Rookies Play Important Role
In American Conference Finals

By Andy Kent
Naples Daily News
Copyright © 2005

ESTERO, Fla. – Experience is supposed to be the number one intangible required for success when it reaches this point in the playoffs.

Don’t tell that to either the Florida Everblades or Charlotte Checkers, who went at it Tuesday night at Germain Arena in Game 5 of the ECHL’s best-of-seven American Conference Finals. The Everblades took a 3-2 series lead with a 5-0 win.

It’s been the solid play of young rookies on both sides —a handful of forwards for Florida and a couple of defensemen and forwards for Charlotte — that has helped the Everblades get within one win and Charlotte within two wins of reaching the Kelly Cup Finals.

Everblades rookie forwards David Lundbohm and Steve Saviano have played like veterans on the second line with Paul Cabana, ranking first and second on the team in scoring. Lundbohm was tied for the league playoff lead in scoring with 15 points (8 goals, 7 assists) before Game 5 and led in goals. Saviano was tied for second in scoring with 14 points (2 goals, 14 assists) and led the league in assists.

For Charlotte, rookie defenseman Ryan Glenn (pictured) led all ECHL defenseman in scoring in the playoffs with 14 points (3 goals, 13 assists) and assists, while rookie forward Dwight Helminen was tied for second in goals scored with fellow rookie forward Lee Falardeau with seven. Rookie defenseman David Liffiton had scored five points (1 goals, 4 assists).

“They feed off each other and how the other rookies are doing,” said Checkers head coach Derek Wilkinson. “Those are kids that they’re going to be playing against for the next two, three, four, five even 10 years. They’ll move up in the system and they want to be competitive and show that they’re better. They’ll all be competing for contracts and have seen each other in college. I think it does motivate them.”

Glenn said before Tuesday morning’s pre-game skate that he doesn’t really pay as much attention to what the opposing team’s rookies are doing, but acknowledged that the Saviano-Lundbohm-Cabana line has been a point of focus. That line was on the ice for Florida’s first five goals Tuesday.

Saviano, who scored two goals in the second period Tuesday, is used to being targeted by opposing defensemen since his college days and he just feeds off his linemates and sticks to his game. But he conceded that Glenn and the Checkers did a good job of containing them.

Lundbohm scored a goal and added two assists, one in the first period and one in the second.

“It doesn’t matter what they do because no one’s trying to let you score out there, they’re always trying to get you,” Saviano said. “It’s nothing different, you just play that much harder. If we played our game and just kept it simple and get it deep and worked hard and hit them we would have been a lot better off.”