They may have won the battle but they lost the war. The Florida Everblades walked away victorious from a first period brawl in which five players were ejected, but blew a three goal lead and lost to the Reading Royals 5-4 at Germain Arena on Saturday night.
Tempers flared early in the game when Florida captain Mike Egener and Reading defenseman Ryan Donald engaged in a typical hockey fight. Both players walked away relatively unharmed and play resumed as normal after both were assessed five minute fighting penalties.
At the 8:06 mark of the period, Florida took a 1-0 lead when rookie Alex Hutchings scored for the first time in over a month. Center Drew Larman contributed the assist on the play.
With the score still 1-0, emotions boiled over between the two teams when Reading’s Brett Gallant speared Florida’s Alex Imbeault, who returned with a spear of his own just moments later.
“He can’t even play in this league, he’s a bum,” Imbeault said. “I was just going after the puck and he speared me and if I get speared I’m going to spear back.”
The back-to-back infractions led to two fights, one between Gallant and Imbeault and another between Egener and Donald. As the four rolled around on the ice in front of the Reading bench, multiple players left the bench area and came onto the ice to jump into the fracas.
“(Gallant) their resident idiot started the whole thing,” Florida coach Greg Poss said. “Like I told the referee before the game, they just have to control the situation.”
Reading’s Rob Kwiet jumped into the fight with Egener and Donald, but a punch from Egener left Kwiet blooded and face-down on the ice for the remainder of the brawl.
By the time everything was sorted out, Donald, Egener, Imbeault, Elgin Reid and Gallant were all assessed game misconducts. The incident led to a combined total of 85 penalty minutes.
After the dust settled, Florida looked to be cruising to an easy victory. Francis Lemieux scored at the 15:44 mark to put Florida up 2-0. Bobby Raymond and David Fischer assisted on the play.
Reading’s Ben Gordon scored at the 18:49 mark of the first period to make the score 2-1. The goal didn’t slow the Everblades’ momentum as Lemieux scored two more, both in the second period, once at the 0:36 mark and again at 2:28.
The hat-trick put Florida up 4-1 and the Everblades appeared to have all the momentum.
A flurry of goals from Reading quickly turned things around as defensive lapse after defense lapse led to easy scoring chances for the Royals.
Gordon scored again at the 4:33 mark of the second to make the score 4-2. John Scrymgeour scored back-to-back goals, one at 4:59 and another at 13:43 to tie the game at 4-4.
Just 36 seconds later Devin Timberlake fired the go-ahead goal past Florida goalie Bobby Goepfert to give the Royals a 5-4 lead.
Despite multiple scoring chances in the third, the Everblades couldn’t tie it up. Now the team is left to wonder how many players will face additional punishment from the ECHL.
“It depends on what is on the video and what the league decides,” Poss said. “I assume with guys coming onto the ice in that situation that there’s going to be some suspensions.”