2023 Florida Everblades vs Idaho Steelheads

Kelly Cup Finals: Everblades Down Steelheads In Overtime To Take Game 1

Kelly Cup Finals: Everblades Down Steelheads In Overtime To Take Game 1

Oliver Chau's overtime winner gave the Florida Everblades a 1-0 series lead in the 2023 Kelly Cup Finals.

Jun 4, 2023 by Chris Peters

Oliver Chau scored with 5:54 remaining in the first overtime period to give the Florida Everblades a 1-0 series lead over the Idaho Steelheads in the ECHL’s Kelly Cup Finals. 

The Everblades had to battle for their Game 1 victory, overcoming 1-0 and 2-1 deficits before Chau ended the game in a tightly-contested overtime. Florida never held a lead in the game before Chau’s OT winner gave them a 3-2 victory.

The loss for Idaho was their first in five overtime opportunities during the 2023 postseason, while the Everblades improved to 5-2 in the extra frame. That record included their series-clinching win Tuesday over the Newfoundland Growlers in the Eastern Conference Finals, which saw John McCarron end that one in double-OT. McCarron also had the primary assist on Chau’s winning goal.

Chau’s game-ending tally came off of a rare miscue in the defensive zone for the Steelheads as a pass got stuck in Owen Headrick’s skates before McCarron poked it loose and found a hard-charging Chau in the high slot. He made no mistake with a devastating wrister that beat Adam Scheel over the right shoulder.

Game 1, featuring the regular-season champion Steelheads against the defending Kelly Cup Champion Everblades, certainly lived up to the hype.

In front of a sold-out crowd at Idaho Central Arena, the Steelheads got things going early as Dallas Stars prospect Dawson Barteaux unleashed a heavy shot from the right point that slipped past Florida netminder Cam Johnson 4:22 into the game.

Neither team scored again in the opening stanza, but Florida’s Cole Moberg unleashed a shot that caught a deflection and zipped over Scheel to make it 1-1.

Ryan Dmowski, who led the Steelheads in scoring during the regular season, broke a 1-1 deadlock 6:54 in the third period to put his team in front. Dmowski converted after popping into the slot, getting a pass on the tape from Willie Knierim and snapping a one-time shot past Johnson’s glove hand.

Blake Winiecki, however, had the answer for the Everblades with just 6:20 remaining in regulation. During a Florida power play, Winiecki was able to sweep a loose puck into the net with just one hand on his stick to knot it up 2-2. The goal was Winiecki’s ninth of the postseason, which is tied for the team lead and was just his first scored on the power play during the playoffs.

Both teams traded chances in the closing minutes of regulation, but neither team could find the go-ahead goal to force overtime.

Each of the two goaltenders, both of whom have appeared in all of their teams' playoff games this season, finished the contest with 34 saves apiece. Johnson turned aside all seven he faced in overtime. 

The Everblades are now one step closer to repeating as champion in this best-of-seven series. 

The two teams will have to get their rest Saturday night because they’re right back at it Sunday at 4:10 p.m. local time, 6:10 p.m. ET for Game 2.