“After the loss, I kind of went into the locker room, and we were like, ‘Okay, the game’s over. Let’s start preparing for next game. Leave what was in the past in the past,'" Cox said. "And, that was our mindset."
Now, after dropping Game 6 of the finals on the road, the team is back on home ice to face the current Kelly Cup champions for a final time tomorrow night.
The series for the Kelly Cup plays out a lot like the games heading up to the NHL’s better-known Stanley Cup. It’s a race to win 4 games first – and now, the teams are tied, 3-3.
“The league’s been around for 30 years," said Alex Reed, the team's public relations manager. "This is only the fifth time in those 30 years that the championship will be decided in a Game 7.”
Reed’s been with the team for quite a while, since before the first and last time they won the cup back in 2012.
“I was looking at a team photo from that year, and there’s two people then that are still here now," Reed said. "That would be myself and then, of course, Craig Brush, our general manager and president.”
The team of completely new faces hasn’t made the finals since then, but making the playoffs is almost non-news for the organization.
In its 20-year history, the team’s made the playoffs 19 times, and the Southwest Florida community has taken notice.
Within 12 hours of the team’s loss in Colorado, Game 7 tickets – some 7,200 seats – sold out. So, Reed said, the team decided to open up a couple hundred standing room only spots, and those sold out too within two hours.
Coach Brad Ralph says that’s because the area is a – perhaps unexpected – hockey haven.
“We get great support from our community, and you know, the weather," Ralph said. "The players like playing here. That’s a factor, so there are lots of different variables at play when you think of why the Florida Everblades are so successful.”
Ralph said, while the home-ice advantage could help, being one win away from the cup is going to make it difficult to not think about what it would feel like to actually win it.
“You know, there’d be nothing better than to win it at home. It’s a sold-out building," Ralph said. "You know, we play well at home, and it’s a great opportunity. You know, it’s what you play for all year long.”
Everblades defenseman Zack Kamrass might argue it’s more than what you play for all season. It’s what you play for all your life.
“This is what you dream of as a kid when you’re playing mini-sticks or street hockey, or even when you’re, you know, 6, 7 years old and you’re playing your first tournament,” he said.
Kamrass says the feeling heading into Game 7 is “surreal.”