For the 10th time in the 2017-18 season, presented by Community First Credit Union, the Jacksonville Icemen (22-29-4-3, 51 pts) are squaring off against in-state rival, Florida Everblades (39-12-2-4, 84 pts), tonight at 7:30 p.m.
Both teams enter tonight’s contest with two different situations. The Eastern Conference-leading ‘Blades clinched a playoff berth just over a week ago when they beat the Icemen, 6-2, in Estero. On the other side, the Icemen are fighting for their playoff lives, and doing a great job at it. Jacksonville is only eight points behind fourth-place Atlanta, but the Icemen have three games in hand on the Gladiators with two critical meetings in Georgia next week.
Florida is on a three-game winning streak, a streak that started on Feb. 28 with a win over Jacksonville. The ‘Blades have continued to stifle opponents defensively, limiting teams to an average of 2.47 goals per game, which ranks them third in the ECHL. In fact, no team in the entire league has allowed less shots against on average than Florida, recording an impressive 27.11 shots against per game. Great defense paired with even better goaltending has been the key to success for the dominating ‘Blades, but the Icemen have found success in the past against Florida.
After a week off, the Icemen’s lineup will look a bit differently than it did against Reading on March 2. Jacksonville has added three players to the blue line and one up front as the playoff push moves into high gear. Justin Woods and Matt Ustaski are set to make their pro debuts, while defenseman Jake Kulevich is ready to make his start in the ECHL. Another addition, Kyle Bigos, brings a lot of pro experience to the Jacksonville defense as the team enters the final stretch of the season.
The Icemen are proving just how important home ice advantage is. Jacksonville is carrying a three-game home winning streak into tonight’s game against Florida. They’re going to need every bit of support from the home fans tonight as they attempt to beat the ‘Blades for the first time at Veterans Memorial Arena.
Do you have your tickets for this weekend’s games? Click here to cheer on the Icemen tonight as they host the ‘Blades at 7:30 p.m.
(Photo credit: Kevin Bires)
Jacksonville Icemen: 22-29-4-3 (6th in South division)
Florida Everblades: 39-12-2-4 (1st in South division)
Icemen: 23/233 – 9.9% (27th in ECHL)
Everblades: 37/214 – 17.3% (13th in ECHL)
Icemen: 212/256 – 82.8% (14th in ECHL)
Everblades: 219/254 – 86.2% (5th in ECHL)
Players to Watch:
#17 F Everett Clark (JAX)
8G, 13A – 21 Pts, -27 Rating
Clark ranks second on the Icemen in scoring against Florida this season. The forward hasn’t had a point in three games and a goal since Feb. 19, so look for him to break out against the ‘Blades.
#15 F Mitchell Heard (FLA)
20G, 29A – 49 Pts, +23 Rating
Heard has been a pain in the Icemen’s side all season long. With Quentin Shore and Michael Kirkpatrick not playing, look for Heard to lead the charge for Florida.