(Rochester, April 22)… The Florida Everblades are through the first round of the 2009 ECHL Kelly Cup Playoffs and they did it with the help of seven players who spent time in the American Hockey League with the Rochester Americans this season.
Forwards Ross Carlson, Jacob Micflikier, Andrew Sweetland, Mathieu Roy, Kevin Baker and defensemen Doug O’Brien and Matt Duffy helped the Everblades to a 4-1 series win over the Gwinnett Gladiators in the best of-seven South Division semifinals. Florida will now meet the South Carolina Stingrays in the division finals, beginning on Friday, April 24th as the top-seeded Everblades host the Stingrays in Estero, Florida for back-to-back contests.
Carlson, who appeared in three games with the Amerks this season, leads Florida with four goals this postseason, while his five points overall are third best on the team. The Duluth, Minnesota, native made his Amerks debut on January 30th at Grand Rapids and was the lone scorer in the 3-2 shootout win. The following night, Carlson posted a two-point performance (1+1) against the Griffins, which included his first goal as an Amerk. He finished the regular season with 36 points (14+22) in 52 games with the Everblades.
Micflikier, who recently returned to the lineup after missing much of this season with injuries, is tied for third in playoff scoring with four points (2+2) and has a team-best plus-three rating. Despite missing a combined 26 games this season due to injuries, the 24 year old managed to rack up 16 points (4+12) in 39 appearances in Rochester en route to being named the co-recipient of the 2008-09 Booster Club’s Game-Winning Goals Award. Micflikier signed a one-year AHL contact with the Amerks on September 4, 2008.
After one season of college hockey at the University of Maine, Sweetland made the jump to the pros. After signing with the Florida Panthers as a free agent on March 31, 2008, the 6-foot-2, 204-pound forward played just over half a season with the Amerks, recording just three points (1+2) in 48 games. He notched his first professional goal in a 4-3 win over the Binghamton Senators on February 28th before being reassigned to Florida on March 15th where he finished the regular season scoring 23 points (10+13) in just as many games. Sweetland has scored one goal and assisted on two others and has appeared in all five playoff games for the Everblades.
Roy, coming off his best offensive season as a pro after posting career-highs in goals (22) and points (46), appeared in just one game with the Amerks this season and picked up his first AHL point with an assist in Rochester’s 2-1 loss to Providence on March 8th. The Amos, Quebec, native has registered three assists in three games for Florida thus far in the playoffs. He finished the regular season fifth on the team in scoring.
Baker had a banner year for the Everblades this season, capturing career highs in all offensive categories in goals (57), assists (45), points (102) and games played (70), finishing first in the ECHL in goals and points and was the only player in the league to reach the 100-point plateau. Originally a seventh-round selection (193rd overall) by the Los Angeles Kings in the 1999 National Hockey League Entry Draft, Baker dressed in one game for the Amerks this season, despite being held pointless. The 29 year old has collected two points (1+1) in five postseason appearances for the Everblades.
O’Brien began the 2008-09 campaign in Rochester and would remain there for the next 12 games, picking up two assists along the way, before his reassignment to Florida in early November. A veteran defenseman with 270 pro games under his belt, O’Brien completed the season in Florida, tallying 25 points (7+18) in 56 games and is currently tied for first with a team-high six points (1+5) in five playoff games. Further, the 6-foot-1, 200-pound blueliner presently ranks fifth in postseason scoring among league defensemen.
A former four-year standout at the University of Maine and teammate of Sweetland’s for a season, Duffy joined the Amerks in late March on a 25-game professional tryout (PTO) and went onto to record six points (2+4) in just nine games in the red, white and blue. A native of Windham, Maine, Duffy posted five points (2+3) in a four-game span from March 25th to April 3rd, which included a pair of powerplay assists in his AHL debut, his first professional goal and his first professional game-winning goal. The 6-foot-2, 210-pound defenseman would finish the season with the Everblades, appearing in two regular season games, and recently skated in his first pro postseason contest. Duffy was the Florida Panthers’ fourth-round selection (104th overall) in the 2005 NHL Entry Draft.