The Florida Everblades are all but eliminated from the ECHL playoffs with three games left in the regular season. All three games are at Germain Arena this week, but they must win all three against the Reading Royals and still hope for Fort Wayne to lose both of its remaining games.
Elimination would break the Everblades' 15-season streak of postseason appearances, that represents the team's entire existence in Lee County.
With their backs already against the wall Sunday evening, the Blades made their own fate more difficult with a 3-2 loss to the South Carolina Stingrays on home ice.
Nick Larson provided the game-winning goal with 3:40 remaining in regulation for the Stingrays.
After a scoreless first period, the Stingrays knocked in two goals to take the lead. On a power play, Stephan Vigier broke the scoring ice and drilled the second goal on a break late in the period.
Down 2-0, and the clock ticking on their playoff hopes, the Blades took control in the third period from the opening faceoff. The relentless pressure forced the Stingrays into mistakes, which the Blades capitalized on.
The first came 3:30 into the period when the pressure resulted in a power play for the Blades, who got a goal by Geoff Walker.
Seizing the momentum from that goal, the Blades forced another penalty four minutes later. Though they failed to score with the extra man advantage, the pressure they generated resulted in the tying score by Cameron Burt with enough time on the clock for the Blades to possibly keep their playoff hopes alive.
Unfortunately, those minutes also worked against them when the Stingrays scored the game-winner, forcing the Blades into a situation where they no longer can afford to lose any of their final three games of the season.
Blades coach Greg Poss had much to say following a loss that puts their playoffs chances on life support.
"I just felt we didn't come out with enough bite that first period," he said. "I thought (Trevor) Cann (18 saves) did a good job of keeping us in it in the first period. In the second period it was more even, despite the two mistakes that lead to their goals.
"And in the third period I thought we did an excellent job, except on the turnover that lead to their third goal. I thought we had really turned the corner, but that was a bad turnover that lead to their goal. We were dead tired and just trying to make a play," Poss added.
"I think that has been the story for most of the season, guys trying to do too much individually."
Florida (34-35) closes out the season with three games at Germain Arena on Wednesday, Friday and Saturday nights.