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Blades not backing down

January 10, 2014
By RYAN RYLES - Special to the Breeze , Cape Coral Daily Breeze

It's been three weeks since the Florida Everblades were on home ice, but they're back at Germain Arena Friday and Saturday for a crucial two-game homestand against the division leading South Carolina Stingrays.

It will have been more than a month since the Blades won at home.

To be fair, the Blades (20-12) haven't had many opportunities to show what they're made of to the hometown fans, playing just 11 of their 32 games on home ice. In those 11 home games Florida is a disappointing 4-7.

It must be kept in mind that the Blades have played less than one-third of their schedule at home at this point, sitting in second place in the division standings and nine points behind the Stingrays.

It presents a large home ice advantage as the season winds down toward the playoffs. Home ice woes are a concern given the lack of power play success and mental lapses leading to turnovers and defensive breakdowns that lead to easy goals.

"At home, there are a lot more distractions," said Blades coach Greg Poss. "On the road, all we have is the game and preparations for the game. The guys sleep in the same place every night, eat together every night, and have nothing to distract them from game preparation."

That isn't an excuse, but a matter-of-fact between the sun, the beach, media obligations, and local notoriety, to name a few, it's no surprise that 20-somethings would be distracted playing hockey in Southwest Florida. As a result of all of those early road games, this year's Everblades are true road warriors where they have gone 16-5.

More impressive is the fact that the Everblades again lead the ECHL in team transactions - players coming and going via call-ups and injuries.

Roster moves are the norm for ECHL squads, where it's common for rosters to see four or five moves each month. Florida, most likely due to its continued success, sees as much as triple those moves on a monthly basis.

Over his four seasons as the coach, Poss has mastered the art of keeping the team cohesive and on the same page, but refuses to take credit for it.

"We always have high skilled, quality guys waiting to play for us," Poss said. "Guys come in knowing they will get a chance to get some playing time, and they show up to play."

Regardless of his reasoning, Poss manages to keep the team focused on the task at hand, with the home ice woes being his top concern.

"We've only played, what, 10 or 11 games at home so far?" he said. "And we haven't played so well (at Germain Arena), which isn't fair to the fans. Hopefully, we can change that around this weekend."

Given the opponent this weekend, and the importance of the two-game series at this point of the season, that is a tall task, one Poss refuses to comment on, or give any importance to.

"Every game and point is equally important," he says.

On Friday night, fans find out if the Blades feel the same way.



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