KENNESAW – The rain came down in Fifth Third Bank Stadium just like Florida Launch goals – early and often.
Florida jumped to a 7-1 lead after the first quarter and went on to beat the Atlanta Blaze 13-10 in the season opener on Sunday.
“They were a playoff team last year, so it was a tough one to open up with,” Atlanta’s Kevin Rice said. “But I think we’ll be fine and bounce back next week against Boston and get the season going.”
Atlanta had difficulty clearing the ball from the goal early, and the Launch took advantage.
“It’s not like guys were running past our guys,” said Liam Banks, who made his debut as Blaze coach. “Most of their stuff came off of our inability to clear the ball and putting ourselves in odd man situations.”
A slashing penalty early in the second quarter by Florida’s Tucker Dunkin, resulted in a power-play goal by Atlanta’s Tom Palasek, assisted by Deemer Class. The Blaze held Florida to two second quarter goals, finishing the half trailing 9-4.
The start of the third quarter looked as if it was heading in the same direction of the first half, with two early goals scored by Jarrod Neumann and Tom Morre to put the Launch up 11-4.
The Blaze held Florida to four second half points, but Rice faulted missed opportunities on goal for not being able to take the lead in the second half.
“We just didn’t shoot well, we didn’t bury the ball,” Rice said. “Their goalie had a ton of saves on a lot of makeable looks.”
Launch goalie Austin Kaut ended the game with 20 saves with 29 shots on goal.
“Austin Kaut played great today. He made a lot of saves inside with guys who are incredible finishers and the result is a three-goal loss and that’s what happens when you don’t put the ball in the back of the goal,” Banks said.
Rice led the team in scoring with three goals and an assist. Michael Begley ended with two goals, while Matt Gibson and Palasek each added a goal and an assist. Deemer Class had the only 2-point goal of the game. He finished the game with two goals and an assist.
“I think all these guys need a little confidence,” Banks said. “I think everybody is tentative and when you’re tentative you kind of take an extra second to shoot the ball and do those different things, but Begley got us going early.”
Begley, along with 10 other Blaze players, played their first game with the organization Sunday.
“There’s a lot of room to grow, we beat ourselves today,” Begley said. “It wasn’t that we didn’t play well, we just beat ourselves with stupid mistakes.”