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Checkers drop game one to Columbia 2-0

April 14, 2005 - ECHL (ECHL) - Charlotte Checkers News Release

(Columbia, SC - Wednesday, April 13) The Charlotte Checkers dropped Game One of their opening round, ECHL American Conference quarterfinal playoff game Wednesday night at the Carolina Coliseum, falling to the Inferno 2-0.

The Inferno victory gives Columbia a 1-0 lead in the best-of-five series. Game two is Friday night, also in Columbia . It was the first playoff game for the Checkers since the 2001-02 season.

Matt Ulwelling and Chanse Fitzpatrick scored for the Inferno, and Columbia goalie Mike Minard made 23 saves to earn the shutout. Charlotte had several good scoring chances throughout the game, but were not able to convert their scoring opportunities.

“We didn’t play badly tonight,” remarked Charlotte Coach Derek Wilkinson. “We had some great chances but could not finish. The last time we played in here (a 2-0 shutout loss on March 25) we didn’t have much zip. Tonight we played much better but we are going to have to find a way to convert some of our chances. The guys are disappointed with tonight’s result but I think when they see the tape tomorrow they’ll see that they did some good things.”

The two teams battled through a scoreless first period. The Checkers had a pair of power plays in the first period but were unable to score. Charlotte wisely stayed out of the penalty box as the Inferno did not get a power play chance in the first.

The Checkers scored what they thought was a goal in the first period, only to see referee waive it off. The goal judge lit his lamp but the referee ruled that Minard had frozen the puck. “Their goal judge lit the lamp and our guys thought the puck was clearly across the line,” said Wilkinson. “That would have been a big goal for us, and to get the lead would have been huge.”

In the second the Inferno broke the scoreless tie just 24 seconds into the period. Matt Ulwelling took a pass from Robin Carruthers and rifled a shot from the top of the left wing circle by Checkers goalie Alex Westlund for a 1-0 Columbia advantage.

The Checkers best chance to score in the game came in the second period when they were short-handed. Dusty Jamieson and Dwight Helminen broke into the Inferno zone, and Helminen found himself alone in the slot looking at an open net as Minard got stuck behind his cage. However, his shot missed the open net.

In the third period Fitzpatrick flipped home his own rebound at 7:09 to give the Inferno a 2-0 cushion and more breathing room. Late in the third period and Charlotte still trailing 2-0, Wilkinson pulled Westlund for a sixth attacker. The Checkers continued to hammer away but could not solve Minard, finally succumbing 2-0.

“We played OK tonight but we didn’t score a goal and you’re not going to win if you don’t score any goals,” quoted Checkers forward Lee Falardeau. “We can’t feel good about just playing OK. We’re going to have to play great to beat Columbia .”

The Inferno outshot the Checkers 30-23 for the contest. The loss was Westlund’s first against Columbia this season in four games.

NOTES: Game three pf the series is set for Charlotte at Cricket Arena this Saturday at 7. Game four, if necessary, is also at Cricket Arena Sunday at 5:00 p.m. A fifth and deciding game, if necessary, would be back in Columbia Wednesday, April 20 at 7:30…playoff tickets for all Checkers home games are now on sale and can be purchased at the Cricket Arena box office, Charlotte Coliseum box office, all Ticketmaster locations, by phone by calling (704) 522-6500 , and online at

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