Jacksonville Sports Day

HOCKEY NOTES: Icemen Lose in Playoff Push; League Honors Announced; Vezina Trophy

JACKSONVILLE — In sixth place in the Eastern Conference, the Jacksonville Icemen needed to win the remainder of their regular season games in regulation to stay in ECHL playoff contention.

They began the quest for a playoff spot Tuesday night at Veterans Memorial Arena against the Orlando Solar Bears with a 3-2 loss on Aaron Luchuk’s winning third-period goal into an empty net.

Tied at 2-2, Jacksonville goaltender Charles Williams came to the bench for an extra attacker when Luchuk scored since going into overtime would have eliminated them from the playoffs due to tiebreakers.

Jacksonville took the lead five minutes into the final period on Mike Szmatula 21st goal of the season, assisted by Abbott Girduckis and Wacey Rabbit. Orlando’s Tristin Langan tied the game in the third setting up Luchuk’s tally.

The visitors scored first on a goal by Tad Kozun assisted by Fabrizio Ricci and Michael Joly. Jacksonville tied the game in the second stanza on Erik Bradford’s tenth goal of the season.

Williams made 17 saves. Clint Windsor took the win after making 21 saves.

The clubs meet again on Friday night in Jacksonville. The Icemen conclude the regular season Saturday night in South Carolina against the Stingrays. South Carolina was a 3-1 winner over Wheeling Tuesday night.

ECHL HONORS: Orlando Solar Bears defenseman Matthew Spencer has been selected as the Inglasco ECHL Player of Week. Spencer scored two goals – both game-winning tallies – and added five assists for seven points in four games last week, to lead all ECHL skaters….South Carolina Stingrays goaltender Hunter Shepard has been selected as the Warrior Hockey ECHL Goaltender of the Week. Shepard went 3-0-0 with one shutout, a 1.33 goals-against average and a save percentage of .952 in three appearances last week. The 25-year-old turned aside 29 shots in a 3-2 win against Greenville on Wednesday, stopped all 34 shots he faced in a 1-0 victory over Wheeling on Friday and made 17 saves in a 6-2 win against the Nailers on Saturday…Greenville Swamp Rabbits’ Alternate Captain, Garrett Thompson is the AMI Graphics ECHL Plus Performer of the Month for May after leading the league with a plus-minus rating of +12 during the month. Thompson, 31, earned a +8 rating between three games from May 16-21 versus Wheeling and Jacksonville. The Traverse City, Michigan native has recorded 188 points (77 goals, 111 assists) in 227 career ECHL games with Greenville and Fort Wayne.

NHL NOTES: Andrei Vasilevskiy of the Tampa Bay Lightning is among three finalists for the 2020-21 Vezina Trophy, awarded “to the goaltender adjudged to be the best at his position. “Vasilevskiy topped the NHL with 31 victories, marking the fourth consecutive season he has led the League in wins (outright or tied) – a feat last achieved by Martin Brodeur from 2002-03 through 2006-07 (4x w/ NJD). That total was aided by a 12-game winning streak from Feb. 22 – March 23 (1.64 GAA, .938 SV%, 3 SO), tied for the seventh-longest such run in NHL history in addition to being both a career high and a franchise record…the Florida Panthers have re-signed defenseman Kevin Connauton to a one-year, two-way contract extension beginning in the 2021-22 season. Connauton, 31, appeared in seven games with Florida this season, recording one assist. Over his seven games with the Panthers, Connauton logged a +4 rating, 12 hits, one fighting major and three blocked shots while averaging 14:13 TOI per game.

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