Icemen look to gain ground in ECHL standings as Everblades visit

Team plays host to Florida on Friday, Saturday night

An Icemen player takes a shot during a practice earlier this season. (Justin Barney, News4JAX)

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The Jacksonville Icemen take on in-state rival Florida Everblades this weekend with a chance to move up the standings.

The two-game series on Friday and Saturday night at 7 marks the last time the rivals will meet in the regular season. But forward Ben Hawerchuk believes this is an Everblades team Jacksonville could see in the postseason.

“We could potentially face these guys in the first round of playoffs here,” said Hawerchuk.

Jacksonville is coming off a three-games-in-three-nights series against the South Division-leading Atlanta Gladiators. The team finished the weekend with three points in the standings. The Icemen find themselves now four points back of the Everblades for second in the division. But it could have been more.

Sunday afternoon’s rubber match saw the Icemen score three in the first to take a commanding lead. However, the team let the Gladiators back into the game with three of their own in the second. Atlanta went on to score the game-winner in overtime.

“Sunday was a good learning experience for us, said head coach Nick Luukko. “You can’t take your foot off the gas and unfortunately, that’s what happened on Sunday.”

Jacksonville has given up three goals in a period in three of its last four games including one against Florida. Luukko guarantees it won’t happen again.

Looking ahead to this weekend, Luukko says they are working on getting their swagger back. They want to play hard and play with a lot of speed.

“I know guys get fired up to play against Florida and they get fired up for the playoffs,” Luukko said. “So every game this year against those guys has been an awesome game for just the general fan.”

Hawerchuk knows the Everblades play a physical game. However, he says the Icemen are just as physical. The team believes they have the best locker room in the league as well. He adds when they match Florida’s physicality the team kind of shuts down.

“Once they stop running around, we can get control of the puck and start making plays and start putting the puck in the net,” said Hawerchuk.

The Icemen enter this weekend with 18 wins on home ice and overall a 6-1-0-1 record against the Everblades. However, this weekend is the second-to-last home-stretch on the regular season. After Saturday’s contest, the team will play nine straight away from VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena.

Luukko says they want to use their speed and pace to work the puck down low. He knows if the Icemen give Florida time and space they can bury you.