By Andrew J. Ferraro
Special to the The News-Press
BEAUMONT, Texas – Their long weekend in Texas is finished and now the Florida Everblades will return home with two chances to close out the ECHL South Division Finals against the Texas Wildcatters at Germain Arena next weekend.
Their goal was simple: Win two of three on the road and return home to Estero with two chances to clinch the series. Now they can do just that, thanks to a 4-2 win over the Wildcatters in Game 5 of their best-of-7 series Monday night at Ford Arena.
After Texas closed to within a goal early in the third period, Parsons settled a turnover and ripped a shot over the shoulder of Wildcatters goalie Matt Yeats. That rounded out the scoring for the Blades, who are just one win away from the conference finals.
With seeming ease, the Blades killed off each of the six Texas power plays and dominated the game after allowing the contest’s first goal in the first period.
But that is when Florida turned things up a notch and scored twice in the next four minutes. First, David Brine tied the game when he re-directed a pass from Brad Zancanaro by Yeats at the 12-minute mark.
Then, just 2:06 later, Adam Taylor scored a power-play goal when he beat Yeats just moments after Vincent Bellissimo hit the post on a backhand attempt.
Taylor, acquired from the Pensacola Ice Pilots in January, scored a career-high 25 goals during the regular season and has been one of the better players on the ice during the playoffs.
Texas could not clear the zone in the first period, and the Blades punished Yeats with 12 shots, scoring twice to pave the way to the victory.
Bellissimo made it 3-1 with a power-play goal just 2:45 into the second period. He took a left-to-right pass from Parsons and ripped a one-timer into the cage for a two-goal lead.
The Wildcatters had three power plays to work with after Bellissimo’s goal, but Kowalski made five saves during that time, including a nice grab on a rebound attempt by Brandin Cote with just under seven minutes left in the period.
Texas did get one goal back just 1:59 into the third period to make things interesting. Swarming the net, Daniel Sparre skated from behind the net and fed Mark Rooneem, who was waiting in the slot. The ensuing one-timer beat Kowalski on the Wildcatters’ 19th shot of the game.
The Blades welcomed three key players back to their lineup, thanks to several AHL playoff series ending over the weekend.
Brine and Mike Card were reassigned to the Blades from the Rochester Americans, who were eliminated by the Hamilton Bulldogs. Also returning for Monday’s game was Chris Lee, who was a big part of the Omaha Ak-Sar-Ben Knight’s playoff push.
Lee scored three goals in that series, but it was not enough to help the Knights, who dropped Game 6 in Des Moines, Iowa.
In what was arguably the hardest-hitting first period of the series, the Blades trailed the Wildcatters by a goal when Mike Bayrack put a rebound past Kowalski at 10:23.
The news wasn’t all good, though, as Florida placed forward Reggie Berg on the three-day injured reserve list. He played in Saturday’s 3-1 loss to the Wildcatters and scored the Blades’ only goal.
Berg has played in just one playoff game for the Blades, missing time with an undisclosed injury.