Showing all the courage of a fighter in the last round of a championship fight, the Kalamazoo Wings punched their way back to even the best-of-seven Eastern Conference Finals at one game apiece with a thrilling 3-2 victory Saturday night at Wings Stadium over the Florida Everblades.

Playing most of the opening 20 minutes in the K-Wings zone, the Everblades, who outshot Kalamazoo 14-6 in the first period, registered the lone goal of the period off the tape of Brayden Irwin (2nd) 14:28 into the period. Standing in front of the K-Wings net, Irwin tipped the shot of former K-Wing defenseman Joe Sova past the outstretched blocker of Riley Gill.

While neither team was able to score in the second period, the action continued to be slanted towards the Everblades, who outshot the K-Wings 16-1. Kalamazoo, who had a power-play chance in the period, earned their lone shot of the middle frame while shorthanded. Florida earned seven of their shots in the period in the final minute.

The K-Wings were finally able to break through and put the puck in the back of the net. Kory Karlander (3rd) scored at 6:18 into the 3rd period to tie the game and give Kalamazoo the much needed boost of confidence. The goal snapped a 110:21 scoring drought for Kalamazoo, which dates back to game-five of the Eastern Conference Semi-Finals.

It only took Kalamazoo 1:52 to take their first lead of the series. Darren Archibald (1st) tallied his first of the post season with a quick wrist shot and celebrated emphatically with his teammates. Nick Sirota and Sam Ftorek notched assists on the lead changing goal.

Florida, as expected, would not go down without a fight. Matt Beca put home a rebound to tie the game at 2-2 with only 4:59 remaining in regulation. The tally was Beca’s team-leading fifth of the postseason.

But on this night, Kalamazoo would not be denied. The K-Wings scored the third goal of the period when Dustin Cloutier (4th) banged home a rebound to give the home team a 3-2 lead with only 2:28 remaining.

Kalamazoo and Florida will continue the Eastern Conference Finals with game three of the best-of-seven series this Wednesday, May 2nd with a 7:30 p.m. encounter from the Germain Arena.

The K-Wings and Everblades will continue the Eastern Conference Finals with game two of the best-of-seven series tomorrow, Saturday, April 28th with a 7:30 p.m. face-off at Wings Stadium. Fans can purchase hot dogs for all Kalamazoo’s conference finals home games for only 25-cents.

If necessary, the K-Wings and Everblades will return to Wings Stadium on Tuesday, May 8th for a 7 p.m. face-off in game six of the Eastern Conference Finals. During all third round home games, the K-Wings are offering special Fan Appreciation 25-cent hot dogs.

Tickets for the K-Wings round one playoff games are $16.05 and $19.95 for adults, $15.05 for seniors (62 years and older) and military (with proper ID) and only $10.05 for kids ages 12 and under. Fans can save money by purchasing K-Wings single game tickets in advance because tickets purchased on the day of a game increase by $1.

Submitted by Mike Modugno

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