For the first time in franchise history, the Florida Everblades failed to make the playoffs. Needing to win both of their final games, as well as get help from the team they are chasing for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, the Fort Wayne Komets failed to cooperate.
Against the top Eastern Conference team Reading Royals, the Everblades faced a tall task. A hat trick by Geoff Walker helped the Blades conquer the Royals 3-2 Friday night at Germain Arena. All of Walker's goals came in the first two periods.
The first came off a Phillip-Michel Devos pass to tie the contest after 13-plus minutes in the first period.
Devos aided Walker on his second goal, a one-time shot while on the power play, seven minutes into the second period, giving the Blades a 2-1 lead. Three minutes later, Walker got his hat trick and the Blades appeared to have firm control, but the Walker's hat trick lit a fire under the Royals, who scored on Everblades goalie Andy Iles (27 saves) 2 1/2 minutes later, sending both teams into the second intermission just a goal apart.
The win gives the Everblades (36-35) hope to make the playoffs for the 16th consecutive year. At the time of this writing, the team they are chasing for the 8th and final playoff spot was leading Evansville Friday night. A win eliminates the Blades from playoff contention.
Unfortunately for the Blades, Walker's hard work and Iles were for naught as the team found out shortly after their win, that the Komets had won eliminating them from the playoffs.
"I don't think I've ever felt this bad (after a hat trick)," said Walker.
"Let's be honest," said Blades coach Greg Poss, "we lost our playoff bid in January and February when we didn't play hard and we had too many home games where we didn't show up. When you don't respect the game, this is what happens."
The Blades host the Greenville Road Warriors in their regular season finale Saturday night at Germain Arena.