ORLANDO, Fla. – The 2019 South Division Finals will be a Sunshine State affair, as the Florida Everblades take on the Orlando Solar Bears. For Drake Berehowsky, the Solar Bears’ head coach, this will be a return grudge match. Last year, he made club history by taking Orlando into the second round of the ECHL playoffs, but the Everblades put an end to the team’s hopes. This year, Berehowsky is intent on making history again, and that means pushing the Solar Bears into the Kelly Cup Eastern Conference Finals.
The Everblades, meanwhile, are looking to make another deep drive into the playoffs. They still feel the bitter loss to the Colorado Eagles in the Kelly Cup Finals last year, and they want redemption.
The Solar Bears and Everblades are evenly matched, and they have exited the semifinal round with decisive performances. After dropping games three and four in Jacksonville, the Everblades finished out the series with two consecutive 5-1 wins. The Solar Bears, meanwhile, lost the first game of their series against the South Carolina Stingrays, but then went on to put together a four-game win streak they will be riding into the South Division Finals.
The Everblades have managed some impressive offensive numbers and can boast three players (Blake Winiecki, John McCarron, and Ben Masella) tied for the league lead in playoff points. On the defensive side, the Everblades’ Callum Booth leads the ECHL playoffs in goals against average.
Meanwhile, Orlando’s Connor Ingram is second in the league with a 1.64 goals against average. If goaltending battles are your jam, this will be a series to watch. Also notable is penalty kill of the Solar Bears in the playoffs. This was an area where the team struggled during the regular season, but they currently stand second in the league in the playoffs with an 88.5% success rate.
Final Regular Season Records:
Florida Everblades: 50-16-5-1; #1 in South Division, #1 in Eastern Conference
Orlando Solar Bears: 41-25-5-1; #2 in South Division, #3 in Eastern Conference
Series Schedule (Home team in BOLD CAPS):
Game 1 – Friday, April 26 – Orlando at FLORIDA, 7:30 p.m. ET
Game 2 – Saturday, April 27 – Orlando at FLORIDA, 7 p.m. ET
Game 3 – Tuesday, April 30 – Florida at ORLANDO, 7 p.m. ET
Game 4 – Thursday, May 2 – Florida at ORLANDO, 7 p.m. ET
Game 5* – Friday, May 3 – Florida at ORLANDO, 7 p.m. ET
Game 6* – Monday, May 6 – Orlando at FLORIDA, 7:30 p.m. ET
Game 7* – Tuesday, May 7 – Orlando at FLORIDA, 7:30 p.m. ET
*=> If Necessary
Season Series Recap:
The Solar Bears and Everblades carry identical 6-3-2-1 records against each other in the regular season. This promises to be a long, competitive series.
Orlando Solar Bears Keys to Success:
The Solar Bears have a number of offensive threats, and they have become even stronger in this department over the past weeks. During the series against South Carolina, they received Hunter Fejes, Otto Somppi, and Jonne Tammela from AHL assignments. This bolsters an already formidable arsenal of forwards.
The keys for Orlando will be disciplined two-way play and puck control. They have to respect the Everblades’ ability to capitalize on turnovers and to score quickly. Ingram has shown that he will give his squad ample opportunities to win if they will give him help around the net.
Orlando also needs to maintain consistent energy through the full sixty minutes and limit its time on the penalty kill, which was a problem spot during the regular season. The Everblades have been crafty in getting the Solar Bears into penalty trouble, and expect those pesky gators to be up to the same baiting tactics this year.
Florida Everblades Keys to Success:
Florida cannot afford to be looking past Orlando and thinking about future rounds. The Solar Bears will bring more scoring threats than the Everblades faced against Jacksonville, and the Everblades should expect a club that has buckled down on its defense and the penalty kill.
Keys for the Everblades will be it’s disciplined forecheck and stingy defense. They effectively stifled the Icemen’s ability to get set up in the offensive zone, and if they can do the same to the Solar Bears, they will find success.
The Everblades have a lightning-quick offense with terrific team chemistry in the offensive zone. If they can limit the Solar Bears’ scoring, the Everblades can count on their firepower to take them to victory.