By Craig Handel
ESTERO, Fla. – It’s early in the ECHL American Conference Finals, but the Dayton Bombers came through with a must win Tuesday night at Germain Arena.
Dayton saw a three-goal lead disappear, but the Bombers pulled out a 4-3 victory in the third overtime.
Defenseman Brad Farynuk’s goal just 1:23 into the third OT helped Dayton breathe a sigh of relief as well as celebrate.
“It would’ve been drastic,” Farynuk said of losing. “Give them credit. They didn’t stop working.”
Dayton is used to comebacks — the Bombers reached the conference finals by rallying from a 3-1 deficit to beat Cincinnati in seven games — but it would’ve been hard for the Bombers to recover from a loss this time.
Dayton coach Don MacAdam agreed.
“That’s a really good summary,” he said. “We had a very solid second period, 17 minutes worth of good hockey.
“We have a lot of respect for the Blades’ play and skill in their lineup. We have to try to avoid those situations where it’s skill against skill. We know they have more skill than us.”
For the Everblades, it was the worst of times.
Then it was the best of times.
It also became the longest of times.
Shut out for almost the first two periods and outplayed for more than that, the Everblades scored three times to tie the game and put themselves in position to record one of the greatest comebacks in the club’s nine-year playoff history.
They’ll have to settle for playing the longest game in team history.
The Everblades, who had a hard time getting off a shot on their first four power plays, finally used the man-advantage to get on the scoreboard. Left wing Derek Damon scored with 1:22 left in the second period.
By forcing play as well as penalties, Florida got back in the game. Brad Zancanaro’s power-play goal cut the deficit to 3-2 with just 2:32 had elapsed in the third.
MacAdam said it “seemed forever” since his team played the third period short-handed.
“And that’s not something we wanted to do with the skill the Blades have. We know their power play is excellent.”
Ironically, Farynuk committed the penalty that led to Florida’s power-play goal. He then sat out a few shifts.
“That’s tough, to sit on the bench for five minutes, then being thrown back into the wolves,” he said.
However, Farynuk helped save Dayton from the jaws of a crushing loss.
“The end was sure glorious,” he said. “But I didn’t play my best game.”