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Everblades secure playoff spot, look to catch ‘Rays

March 29, 2016
By PETE SISK ( , Cape Coral Daily Breeze

With a berth in the ECHL's Kelly Cup Playoffs secured, the Florida Everblades head to Orlando on Wednesday to begin their final seven-game push to retake the South Division lead from the South Carolina Stingrays, who now hold a one-point lead on the Blades after the weekend action.

The Blades (42-23) clinched their playoff spot Saturday night with a 5-3 victory over the Greenville Swamp Rabbits. It was their third win in a row, including Friday's 7-2 win over the Swamp Rabbits at Germain Arena.

The Blades got some help with clinching from Brampton, which defeated Elmira 3-1 confined with South Carolina's 2-0 win over Atlanta Saturday.

Florida has an additional game remaining than do the Stingrays, which leaves the potential for the Blades to post two more points when the Stingrays are finished.

"We have one more game than South Carolina, and we hold the tiebreaker," Blades coach Greg Poss said. "So we have to keep winning and see what happens."

The Blades regrouped after blowing a 3-1 lead Saturday.

"It was good to come back in the third period after letting up a bit in the second, scoring two power-play goals to win the game."

Team captain Matt Marquardt gave the Blades a 4-3 lead with 12:24 to play, blasting a slap shot from the faceoff circle to the left of Greenville goalie Mackenzie Skrapski. Rookie Chase Golightly and Kevin Lynch had the assists.

"It was a great shot," Poss said. "Good pass from Golightly. If we can get (Marquardt's) shot going on the power play he's probably got one of the best power-play shots in the league."

Marquardt didn't take sole credit for the goal that put his team in the playoffs.

"No, it was a total team effort," Marquardt said. "We've been doing that all year. We've still got a lot to do. Punching a ticket to the dance is one thing, but we want to get ourselves in the best position and the home ice. We've still got some games left. It's great to clinch it, but we've still got things to do."

Golightly then ripped home the icing on the cake, his first professional goal. Matt Willows and Marquardt assisted on the power-play tally.

"That was important because it was a tight game," Poss said.

Golightly has a goal and two assists in his first two professional games.

"They've done a good job. Everybody who's come in here has done an excellent job," Marquardt said. "It's a testament to the entire organization giving them a chance to play big minutes and build their confidence. There's always an adjustment, but those guys have hit the ground running."

He and fellow Robert Morris University alum Greg Gibson (hat trick Friday) joined the team this week after concluding their college careers.

Robert Morris had nine seniors this past season, and all nine signed professional contracts.

In hockey, unlike other sports, college players are considered free agents. The NHL draft takes 18-year-olds. Players who aren't drafted can go to college, sharpen their skills, and then sign with a pro team.

"These are guys who were late bloomers," Poss said. "They've had four years of college, playing two games a week and getting a lot of practice. Now they have more games and fewer practices."

Rasmus Tirronen got the win for Florida in goal. He stopped 21 of 24 shots.



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