Charlotte Beats Florida 5-4,
Ties American Conference Finals 1-1

By Tim Donelli
Special Correspondent
© 2005 Charlotte Observer

ESTERO, Fla. – The Charlotte Checkers are no strangers to adversity, and faced plenty of it Wednesday against the Florida Everblades in Game 2 of the ECHL’s American Conference finals.

Losing two leads for the second straight game in a row didn’t deter Charlotte, which evened the best-of-7 series with a 5-4 victory.

Dwight Helminen (pictured) scored twice for the Checkers, including the game-winner — his team-leading seventh goal of the playoffs — midway through the third.

Rory Rawlyk, Lee Falardeau and Ryan Lang also scored for Charlotte, and goaltender Alex Westlund won for the fourth time in his past five games, making 43 saves.

Games 3 and 4 are in Charlotte at 7:05 p.m. Friday and 5:05 p.m. Sunday. The Checkers are 4-0 at Cricket Arena in the playoffs.

Falardeau and Ryan Lang had seemingly broken open a 2-2 game with goals 41 seconds apart in the first three minutes of the third. However, Florida responded, tying the game on goals by David Lundbohm and Reggie Berg 17 seconds apart midway through the period.

“We didn’t panic after they tied the game at 4-4,” said Charlotte’s Jason Dawe, who had two assists. “We felt we were on a roll and we had a pretty good period going, and if we kept at it and kept pressing we’d prevail.”

Said Charlotte coach Derek Wilkinson: “We got a terrible bounce when their tying goal bounced off the referee’s shin pad and went right on the stick of their player, but our guys gave second, third and fourth efforts. I’m shocked we were able to score nine goals against them in two games, and obviously we needed every one of them.”