The Gladiators beat the Charlotte Checkers in Game 1 of the first round by a score of 4-0. The game could have gone either way really, but they got some lucky bounces.
You can always tell when it's playoff time in the minors -- the number of people in the back hallway begins to rival the number in the stands. Attendance was 3600, and the back hall had extra league folks, friends of players, and extra media. Fox 5 had a TV crew there for example. Perhaps this is more of a visual joke because the "I'm looking at you" part was actually done, but Gladiators coach Jeff Pyle said before he began post-game comments in a crowded office, "I'm not used to so much press. The Thrashers must not be playing...hi Holly." Touche.
Normally I avoid losing locker rooms if I don't really need to be there, but Derek Wilkinson, Charlotte's coach, is very personable. This is him below.
There was one small roster question I wanted to ask, and I figured he wouldn't be in a bad mood and I might as well ask him some more. That was a correct assumption. On the adjustments the Checkers need to make for next game, he said they need to protect the puck in the offensive zone, stop forcing passes. Gwinnett jumped on their turnovers -- "key turnovers killed us." It's all about puck possession. On the power play, get more traffic. I said that the score didn't seem to reflect the game. "No, I don't think it did," he agreed. "Give their goalie credit, he made some key stops." Wilkinson was a goalie back in the day, so those words on Kowalski go further. Charlotte will stick with goaltender Chris Holt on Thursday.
I asked him if Mike Busto would play on Thursday (as a NY Rangers prospect I want to see him just to be thorough). Wilky was cagey -- in a quite well-done way actually. Busto is not injured, he might play Thursday, I'm welcome to ask again Thursday morning. I thought to myself on the way home that Busto is not such a good last name for a prospect. Doesn't bode well, does it?
Next question -- how many Waddells do you count?
Here's Don Waddell up in the stands, along with Thrashers asst. GM Larry Simmons, watching the game. Don has his reading glasses on, looking at game notes. Myles Stoesz, a scratch, went and chatted him up in the first period.
And at ice level, we have Matt Waddell (#15), no known relation. They do look like they could be related though, don't you think? The faces are shaped the same. This Waddell is from BC.
Next up, Scott Marchesi. Before the game, the official scorer asked me what I thought of the kid (he's fresh out of college). I said I hadn't seen him yet. Well, I made a point to watch because of it, and I have to say he looks really good. A bit raw, but he's big with good jump and is usually in the right spot. Plenty of potential, and definitely a keeper for next year. He's wearing #2, which is Jon Awe's number. If Awe makes it back, he'll have to switch (but it has to be to #21 because they are wearing the special anniversary jerseys the rest of the way for luck and that's what they have available).
Campbell - Schell - Desbiens
Painchaud - Brandt - Anderson
Pospisil - Hamilton - Busniuk
Jackson - Milam
Denny - Marchesi
Mason - Mahrle - Stamoulis
PP1: Campbell - Schell - Desbiens - Jackson - Milam
PP2: Brandt - Hamilton - Painchaud - Mason - Busniuk
Sitko is on the 3-day IR, but is listed with the forwards on Pyle's white board. So if two forwards go down, Stoesz and then Sitko look like the replacements there. But the injured Lou Dickenson should be back soon, so make that three.
Charlotte headed home after the game, they won't stay in town until the next game. Neither will the Gladiators stay in Charlotte if the series goes to four games. No one would be able to practice at the Gwinnett arena tomorrow anyway, as there's a concert going on.
And in a turn of the tables, I had my picture taken tonight by a documentary filmmaker as I made notes on the game. There is a crew in town to make a documentary that includes Mi'kmaq tribe member Chad Denny. There was a documentary made about Sidney Crosby's first season in the NHL. And I remember one about Rod Brind'Amour. Crosby, Brind'Amour, and...Denny. Oh and he has a mohawk now. Just him, not the rest of the team. He was out by the Charlotte bus afterwards fraternizing and I could see it in silhouette.