, swooping in from the right and beating Deckert low to the stick side.
If Caporusso’s penalty shot score in the second was a shock to the Everblades fans, the
final period was a dagger. It began innocently enough when Florida went on the power play early in the frame. Pietrus blocked a shot and broke out with Rob Bellamy on a two-on-none rush. Bellamy carried it into the Everblades zone and laid a perfect pass to Pietrus who one-timed it into the back of the net.
The floodgates opened up for the Jackals offense midway through the period. At the 10:08 mark, Pietrus zipped a wrist shot over Deckert’s catching glove. That was followed by Johnson tapping home a loose puck at 15:22. Rowe notched his second of the night off a pass from Matt Carter a minute later followed by Johnson connecting for his second of the period on the power play at 17:54. Matt Tassone completed the scoring with 28 seconds left in the game.
Keserich, who had a rocking chair final period in facing just five shots, stopped 31 of the 33 shots he faced to pull his team even in the series. At the other end, Decker made 23 saves in suffering the loss.
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