ESTERO, Fla. -The Florida Everblades demonstrated why they became the Kelly Cup Champs as they swept the season opening weekend. Their opponent, the Orlando Solar Bears, did manage to squeak out a single point on Friday, as their late game rally lead to a regulation tie.
The Blades played the Bears for a second straight weekend. The previous games netted the same result with the Blades taking both games at home.
The Everblades started their 15th Anniversary season with a bang, literally. The team excited the packed home crowd with a pregame banner raising ceremony for their 2012 EHCL Kelly Cup Championship win. The sparks flew and the firecracker booms were loud enough to get everyone in the stands ready for the new season.
Orlando opened its first season in the ECHL this weekend. The team was resurrected in 2012 after the IHL folded. The Solar Bears won the Turner Cup during their last season.
The addition of Orlando means that the Blades now have an in-state rival again. The two teams will play in 16 regular season games, adding to the excitement of the local fans.
The Blades looked great this weekend, no doubt due to the fact that 13 players were members of last year’s championship team. Matt Becca (last season’s leading scorer with 60 points) and David Rutherford (leading goal scorer with 25 goals) returned after signing AHL contracts with Charlotte of the AHL this summer.
Also returning are the stellar goal tending duo of John Muse and Pat Nagle. Muse was named the MVP of the 2012 Kelly Cup playoffs. Florida’s winning coach, Greg Poss, returns for his third season with the Blades.
The players were very excited to return to Germain Arena and showed they were ready to pick up where they left off. The Blades had two previous trips to the Kelly Cup Finals; in 2004 against the Idaho Steelheads and in 2005 versus the Trenton Titans. This third trip was the charm that won them the coveted cup.
FRIDAY 10/12/12 – (Florida: 5 / Orlando: 4 – overtime) – The Blades started this game strong and outplayed the Bears until the third period. The Bears took over the game and turned a 4-0 deficit into a 4-4 tie. Orlando’s Nick Peterson was credited with scoring the first goal in the Solar Bear’s ECHL history and scored it against MVP, Muse.
The Bears gained momentum after their first goal and took over the rest of the game. They scored the tying goal with just 31 seconds remaining in regulation. The Blades pulled together after the buzzer and ended the game just 26 seconds into overtime with a goal by David Rutherford.
SATURDAY 10/13/12 – (Florida: 4 / Orlando: 2) – The Blades scored early to set the tone of the game, just three minutes in. While the Bears did not give up, the Blades were in command of this game. With just over a minute left in the game, down by one goal, and on the power play, Orlando pulled their goaltender to create a 6-on-4 advantage. The Blades took advantage of the open net and sealed the win with an empty netter.
The teams meet again on Friday, October 19th, at Germain Arena. At that time, the Blades will retire the number nine jersey of fan favorite Ernie Hartlieb.
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