Jacksonville Sports Day

ECHL: Elmer Scores Twice, Luukko Wins Coaching Debut, as Icemen Solve Everblades, 5-1

Photo by Chris Tilley/News-Press

ESTERO, Fla. — The Florida Everblades began the 2021-22 season in the losing column on Saturday night after dropping its first game 5-1 to the Jacksonville Icemen at Hertz Arena.

Nick Luukko won his first game as head coach in Jacksonville. He replaced the ECHL’s all-time leader in coaching wins Jason Christie, who was hired as an assistant coach with the NHL’s Buffalo Sabres.

Luukko was an assistant coach with Reading in 2019-20 after concluding his four-year professional playing career.

The Icemen struck first at 4:39 of regulation when Jacksonville’s Jake Elmer danced into the far circle and fired a shot over the blocker hand of Blades goaltender Cam Johnson.

Assists were credited to Croix Evingson and James Sanchez for the lone goal of the opening period.

After 18 scoreless minutes in the 2nd period, Robert Carpenter netted the first goal of the season for the Everblades on a power play, tucking in a cross ice feed on the doorstep from Jake Jaremko to even the score at one apiece.

The Icemen went on to regain the lead just 44 seconds later courtesy of Elmer, who tracked down a Sanchez pass between the circles and ripped it home for his second tally of the night.

The Icemen pushed their momentum into the third period. With 12:20 to spare in the game, Joey Sides scored unassisted on a Jacksonville penalty kill to increase their lead to 3-1. Uncontested, Sides skated into the slot where he beat out Cam Johnson in the split position.

With the Everblades down on a 5-on-3 penalty kill moments later, Ara Nazarian added to the Icemen advantage on a point-blank chance with help from Abbott Girduckis and Sanchez.

An empty net goal from Zach Berzolla at 17:43 of the third stanza put an exclamation point on the evening for Jacksonville.

The Icemen travel to Greenville Friday for a game against the Swamp Rabbits. Greenville (0-1) dropped a 4-2 decision to South Carolina in their season opener.

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