By Craig Handel
ESTERO, Fla. – Stymied for almost two games by an aggressive Gwinnett Gladiator team, Kevin Baker erupted in emotion and joy after his game-tying goal.
Then Jacob Micflikier made it even more joyous.
Micflikier’s goal with 7:08 left in overtime gave the Florida Everblades a 3-2 win over the Gladiators in Game 2 of their ECHL Kelly Cup playoff series Saturday night at Germain Arena in front of 4,511 fans.
Games 3, 4 and 5 will be at Gwinnett, Ga., on Thursday, Friday and April 19.
“I waited until my man went down, which created a screen. I found a crease late and took the shot,”
Florida rallied from a 2-0 deficit with two goals in the third period.
Baker, the ECHL’s MVP, scored with just 1:21 left in regulation. Forward Milan Gajic, who scored 1:16 into the third period, had an assist on the play.
Earlier in the game, he was stopped on a penalty shot.
Meanwhile, the Gladiators had no quality scoring chances in the last two periods.For the better part of two periods, the Everblades played like they were in a stupor.
They had just three quality chances on net in the first two periods while Baker took just one shot.
Gwinnett took a 2-0 lead in the first period as the Everblades spent a lot of time in the penalty box. Forward Tom Janoski, a real thorn for the Everblades in this series, had a goal and an assist.
After racking up 12 penalties for 27 minutes Friday, Florida coach Malcolm Cameron said, “We’re going to walk away” on Saturday.
It was more like “Walking Tall,’’ with defensemen Dominic D’Amour and A.J. Thelen playing the role of Dwayne Johnson and Joe Don Baker as Buford Pusser.
Somehow, Gijac and Andrew Sweetland were on the ice after rough hits but it was D’Amour and Thelen who were penalized.
Florida was whistled five times for 10 minutes in penalties. Gwinnett, which had scored all of its eight goals on the power play in its last three games against the Everblades, got another man-advantage goal when forward Brandon Kaleniecki took a great pass to forward Adam Berti and knocked in the shot with 4:51 left in the first.
Earlier, Zanoski gave Gwinnett a 1-0 lead when he stole the puck from Sweetland, skated in and lifted a shot by Everblades goaltender David Leggio.
Late in the period, which extended into the second, Florida went on the power play, and even had a 5-on-3, but couldn’t take advantage.
In the second period, the Everblades had more scoring changes but not goals.
The best came with 6:13 left when Gajic received a penalty shot after being tripped on a breakaway. However, Gwinnett goaltender Josh Johnson gloved Gajic high shot. Johnson also made a nice stop forward Colin Nicholson’s backhander earlier in the period.