ELMIRA, NY – Prior to Saturday night’s Eastern conference quarterfinal series game five, Florida Everblades head coach Greg Poss said during his team’s pre-game radio broadcast that although the Everblades had taken the first two games in Elmira against the Jackals they wanted to finish the job and series as quickly as possible. On the other bench, Jackals head coach Dwight Mullins was telling his team that until Florida got that fourth win his troops still had a shot at winning the series.
By the time the ice chips had settled and the final buzzer had gone off, it was Mullins who proved to be the better motivator on this night.
Led by the two goal, three point night posted by Andrew Rowe and the steady goaltending of Maxime Clermont, the Jackals lived to play another day as they pounded the Everblades 5-1 in front of 2,531 fans at the First Arena. Elmira’s victory trimmed Florida’s series lead to three games to two and forced a game six on Monday night back in southwest Florida.
The win was a bit of a redemption for Clermont. After starting game one and taking the loss, Clermont had been on the bench as Ian Keserich was inserted into the lineup in game two. After falling to the Everblades in games three and four, Mullins went back to Clermont and the Montreal native rewarded his coach with a 27 save effort.
For the third time in as many games at home, the Jackals came out of the locker room and controlled the first period. Not only did Elmira own the shot clock (a 13-4 margin) but it also posted the lone score of the stanza. It came off the stick of Louis Caporusso who received a pass in the left circle and snuck a shot between Florida goalie Jesse Deckert and the short side post.
Things stayed tight well into the second period when mistakes by the Everblades cost them dearly. While already killing a penalty, Florida was caught in a bad line change that put too many men on the ice. The second call gave Elmira a two man advantage and the Jackals cashed in when Chaz Johnson slammed a one-timer home from the left circle at the 17:21 mark.
Seconds after the score, Jordan Pietrus took a penalty that even up the playing strength at four on four. The extra open space on the ice allowed Jackals defenseman Jordon Southorn to go end-to-end and put a shot past Deckert high to the glove side into the net. The tally at 17:49 increased Elmira’s lead to an insurmountable 3-0 margin.
Down by three, the Everblades figured that a comeback was doable but they needed to get on the board before the middle period ended to if nothing else jumpstart the offense. Instead, a misplay by their netminder made things more difficult. With less than ten seconds to go before the intermission, Deckert went out to play the puck with the intent of killing the rest of the time. He shot the puck toward the boards but the carom hit Rowe and bounced toward the vacant net. Before Deckert could recover, Rowe fired it home with 1.7 seconds left to boost Elmira’s lead to four at the break.
Looking to create a spark, Poss replaced Deckert with rookie goalie Brady Hjelle at the start of the third period. Making his first appearance since being signed out of Ohio State University, Hjelle played well, making seven saves to keep his team in the game. Offensively, the Everblades did wake up, out-shooting the Jackals 17-8 in the final frame, testing Clermont on several occasions. A.J. Jenks broke Clermont’s shutout bid with a power play goal at the 12:45 mark of the period, giving his team some hope of mounting a monster comeback.
With the pressure his team was putting on, Poss began picking key moments to pull Hjelle to put an extra attacker on the ice. The strategy backfired at the 15:43 mark when with Hjelle out, Pietrus sent Rowe away on a break. Rowe patiently skated in and slid the puck into the empty net for his second of the game to seal the victory.
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