Checkers Maintaining Composure

By Cliff Mehrtens
Staff Writer
© 2005 Charlotte Observer

CHARLOTTE, N.C. – No need for drastic changes.

Charlotte Checkers coach Derek Wilkinson said his team must “keep plugging away” in Game 4 of the American Conference Finals at 5:05 p.m. Sunday against the Florida Everblades at Cricket Arena.

Florida leads 2-1 in the best-of-7 series, and won 2-1 in Charlotte on Friday.

“We don’t get rattled,” Wilkinson said. “We’ve responded all year. We’ll put it behind us.”

The past two games were decided by one goal each, leaving each team considering missed opportunities.

For Charlotte, it was Dusty Jamieson’s backhand on a breakaway. Or Ryan Lang clanging a shot off the crossbar.

The Checkers weren’t pleased that the deciding goal Friday came as goalie Alex Westlund was avoiding Florida’s Damian Surma in the crease. No penalty was called.

“Game 4, we’ve got to win,” Wilkinson said. “Every game in playoffs is must-win. We’ve got to come out with the same energy, the same passion.”

Charlotte trails in its third straight series, and has been outshot all three games against Florida.

“That might have been our best game for the whole 60 minutes,” center Ryan Cuthbert said of Game 3. “We didn’t score as much, but as a team, we did smarter things.”

“This is playoff hockey; you’ve just got to fight through things. Obviously we’re not out of this thing. If we win (today), we’re right back in it.”

Home advantage has been erased in the series, with each team winning on the other’s ice.

“Every game has been tight,” Westlund said. “We’ve got to find a way to win. It seems like when we’re making mistakes, we’re getting caught and giving them opportunities.”