Lukas Kaelble’s equipment let him down, but when he was finally able to return he lifted the Florida Everblades to a win away from earning the franchise’s second Kelly Cup.
Kaeble was sidelined for the first nine minutes of overtime as equipment managers tried to fix a skate he had broken at the end of the third period. With repairs going slow, Kaelble put on a new pair and returned to Game 4 just in time.
The defenseman scored the game-winner on a wrist shot from the right circle off a feed from Matteo Gennaro 15:45 into overtime to lift the Blades over the Toledo Walleye 3-2 and take a commanding 3 games to 1 lead in the championship series. Florida can wrap up the ECHL title Saturday night in Hertz Arena as the teams play Game 5 at 7 p.m.
“I had to wear brand-new skates getting out there trying to get my legs back,” said Kaeble, who netted his first playoff goal and just his second of the season. “Honestly, I kind of blacked out for a second. I just joined the rush, got the puck, shot it, and put it in.”
“We were playing with five defensemen for, I don’t know, the first 8-10 minutes of that period,” said Blades head coach Brad Ralph. “Lukas came on and (assistant coach) Jesse (Kallechy) kept him out there for an extended shift. He got a loose puck on the weak side and he’s not a blocker, so an unbelievable goal.”
The Blades entered the third period tied at one goal a piece until Matt Berry scored a power-play goal with 2:34 remaining in regulation to put the Walleye on top 2-1.
Florida emptied their net and capitalized on the advantage with a Joe Pendenza scoring with just 20 seconds left in the third period. Stefan Leblanc and Blake Winiecki assisted on the equalizer.
“It was a battle of attrition,” Ralph said. “It was just keep our shifts short, have smart changes, protect the net front, and look to funnel pucks.”
The Blades took an early lead on the first power play of the game as Jake McLaughlin scored 8:21 into the game. Toledo responded at 14:44 when Josh Dickinson evened it up at 1-all.
The Blades are excited for the opportunity to close out the championship at home.
“It means a lot to me,” Kaelble said. “The whole coaching staff, they believed in me from college, they gave me the chances I wanted and needed. I couldn’t have asked for a better first pro experience.”
Ralph has emphasized his ‘next game up’ mindset throughout the playoffs and Game 5 won’t be different for him as his team tries to match the 2012 squad in winning a Kelly Cup.
“We need to celebrate that, but move on tonight trying to recover,” he said. “So tomorrow when we wake up, we’re all business. I think we just have to come back with that same effort and really not think about anything else.”
This article originally appeared on Fort Myers News-Press: Florida Everblades complete late comeback in Game 4 over Toledo Walleye