2003 - 2004
January 9, 2004
Generals get help from 'Easy' Elich
Generals 5, Checkers 2
GREENSBORO - Having slipped back into the ECHL's Southern Division playoff race with three straight wins and seven in the last 10 games, the Charlotte Checkers ran into a roadblock Thursday night.
Putting together one of their better all-around performances, the Greensboro Generals hung a 5-2 defeat on a Charlotte team that seemed a bit heavy-legged after a hard-earned 3-2 shootout win on home ice against the Florida Everblades less than 24 hours earlier.
The game also represented another step in the comeback of 25-year-old Greensboro forward Matt Elich. His 14th goal of the season on a nice pass from Matt Turek at the end of a two-on-one break all but clinched the Generals' win in the second period. He also recorded an assist on an earlier goal by defenseman Tom Reimann.
"Elich was flying around tonight," said Generals coach Rick Adduono. "Did you get a load of his speed?"
But while Elich's speed has not been a secret for several years, disappointment has shadowed his four pro seasons.
Elich scored his first and only NHL goal for the Tampa Bay Lightning in the 1999-2000 season.
A junior prodigy with exceptional promise in the Ontario Hockey League, the blond youngster from Grosse Pointe Farms, Mich., was only 21 when he played his first pro game in the NHL.
In his first two pro seasons, Elich played in 17 NHL games. He finished both years with longer stints in the International League. Then he spent the '01-02 season in the AHL, before slipping down another notch last season to the ECHL.
After splitting his time between Pensacola and Wheeling last season, Elich's once-glossy potential was all but exhausted. He was dismissed as a player with a bad attitude who couldn't or wouldn't play defense.
"I was young, and I thought I knew everything," Elich said. "I got caught up in the world of agents and signing bonuses, and I didn't give myself a chance to develop.
"So I found myself sitting around home, wondering if and when I'd get another chance to play. Then I got a call from Rick Adduono."
Defenseman Kevin Grimes, a former teammate of Elich who was with the Generals, had recommended him to Adduono.
"I hardly heard anything but bad things about Elich, but I liked his ability, and we've had a lot of long talks," Adduono said.
Now, halfway through the ECHL schedule, Elich is on his way toward his most productive pro season.
"I'm learning," Elich said. "Coming here (to Greensboro) has been a blessing in disguise. It's the best team atmosphere I've found since junior hockey.
"I know Rick took a chance on me. I don't want to let him down. He and the other players have been patient with me, and I've been working to become a better defensive player."
His teammates call him "Easy" because that's how he makes hockey look.
"He's probably the best skater in the league," Adduono said of Elich. "There's no reason he can't get back to the AHL or maybe even the National League."
Contact Lariy Keech at 373-7080 or email@example.com
Generals - 5
Checkers - 2
Site: Greensboro Coliseum
Why the Generals won: Just a very good all-around effort against a Charlotte team that was coming off a tough shootout win over Florida on Wednesday but also was riding a three-game win streak. Greensboro's solid defensive effort included an impressive 31-save performance by goalie Daniel Berthiaume.
Stars: No. 3- What would have been an excellent showing from most goalies was par for the course for Berthiaume. No. 2 - Man Turek posted an assist and one of his patented goals from a narrow angle on the payoff end of a pretty fast break with Eric Fortier and Kurt Drummond. No. 1 - Rookie Matt Elich flashed his speed and potential with his 14th goal and an assist.
Records: Greensboro 21-14-1. Charlotte 18-13-4.