CHARLOTTE, NC—The Charlotte Checkers (3-1-0) won a shootout thriller, 6-5, in Gwinnett on Friday Night. Michel Leveille led the way offensively with three points in a high-scoring game that saw goals on the first four shots of the contest.
The Gladiators took an early two-goal lead, just three minutes into the game, on even-strength goals by Matt Caruana and Chad Denny. Caruana took a pass from Tom Zanoski on a Checkers turnover and converted for his fifth goal of the early season. Denny took advantage of another turnover and tapped in a pass from Pat Galivan for the early 2-0 lead.
Charlotte would answer back with two quick goals to knot the score at 2-2. Julien Brouilette skated in alone on Gladiators goaltender Danny Taylor and beat him with a wrist shot over the blocker. Michel Leveille then beat Taylor with a one-time shot on a pass from Derek Couture that deflected off the post and in.
The Checkers took the lead midway through the first period as rookie defenseman Mike Berube scored on a screened point shot that seemed to fool Gwinnett netminder Danny Taylor.
With less than three minutes to play in the first frame, Gwinnett defenseman Drew Paris fired a shot off the end boards that took a strange bounce and found its way into the net, notching the score at 3-3.
Charlotte then regained the lead, nine minutes into the second period, on a power-play goal by team captain Jared Nigthingale. Nightingale blasted a shot from the high slot between the legs of Taylor for his first of the season. The goal came at the 9:02 mark of the second period and was assisted by Kenny Roche and Jason Lawrence.
The Checkers would mount a two-goal lead, just 42 seconds later, as rookie Andrew Carroll skated into the zone on the left wing and let a shot go that trickled in for his first of the season.
The two-goal lead wouldn’t last long. Gwinnett forward Tom Zanoski took a pass on a 3-on-1 and beat Zaba glove-side for his fourth of the season.
Charlotte carried a 20-17 shot advantage, and 5-4 lead, through two periods of play.
Gwinnett would tie the game on the power play when Drew Paris scored on a point shot for his second of the game. The goal came at 8:43 of the third period and was assisted by Sam Roberts and Brad Schell.
The game would remain tied and went to a shootout after a scoreless overtime. Charlotte forwards Kenny Roche, Michel Leveille and Tyler Doig all lit the lamp to take a 3-0 advantage and Matt Zaba shut the door as the Checkers sealed the 6-5 shootout win.
Zaba stopped 21 of 26 shots to earn the win for the Checkers while Danny Taylor made 31 saves in a losing cause for the Gladiators. Leveille now has nine points in four games out of the gate to lead the Checkers.
The Checkers will now prepare for their first home game when they host the Gladiators this Sunday, Nov. 1 at 2 p.m. Ticket information can be obtained by calling 704-342-4-ICE or visiting www.gocheckers.com. Fans are encouraged to bring their skates for a post-game skate with the Checkers.