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Party On, Excellent

WaynegarthThe good folks from the Estero/Naples/Fort Myers/Cape Coral area are going a little crazy these days, and can you blame them?

Yes, hockey is big on the west coast. And I ain't talking about Anaheim.

Friday night, the Pride of the West (AKA the Florida Everblades) got an overtime win against Texas and moved into the second round of the ECHL playoffs. The win was in Game 6, so the Blades (that's my own original nickname for them) get a little break before opening up against Dayton on Tuesday in Estero.

If the Blades win this series, they move on to the Kelly Cup Finals. Alaska and Idaho are playing for the National Conference championship. Blades

The Blades are an affiliate of the Panthers as well as Carolina, and last played in the Kelly Cup Finals in 2005. I was actually in the area at that time and people were genuinely fired up about the proceedings. And why not? Playoff hockey is playoff hockey. I may try and get over there for Game 2 Thursday night. Heck, the drive from Sunrise to Estero is just over an hour. Not too bad. Plus, they have a Nike store at the adjacent outlet mall. So they have that going for them, which is nice. (Yes, I know they have a Nike store at Sawgrass too. But it's nice to have some variety every once in a while.)

-- In case you missed it, the Blades are the only Florida professional winter team still playing in the postseason. The others -- Heat, Magic, Lightning -- have all been bounced.

Killercarlson -- The Blades are being led in net by Craig "Killer" Kowalski who has played in eight of Florida's nine postseason games. Panthers prospect David Shantz has played in one game. Kowalski has been killer in this postseason, with a save percentage of almost 94 percent. Kowalski, 26, is a Carolina prospect who has much more experience than Shantz. Kowalski, a graduate of Northern Michigan, is in his fourth pro season.

Panthers prospect Dustin Johner is second on the Blades in scoring this postseason, netting three goals with six assists.

-- To keep up with your Everblades, visit the official website here: DA BLADEZ