2007-08 News

Jonathan Lehun
Steve Makway of the Mississippi RiverKings, left, defends against the Florida Everblades’ Derek Damon on Saturday night at Germain Arena.
Amanda Inscore/news-press.com

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Blades skillfully get win

Melanson converts hat trick for Florida

By Chris Umpierre
Fort Myers News Press

Nobody got greased or speared. Nobody entered the opposing team’s penalty box and rabbit punched an opponent in the face. Blood wasn’t spilled.

“Friday Night Fights” was followed by “Saturday Night Skill” at Germain Arena.

A night after fighting five times, the Florida Everblades displayed their superior skill in thrashing the Central Hockey League’s Mississippi RiverKings 6-3 in an exhibition game before a crowd of 4,458. Blades forward Mathieu Melanson led the way by registering a natural hat trick in the first period.

Florida defenseman Brett Peterson, whose club will kick off the 2007-08 ECHL regular-season at home Friday, couldn’t understand why his team was so physical the night before in an exhibition contest.

“It’s one thing to fight a team that’s in your division but to fight a team that you’re never going to play again makes absolutely no sense,” said Peterson, who played Saturday after being a healthy scratch Friday.

“They’re in a different league. We’re in a different league. Sometimes that stuff is warranted to set the tone for the rest of the season, but you just want to let their bigger guys sleep (in exhibition games).”

Mississippi’s big defenseman slept for most of Saturday’s game as the Blades ran circles around them. Melanson scored three consecutive goals in a span of eight minutes in the first period. It was a natural hat trick because he scored them in succession.

The 22-year-old, who was acquired in a trade with the ECHL’s Stockton Thunder on Oct. 5, said he’s never had a natural hat trick before.

He finished the weekend with four goals in two games.

“It feels good but hopefully I'm not getting all my goals in the exhibition,” Melanson said with a laugh.

The Blades hope it’s just the beginning.

Florida assistant coach Jason Nobili compared Melanson to ex-Blades forward Damian Surma because he’s strong on the puck. Peterson said Melanson can fill the role Vince Bellissimo had last season. Bellissimo led the team in scoring in 2006-07.

Blades rookie goalie Tyler Plante also had a good game before struggling in the third period. He allowed just one goal (on a penalty shot) through the first two periods before surrendering two scores in a span of 32 seconds in the final stanza.

Plante finished the game by stopping 37 of 40 shots.

“We’re looking to be a very similar mold to the team we had last year and had a lot of success with,” Peterson said. “I thought the young guys stepped in and showed a lot of stuff early which is great for us. That was a big physical team we played this weekend and for us to not have guys back down and stick to our game plan says a lot about the direction we’re going.”

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