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Brian Compton | NHL.com correspondent
Dec 21, 2006, 12:00 PM EST


Perhaps it's appropriate that the hottest team in the ECHL just happens to play near the Equator.
The Florida Everblades, who play in the beautiful Germain Arena just outside of Fort Myers, Fla., just completed one of the most phenomenal road trips in recent memory. Six games, six wins. Things have been going so well that Everblades right wing Reggie Berg was named the In Glas Co ECHL Player of the Week with two goals and four assists in the final three games of the trip.

Florida will play its first game on home ice since Dec. 2 tonight against the South Carolina Stingrays. Perhaps the long road trip was just what Gerry Fleming's team needed to kick its game into high gear?

"We've been on the road and we've played simple hockey," said Fleming, now in his sixth season in Florida. "I think the biggest factor is we're eliminating our mistakes and our turnovers. We're keeping everything simple. I think sometimes when you play at home, you try to put on a show and sometimes that can hurt you."

The tremendous road trip has left the Everblades with 18 wins in their first 25 games this season - they're 11-2-0 on the road -- as they now find themselves locked in a first-place tie with the Texas Wildcatters in the South Division. While one would believe a team would be frustrated by not gaining much ground in the standings after six-straight wins, Fleming has no problem with it whatsoever.

"Not at all," Fleming said when asked if he was frustrated by the logjam in the South. "It just goes to show you the parity in this league. It's everywhere in every division. It's great. The fans of this league are receiving all the benefits."

Everblades center Brent McDonald has benefited from playing the 2005-06 campaign in Sweden, where he scored 21 goals in 43 games for Boras HC. The 27-year-old, who played in Florida from 2000-05, returned to the Everblades this season and currently leads his team with 27 points (10 goals, 17 assists).

"I've just had a hot stick lately," McDonald said. "I think playing overseas in Sweden really helped my game. I learned a lot over there. I'm just trying to get better each and every day and I want to get better each and every day. I love coming to the rink and working hard."

Fleming is ecstatic to have McDonald back in his lineup. The Everblades head coach has enjoyed watching his humble forward blossom into one of the ECHL's top players.

"B-Mac is just great," Fleming said. "I've watched him grow as a player and as a person. His experience in Europe really helped him on and off the ice. He's just a dependable guy. He's very coachable and very, very low-maintenance. We've kind of grown together and I have nothing but respect and admiration for that guy."

The feeling is mutual. McDonald would love to deliver his head coach a Kelly Cup championship after coming oh-so-close both in 2004 and 2005. The Everblades lost in the finals both years to Idaho and Trenton, respectively. He is convinced that the 2006-07 version can get the job done.

"You always want to be confident," McDonald said. "At the start of the year, you set goals for yourself and for the team. We've been so close the last two or three years and we suffered some heartbreaking losses. We haven't won that Kelly Cup that we want to win for our coach and for our fans. That would be an awesome feeling."

While that certainly is true, Fleming is not ready to plan any parades.

"You're not going to jinx me," he joked. "It's December. It's not even Christmas yet. We're going to try to compete every game and we're going to try to be successful."

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