October 23, 2009 9:02 PM
ESTERO, FL—The Charlotte Checkers fell behind early on a penalty kill and were not able to bounce back as they dropped their first game of the season, 5-3, to the Florida Everblades Friday night.
Charlotte forward Michel Leveille tallied two goals in a losing cause while former NHL goaltender Mike Morrison stopped 23 shots for the Florida victory.
The Everblades came flying out of the gates and controlled the play early on before opening the scoring midway through the first period. Milan Gajic let a shot go from the left that bounced off Checkers’ goaltender Matt Zaba’s pad and onto the stick of Cleve Kinley who tucked it home for his first of the season. The power-play goal came at the 9:01 mark of the opening frame.
Florida would add to their lead four minutes later when Elgin Reid took a Rob Hennigar pass in the slot and fired it low-glove on Zaba for his first of the season.
The visiting Checkers had a hard time finding momentum in the first period while trying to defend five power plays and found themselves outshot by a 13-4 margin.
The score remained 2-0 until five minutes into the third period when Charlotte got on the board. Forward Matt Ford drove to the net and took several whacks at a loose puck before Ryan Garlock banged home the rebound for his first of the season.
The goal seemed to give the Checkers some momentum as they tied the game at 2-2 just three minutes later on a goal by Michel Leveille. Leveille took a pass from Aaron Slattengren and skated in on the right wing roofing a backhand shot over the glove of Morrison.
Just over two minutes later, Florida answered back on a goal by rookie Brandon Buck. A turnover at the Checkers’ blueline allowed Buck to skate in one-on-one and lift a backhand shot over the blocker of Zaba. The goal came at the 10:37 mark of the third period and was assisted by Kevin Baker.
The Everblades would add to their lead over a minute later when Jacob Micflikier banged home a rebound for his second goal of the early season.
With 30 seconds to play and the Checkers’ goaltender pulled for an extra attacker, Michel Leveille scored on a point shot through traffic that beat Morrison to bring Charlotte within a goal.
The Everblades, however, would answer 14 second later with an empty-net goal to seal their second win of the season in front of a home-opening crowd of over 6,000.
Matt Zaba stopped 30 of 34 shots in a losing effort for the Checkers while Mike Morrison earned the victory for Florida.
The two teams will meet again tomorrow at Germain Arena in Estero, Fla. Game time is at 7:30 p.m. and can be heard live at www.gocheckers.com.
The Checkers’ home opener is set for Sunday, Nov. 1 at 2 p.m. against the Gwinnett Gladiators. For ticket information please call 704-342-4-ICE or visit www.gocheckers.com.