It just wasn't meant to be - a triumphant return for the Florida Everblades to Germain Arena Friday night - losing a hard fought battle to the Orlando Solar Bears in a shootout 3-2, ending their undefeated start to the season at 6-0-1.
As has been Florida's MO for most of the young season, they drew first blood early in the contest as Mike Merrifield took a pass from linemate Austin Levi for his second goal of the season less than two minutes into the game.
Eight minutes later, Blades starting net minder Jesse Deckert (28 saves) made his only real mistake of the game, misplaying a bouncing puck near the corner of the net and the squads enered the first intermission knotted at 1-1.
The second period featured four power play opportunities for the Everblades, only to come up empty each time, but midway through Merrifield hooked up with linemate Kellan Tochkin, whose score gave the Blades a 2-1 lead into the final period.
The teams continued their back-and-forth play with the Solar Bears eventually getting the better of it early in the third, beating Deckert and tying the score with 15:30 to play in regulation.
"I think we played a good game," said Blades coach Greg Poss. "I thought we played better than we did in our 5-3 win over Las Vegas. Sometimes things don't go your way. Our penalty kill was excellent, the guys worked extremely hard, and for the most part played extremely well. I thought the difference was our power play, which we were unable to capitalize on."
In the end, the Blades lost the shootout 2-1, but by forcing the overtime and shootout, they gained another point in the division standings.
The Everblades go on the road Saturday night to Orlando for their home-and-home weekend matchup with the Solar Bears. The Blades return to Germain Arena Wednesday to start a three-game homestand, starting with the Elmira Jackals.