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Everblades NotebookNaples Daily News Staff
AUGUSTA, Ga. — It's the playoffs, which means watch out for broken mirrors, black cats and any other signs of bad luck. Don't walk under any ladders and keep an eye on what type of moon comes out at night.
Superstitions take on a different role this time of year, and the Florida Everblades are not immune to finding a use for some themselves. Even though they finished the regular season with the best record in the East Coast Hockey League, the Everblades have seen how quickly what happened in the regular season is forgotten in the playoffs.
"I don't talk to the press at all during the playoffs," said center Tim Ferguson. "That's just something I've never done, and it's a superstition of mine. I'll talk baseball, but not hockey."
Having already seen the No. 2 and No. 3 seeds in the Northern Conference (Roanoke and Richmond) get knocked out by lower seeds, as well as No. 3 Pee Dee in the Southern Conference, Florida is aware of the target on its back. And the Augusta Lynx made it even clearer by winning Game 1 of the best-of-five Southern Conference quarterfinal series at TECO Arena. Florida rebounded to win Games 2 and 3, but Augusta forced a Game 5 by winning at home Monday night.
"Tim didn't talk to the press last year either, and different players do different things," Everblades coach Bob Ferguson said. "It's kind of a thing where players just don't want to risk saying something that might be kind of a motivator for the opposition.
"That's just one of the examples. There's playoff beards and people not talking to the press, but I say just drop the puck and play. Yes it's do or die and it's playoff hockey, but once the puck drops it's still just a hockey game."
Which explains why the Everblades are asking their fans to wear white to all home playoff games in order to create a white-out effect. Some superstitions never die.
Defenseman Greg Kuznik, who joined the team just before Sunday's game after being sent down by Cincinnati of the IHL, will apparently stay with the Everblades for at least the next week. The Cyclones earned a bye in the first round of the IHL playoffs, so they don't begin play against Orlando until one week from today (April 25) at the earliest.
"I think it's a little harder adjusting when you go up to the IHL from down here because of the speed," Kuznik said. "But this league has improved a lot, and coming into a playoff series the intensity level is obviously higher. But I'm glad to be back here to help the team."
Ferguson was pleased to have Kuznik's help on the defensive end of the ice, especially on the smaller ice surface in Augusta.
"I thought Greg played very well for us and steadied us defensively in a rink that's tough on defenseman," Ferguson said. "Getting him back and adding that poise and experience is going to be good for us."
Everblades left wing Andy MacIntyre celebrated his 26th birthday on Sunday night by tallying two assists in Florida's 4-3 victory in Game 3 at the Richmond County Civic Center.
MacIntyre, who isn't afraid to say what's on his mind during the playoffs, had one of his quotes posted in the Lynx locker room before that game. He had said that there was no way Augusta could take two out of three games from the best team in the league, and he didn't back away from it following the morning skate on Monday.
"We're a good hockey team, and we're going to come at them," MacIntyre said. "They were going to have to look for inspiration from somewhere."
All-Star goaltender Jeff Maund has been improving steadily since suffering a Grade 2 sprain of his medial collateral ligament in Game 2 last Monday. He is down to using only one crutch to help him walk, but he hasn't been able to bear full weight on the leg. Trainer Todd Wisocki says Maund is still on a 4-6 week track for recovery.
Backup goaltender Greg Hewitt, who joined the Everblades on Wednesday from the Sarnia Sting of the OHL, had some supporters in the stands for both games on Augusta's home ice. His parents were on their way from London, Ontario, for a vacation to Florida, but altered their plans in order to see their son in an Everblades uniform.
The Jacksonville Lizard Kings have temporarily ceased operations, citing an unsatisfactory home arena (Veterans Memorial Coliseum) and financial losses as the reason. The team is working with the city to try and get a new arena built, and a timetable of three to five years has been initially estimated. The ECHL approved the move, contingent upon the team resuming play within five years.
Web posted on 04/18/00