COLCHESTER, Vt. - Saint Michael's College men's ice hockey senior captain Josh Geary (Wellesley, Mass./Phillips Andover Academy) made a memorable professional debut on Saturday, recording a goal and an assist for the Florida Everblades of the ECHL before being named the first star of the game.
"Playing professional hockey has always been a dream of mine since I was a little kid," said Geary. "Being paid to play the sport you love is something that can't be explained. It is a dream come true."
Geary, who said he arrived in Florida around midnight on Friday and signed an amateur tryout agreement to play five contests, picked up an assist 11:37 into Saturday's game before redirecting home a teammate's shot for the tying goal 7:22 into the third period. Geary also finished plus-two and was named first star despite the Everblades falling, 5-3, one evening after making national news for losing a 21-round shootout. Following the five-game stint with Florida, the team will decide whether it wants to sign Geary to a longer-term contract.
After recording career highs of 16 goals and 24 points for the Purple Knights this winter, Geary, who is wearing No. 21 in Florida, finished with 67 career points in 97 games. The Everblades are 28-18-4-6 with 16 games left, with former University of Vermont goalie Rob Madore among Geary's new teammates. Geary, who is also a semifinalist for the Joe Concannon Award, which annually recognizes the best American-born Division II/III men's ice hockey player in New England, is still on track to graduate from Saint Michael's in May.
Florida, the defending ECHL champion, is one of 23 teams in the 25-year-old league, which touts itself as the leading professional development league for the American Hockey League (AHL) and the National Hockey League (NHL). Originally established as the East Coast Hockey League, the organization became known simply as the ECHL in 2003, and now includes franchises in such western locations as Alaska, California and Idaho. Among the teams are the Elmira (N.Y.) Jackals, the franchise located closest to Saint Michael's.
Founded in 1998, the Florida Everblades are based out of Estero, Fla., just south of Fort Myers, and hold NHL affiliation with the Carolina Hurricanes and the Tampa Bay Lightning. They play next on Wednesday, hosting the Reading (Pa.) Royals at 7:30 p.m. Live stats can be found on echl.com and floridaeverblades.com.