By Andrew Sodergren
Naples Daily News
ESTERO — The Florida Everblades and their fans have probably seen enough of Adam Berkhoel for awhile.
Dayton’s standout goaltender, who was so brilliant in Game 1, again had a strong game as the Bombers defeated the Everblades 3-1 in Game 7 of the American Conference finals in front of a healthy Germain Arena crowd of 6,919.
Berkhoel was the winning goaltender for Gwinnett last season when they eliminated the Everblades in the South Division finals.
“He’s a tremendous goaltender,” a distraught Ryan Brindley said. “He’s positioned really well and does a lot of things well. He’s been around a long time, but we’ve had some good success against him in this series. It wasn’t like we didn’t think we could score on him, because we’ve been doing it throughout the series.”
The Everblades were coming off a 6-3 win in Game 6 in which they assaulted Berkhoel with 46 shots on goal, five of which found the back of the net (the other was an empty-netter).
“Well, tonight we came together and played our game,” Berkhoel said. “(Assistant coach Derek Clancey) does a lot of hard work that goes unnoticed. He brings us structure, and we got away from that last night. Last night, we tried to play Florida’s game and you can’t do that because they’re way too skilled. They’ll kill you if you do that, just like they killed us last night. Tonight we controlled the puck more and kept it out of our defensive zone, but even when they did get it down here, our guys blocked a lot of shots and I had a clear view of the puck at all times.”
Dayton coach Don MacAdam says having Berkhoel around is quite a luxury.
“Obviously for us to win, we’ve got to play within our system, which we didn’t do last night,” MacAdam said. “If you don’t play your best game against a skilled team like the Everblades, you’re going to get hurt. Tonight we played our style of hockey, and Adam Berkhoel took care of the times when we had breakdowns in the system.”
Berkhoel stopped 29 of 30 shots and was especially strong in the third period, when a desperate Blades squad held a 13-4 shot advantage with Berkhoel turning them away every time.
“They’re a great hockey team and this was a fun series to play in,” Berkhoel said. “They battled hard and so did we. It feels sweet to take it from them, but it was certainly a series where neither team deserved to lose.”