Wednesday, October 19, 2016


Hockey Nights in South West Florida

                                                       Everblades Coach Brad Ralph

The Florida Everblades opened their 2016-2017 season last weekend with a nice birthday present for new Head Coach Brad Ralph. Ralph celebrated his 36th birthday yesterday. The Blades defeated the Greenville Swamp Rabbits on Friday and Saturday night.

Friday night's game was a barn burner. Trailing 2-0 with less than three minutes remaining, Ralph pulled goalie Anthony Peters for an extra attacker. Zack Kamrass scored to cut the margin to one goal. Mike Aviani scored in the last minute to tie the game, and defenceman Matt McKenzie scored with 18 seconds remaining in the game to seal the deal. Pretty exciting stuff in front of more than 5 000 fans.

                                     Former Wellington Duke Anthony Peters

On Saturday night, the Blades completed the weekend sweep with a 5-3 victory that went a little easier on the coach. They scored the first three goals, but let the Rabbits back in the game, leading 3-2 at the end of the second period. Two Everblades' markers extended the lead, and that was enough for the victory.

The Blades now head out for their first road games this coming weekend against the Orlando Solar Bears at the Amway Arena. Naturally, in order to keep costs down, the Blades play most of their road games in their own general geographic area: Atlanta Gladiators, South Carolina Stingrays, Orlando Solar Bears, Cincinnati Cyclones, and Norfolk Admirals in the south. The Eastern Division opponents: Adirondack Thunder, Wheeling Nailers, Elmira Jackals, Reading Royals, Brampton Beast, and Manchester Monarchs.

In February, the Blades will travel to Brampton on a northern swing, and in March they will face Toledo and Fort Wayne from the Western Division. Other teams in the west include Utah, Colorado, Idaho, and Alaska! Some road trips!!

A quick check on, the most invaluable of all hockey sites, tells us that coach Ralph retired from active play in 2009. He began his junior career with Kanata in the CJHL, and moved on to play three years with the Oshawa Generals. He is a member of the “one game wonders”, those individuals who played one game in the NHL. He spent most of his career in the ECHL with his last stop in Charlotte.

Altshuller earned his first win on Saturday night. He also played in Oshawa, and enjoyed a cup of coffee with the Belleville Bulls. He is sharing goaltending duties with Anthony Peters, a goaltender who had a stint with the Wellington Dukes, and the Belleville Bulls.

The greatest challenge for any coach at the beginning of the season is to find the appropriate chemistry for his players. At this level, it is most difficult, as there is always movement up to the American Hockey League for some, a transition to European teams for others. Coaches strive to find the ideal fit for players on lines and on defence pairings. Just before Friday night's game, nine players arrived, looking for work.

It would be like fitting together the pieces of a jigsaw puzzle, trying to find the perfect fit, without resorting to scissors.

Ralph enjoyed his playing years in the ECHL, then began his coaching career with the Augusta River Hawks of the SPHL. Last season he coached the Kelowna Rockets of the Western Hockey League.

As is the case with all hockey nuts, it was great to be back after the summer recess.

The Blades play in Orlando Saturday night, then return to the Germain Arena to face South Carolina on Friday, October 28th. See you there!!

James Hurst
October 18, 2016

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