By Ed Reed
Florida Everblades players and coaches are constantly talking about how much they like playing in their home arena and in front of their home fans.
They’ve backed it up with winning home records in each of their seven seasons.
But regardless of where the Blades play this year, they seem to make themselves comfortable. That’s exactly what Florida will need to do in Trenton, N.J., starting at 7:30 Friday as the ECHL Kelly Cup Finals shift to the Sovereign Bank Arena.
The Blades, already in a 2-0 hole in the best-of-7 series, will play their next three games in the Titans’ home rink. They must win at least two games in Trenton if they are to play at Germain Arena in Estero at least one more time.
“This is attainable,” Florida forward Brad Church (pictured) said. “All we’ve got to do is win a couple of hockey games, and we’ve been doing it all season long, you know.
“Our urgency and desperation have to be at an all-time high and let’s bring it to the table Friday night.”
The Florida franchise has never played a game in Trenton, although two members of the team, goalie Tyler MacKay and forward Paul Cabana, have played there this season with other clubs. Church played there last season as a member of the Reading Royals.
But ice is ice and the rink dimensions at the Sovereign Bank Arena are the same as at Germain Arena – 200 feet-by-85-feet.
“We’ve been a good road team and I’m not too worried about going into their barn,” Blades forward David Lundbohm said. “I know it’s supposed to be an advantage for them, but you know we’ve been successful on the road, and we’re going to try to get two out of three up there.”
Florida posted almost identical records at home and on the road this season, going 21-9-6 in Estero and 21-11-4 away. They scored 22 goals more than their opponents at home and 21 more on the road.
That’s a far cry from last year when the Blades went 15-17-4 on the road in the regular season and 4-4 in the playoffs, including being outscored 26-24 and shut out twice.
Florida has been even stronger on the road in the playoffs this year, compiling a 5-1 mark, while only going 5-4 at home.
So why are the Blades better road warriors this season?
“I think it’s just being all together,” Florida forward Damian Surma said. “I’m not saying guys want to be away from their families, but it’s just being away from everything here, being together as a team. It’s a lot harder to get together down here. Doing things together like bowling or poker, it’s just fun. It’s like juniors again.”
Church added, “We play a simple game on the road. I don’t know why we’re so much better. We do the little things right and work hard. We’ve just had success.”
Trenton has been no slouch at home, going 23-9-4 at the Sovereign Bank Arena in the regular season and 6-1 in the playoffs. Titans goaltender Andrew Allen has also been spectacular, stopping 77 of 78 shots in winning the first two games of the series.
Despite all that, Florida is not a dejected bunch.
“Being down 2-0, losing two games at home, we’re surprisingly upbeat,” Surma said. “We’re confident. I think we’re confident. We know it’s a seven-game series. We’re looking forward to going to Trenton then bringing it back home.”
Florida coach Gerry Fleming said his team’s game plan will be very simple for tonight.
“You just plug away,” he said. “You just got to believe and you can’t let any kind of doubt or anybody affect the way you think about yourself or your team’s ability. You have to keep going, marching on and we’re going to try to find a way to win Game 3 up there Friday night.”