Florida Wins Game 3 on Home Ice, Takes 2-1 Series Lead
ESTERO, Fla. – The Florida Everblades (2-1) scored five unanswered goals, including three by forward Levko Koper to defeat the South Carolina Stingrays (1-2) by a score of 5-1 in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals Saturday night at Hertz Arena.
The Everblades now lead the best-of-5 Kelly Cup Playoff series two games to one. South Carolina will need to win Game 4 on Sunday to keep their season alive and force a deciding Game 5. Sunday’s game at Hertz Arena begins at 6 p.m.
Justin Florek scored the only Stingrays goal in the contest, opening the scoring with his second strike of the postseason at 2:06 of the first period when he converted off a feed from captain Andrew Cherniwchan to make it 1-0. Forward Dylan Steman recorded the second assist on the play, his third helper of the playoffs.
Florida got even less than two minutes later when Stefan Leblanc found the back of the net while the Everblades were on the power play at 3:50 to tie the game at 1-1.
Blake Winiecki scored at 2:52 of the middle period to put Florida in front 2-1, a lead they would never relinquish.
Koper then added on at 6:03 to make it 3-1 before converting on a breakaway at 9:13 to put the Everblades up 4-1, a lead they took into the second intermission.
Despite putting 17 shots on net in the third, SC was unable to get anything else past goaltender Jake Hildebrand. Koper finished off his natural hat trick performance at 11:13 of the final period, scoring the only goal of the third.
Hildebrand stopped 34 shots to pick up the win for the Everblades, while Hunter Shepard turned aside 25 attempts for the Rays in a losing effort. South Carolina outshot Florida 35-30 in the contest. The Everblades scored on their only power play opportunity, while the Stingrays finished 0-for-3 on the man-advantage.