READING, Pa. – The Florida Everblades came into Reading, Pennsylvania with a bit of a chip on their collective shoulders. The Reading Royals might have had the ECHL’s Eastern Conference’s best record during the regular season but the Everblades are the defending Kelly Cup champions. Florida used their speed and made the most of their opportunities in Game One of the Eastern Conference Semi-Finals coming away with a 4-3 and a 1-0 series lead.
Reading, as they were in the first round against Greenville, was dominating on the shot clock but this time around it didn’t matter. Florida took advantage of some sloppy defense and a very below average performance from Royals goaltender Riley Gill in the win. The Royals outshot Florida in every period, 37-18 in the game but during the game you would never have known it due to Reading being down in the scoreboard all night. Reading had double digit number of shots in every period were the Everblades did not. It didn’t matter. The Everblades are as quick as any team in the ECHL and played like it. This should be a long series if Game One is any indication; it will be a long, hard fought series.
The turning point in the game as after Florida went up 1-0 midway through the first period, the Everblades went up 2-0 with only 12.2 seconds when they came in on the rush and slipped the puck past Gill with Adam Brace parked in front of the Royals net.
The goal could have crushed the Royals but they came back in spades to tie the game at 2-2 when they scored only eight seconds into the period on Stan Galiev’s spin move in front of the net and on Yannick Tifu’s shot that went off the back of Everblades goaltender Jesse Deckert to tie the game. Florida took the lead for good when on a delayed penalty Mathieu Roy’s shot from the right point somehow found its way past Gill for a 3-2 Florida lead.
Yannick Tifu took an very week high sticking penalty and gave Florida a power play goal that would eventually put the game out of reach. Tifu would get his second of the night at the 13:34 make but could quite tie to game to end a disappointing night for the Royals who went 1-7 on the power play while the Everblades were 1-4.
Game Two is Saturday night in Reading. Games 3-5 will be in Estero, Florida Wednesday-Saturday.
Contact the author at Brian.Jennings@prohockeynews.com