By Chris Umpierre
Only one player on the Florida Everblades had ever played in a Game 7 as a professional before Friday night’s win-or-go-fishing contest against the Dayton Bombers.
Blades emergency goalie Jamie Holden starred in two Game 7s last year as a member of the ECHL’s Fresno Falcons.
“The biggest thing you have to understand is one team is not going to be playing tomorrow. One of us is going to be getting up for practice and the other is going to be getting ready to golf,” Holden said after Friday’s morning skate. “Playing in a Game 7 is the greatest feeling (in sports), but at the end of the day it’s just another hockey game. Guys can’t get too nervous about it.”
Holden, who came out of semi-retirement when he signed with Florida in March, went 1-1 in Game 7s last year. His Falcons beat the Bakersfield Condors 4-2 in Game 7 of the Pacific Division Finals and then lost a 3-2, double-overtime classic to the Alaska Aces in Game 7 of the National Conference Finals.
Holden made 41 saves, including 15 in overtime, as Alaska won in front of a standing-room-only crowd of 6,331 at Sullivan Arena in Anchorage.
“It was probably the most exciting game I’ve ever played,” the 25-year-old said.Holden remembered the Alaska faithful “going nuts.” The Aces are known for having raucous crowds. Fans toss frozen fish heads onto the ice after Alaska scores its first goal of every game. The fish are often 50-pound king salmons and, yes, they stink.
Craig Kowalski, the Blades’ starting goalie, didn’t have to worry about getting clubbed in the face with a yellowtail snapper Friday. He just had to worry about staying poised during the first Game 7 of his three-year pro career. Holden said he didn’t plan to give Kowalski advice, because “he’s pretty good mentally.”
Friday was the first Game 7 for the Blades’ oldest player in 30-year-old Ryan Brindley, who is in his ninth pro campaign. He remembered winning a Game 7 in juniors.
Fourth-year Florida forward Dustin Johner also last played a Game 7 in juniors.
“We actually won in overtime,” Johner recalled. “It might be a good thing to know that, but this is a little bit different. It’s a lot bigger.”