Lynx center Andrei Chouroupov joked about how his modeling career now might be over.
That he now is able to laugh in the wake of a freak accident during the Lynx's 5-2 win Friday in the decisive Game 3 of the Southern Conference Wild Card playoffs over the New Orleans Brass is remarkable.
Chouroupov suffered a deep facial laceration when a Brass player's skate caught him in the cheek during the second period, and was taken to Tulane University Medical Center in New Orleans for plastic surgery.
The second-year pro needed 90 stitches to seal the gash, rejoined the team a few hours later, and made the trip to Fort Myers, where the Lynx played the Florida Everblades in Game 1 of a best-of-five Southern Conference quarterfinal series Saturday night.
"It's a little sore but already getting better," Chouroupov said by phone on Saturday. "I didn't realize it was that bad, at first, but then I saw a lot of blood all over the place. I was pretty lucky."
At first, Lynx coach Dan Wiebe thought Chouroupov would be lost for the rest of the playoffs. But doctors said he could play with a shield, and could be back in the lineup as early as Monday for Game 2 of the series at TECO Arena.
"I'm going to play," Chouroupov said. "I feel fine. They decided to let me rest (Saturday) just to be safe, but I'll be fine."
The 22-year-old Moscow native finished the regular season on a roll, scoring seven goals and recording nine assists in his final 14 games. His goal at 10:50 of the second period Saturday gave the Lynx a 2-1 lead that they never relinquished.
WINDOW OR AISLE?:
Never underestimate the power of a good flight.
Lynx coach Dan Wiebe certainly won't. He says one of the keys to Friday's win in Game 3 was that the team was afforded the luxury of flying to New Orleans on Thursday rather than having to endure another 11-hour bus ride.
"Our guys were fresh and well rested, and it made a difference," Wiebe said.
In Game 2 at home on Wednesday, the Lynx defeated the Brass 2-1 in overtime, and would have been forced to board the bus immediately following the game for the trip back to New Orleans. Instead, they got a good night's sleep and practiced at the Civic Center on Thursday, boarded a plane in Atlanta and arrived in New Orleans at around 10 p.m. Thursday evening.
The cost of the airfare was around $8,000, which the team will easily recover in gate receipts when Game 3 of the quarterfinals is played in Augusta next Sunday.
"I'd say it was a pretty good investment," Lynx general manager Paul Gamsby said.
Only one team in the 12-year history of the ECHL has won the regular-season points title and the league championship.
The Florida Everblades, who set league records for wins (53), points (108), road wins (25) and winning percentage (.771), look to become the second, joining the 1996-97 South Carolina Stingrays, who captured the Brabham Cup as regular-season champs and went on to win the Kelly Cup title.
In their inaugural season one year ago, the Everblades posted the third-best record in the league, but lost to the eventual Kelly Cup champs Mississippi in the Southern Conference finals.
Following Game 2 of the best-of-five Southern Conference quarterfinals vs. Florida Monday night in Fort Myers, the teams get a five-day break before resuming the series with Games 3 and 4 at the Augusta-Richmond County Civic Center next Sunday and Monday.
A trade show is being held at the Civic Center next week, so the arena is not available. The ECHL granted the teams an extra day to complete the series because of the conflict.
Game 5, if necessary, will be back at TECO Arena on Tuesday, April 18.
The ECHL named its postseason award winners, with Hampton Roads Admirals goalie Jan Lasak capturing goaltender of the year and rookie of the year honors and Toledo Storm forward Andrew Williamson winning MVP honors.
The 20-year-old Lasak is a second-round draft choice of the Nashville Predators, and finished his rookie campaign with a 36-17-4 record and 2.55 goals-against average. His 36 wins is the second-most in a season in ECHL history.
Williamson finished with a league-best 63 goals and was second in scoring with 102 points.
Florida's Bob Ferguson won coach of the year honors for the second straight season, while Everblades center Tom Buckley won the plus performer award for winning the league's plus-minus title with a plus-37 rating.
Dayton Bombers veteran Tom Nemeth won defenseman of the year honors for the second time in his career, ending the four-year reign of Louisiana's Chris Valicevic as the league's top blueliner. Nemeth's 75 points were tops in the Coast among defensemen and 16th in the league overall.
Teammate Jamie Ling, who finished tied for eighth in the league in scoring, won the sportsmanship award.