2022 Florida Everblades vs Toledo Walleye

Florida Everblades Capture First Game Of Kelly Cup Finals

Florida Everblades Capture First Game Of Kelly Cup Finals

Alex Aleardi came up big for the Everblades, scoring the go-ahead goal with only a couple minutes left in the game.

Jun 4, 2022 by Mike Ashmore
Florida Everblades Capture First Game Of Kelly Cup Finals

The Florida Everblades took Game 1 of the Kelly Cup Final in impressive fashion on Saturday night. The team came back from a two-goal deficit on the road to stun the Toledo Walleye, 3-2, in the best-of-seven series opener at the Huntington Center, as broadcast exclusively on FloHockey.

According to the ECHL, the attendance of 8,600 is the tenth largest in Riley/Kelly Cup Final history.

After two first period goals by the Walleye—Randy Gazzola opened the scoring at 14:09 of the first period, followed by a power-play tally by former NHL’er John Albert less than four minutes later—Florida slowly started clawing their way back into the game.

Zach Solow cut the ’Blades deficit to one, finally solving Walleye goaltender Billy Christopoulos from just in front of the left post at the 12:36 mark of the second period to make it a 2-1 game. 

In the other net, Cam Johnson held strong, withstanding an early barrage of 17 Toledo shots on goal in the first 20 minutes and keeping his team in it by only allowing just those two early goals. He stopped all 18 Walleye shots on net over the last 40 minutes, giving the offense time to continue their comeback.

Alex Aleardi did just that on his own. 

The 29-year-old forward—who returned to the Everblades for the first time since the 2014-15 season this year after a lengthy stay in Europe—took over. He first stuffed a rebound past Christopoulos at the 6:45 mark of the third period to tie the game at 2-2, and then scored the game-winner with just 1:41 left in regulation. Aleardi took a Levko Koper feed from the top of the circles in the defensive zone and scored a stunning, partial breakaway goal on a slapshot from the inside of the right circle that stunned the home crowd. 

Game 1 Highlights: Florida Vs. Toledo

Florida held on for the win after that, setting the stage for a wild Game 2 on Saturday night—also to be held in Toledo and broadcast exclusively on FloHockey. The Walleye will need a win to split the first two games in Ohio before the series shifts to Estero for the middle three contests on June 8, 10 and 11.

Those who tuned in on Friday, however, also saw some league history, as Everblades head coach Brad Ralph served behind the bench for his 104th career Kelly Cup Playoffs game, tying him for second place all-time in the ECHL record books behind only Matt Thomas. Thomas coached in 108 postseason games before eventually earning a job in the American Hockey League.

Ralph, the league’s winningest postseason coach with a whopping 60 victories, looks to extend that record when the puck drops on Saturday at 7:35 PM ET.