What a day! It started at about 8 a.m. Eastern time in Kentucky, and now, it’s 1 a.m. Chicago time, and I’m all settled in at my best friend’s flat. Getting “home” from Rockford was an adventure… my GPS decided to lead me to 119th St. and S. Morgan in Chicago (I dare you to go to Google maps and do a “street view” and see how sketchy the ‘hood was!)… 45 minutes later, my buddy directed me step by step to his house, which is nowhere close to the first location. And I digress….
Considering my day, I should not feel so wired, but alas, I am… so I’m going to transpose my chicken-scratch notes that I took during the game with a stand-in for my luky pen, which seems to have gone missing. (Yes, I have a lucky pen… it’s red and is a Checkers pen, but I had to settle for a Richard Childress Racing red pen. Boo hiss).
I took some great photos, but left my camera cord in North Carolina, so those will have to wait.
Thoughts about the Checkers 4-3 Shoot Out victory over Rockford last night:
- I really like this rink. I like that it’s a small (tiny even, by TWCA standards) rink, with a loud, enthusiastic crowd. There were less than 6K people there last night, but they were louder than a 12K night in Charlotte, because of their closeness and the size of the barn. I really liked everything about Rockford… from the arena staff, to the fans I met, etc. And I didn’t want to like them. I…. strongly dislike the Blackhawks. And that might be putting it mildly, but I’m intitled to my likes and dislikes! So seeing so much Blackhawks stuff made me a bit cringey… but it was a great place.
- A special thank you to the great Jason Shaya for inviting me to be his first-intermission interview on the AHL Live broadcast. It was a lot of fun, and I hope to do it again sometime soon!
- The Rockford crowd is really involved in the game… and not just a core of them like we have in Charlotte, but all of them. They scream things in unison, and have strange goalie taunts that were amusing to me. I’d love to see more of these kinds of things develop in Charlotte, and I think they will. We have an amazing product in Charlotte, and it just keeps getting better.
- Speaking of goalie taunting, my favorite post-goal score “taunt” when the away team scores is when they play Cee-Lo Green’s “Forget You,” which I got a taste of following a couple of the Checkers goals. (I’m a big proponent of the Checkers adopting this, by the way.)
About the game:
- The first period started off a bit shakey with a rough puck handling situation with Mike Murphy behind his own net. The team rebounded, and he got stronger as the game went on.
- The first period showed the team had a lot of gas. Lots of goal scoring, energy and speed. This was a positive sight after a VERY long Christmas break.
- The fourth line winger pairing of Jared Staal and Justin Soryal played a lot during the first, but their ice time seemed to decrease as the game went on. I personally would attribute that to horrible play, especially in the neutral zone, and turnovers by the former of the two names listed.
- Cedric McNicoll, playing his first game since October 28, looked pretty good out there. It will be good to have him back in the lineup on a regular basis.
- It was very clear to me why Brian Connelly is second highest point-getter by a defenseman. His slapshot in the first during a delayed penalty was UNREAL and there’s no way a goaltender could have stopped it.
- Matt Pistilli is awesome, and his first goal of the game was a great snipe, and really got the team going in the first.
- Rockford goalie Alec Richards got the start in net, and is currently fighting for his roster spot with starting netminder Alexander Salak about to return from injury. Richards is a hulking 6’4” goalie, but he doesn’t have the technique that a guy like Mike Murphy does. He made some good saves, but especially early in the game, he simply used his size to block shots instead of actually stopping them. They would bounce off of him to keep from going in the net, but I didn’t see him control rebounds or stop the puck.
- The second period brought more restrained play by both teams. Rockford only had 7 SOG, one of which Murphy allowed to tie the game at 3, and Charlotte had 13, none of which were allowed by Richards.
- Sloppy passing in the neutral zone continued during the second, a lot of which seemed to me to be a result of the Checkers being low on fuel and energy and just wanting to get to a line change.
Third period of Overtime:
- The third period had a couple of near misses by each team, with the resounding sound of goalpost PINGS heard by all. From my vantage point on the blue line, the Checkers could have had a goal if the AHL did goal reviews, but it may have just been a lucky shot that hit two posts and bounced out.
- The third exhibited a very tired Checkers team. Mike Murphy carried the team with countless saves that he shouldn’t have had to make. Much like the Chicago game, when John Muse was put into the game after the first in relief of Murphy, the skaters weren’t doing their part to make saves and block shots from the opposition. Ten minutes into the third, the Checkers only had one SOG.
- A crazy scrum came in front of Murphy’s net with just 3.2 seconds remaining. Murphy made a phenomenal save, which resulted in all eight skaters (all of the guys on ice minus the goaltenders) in a brawl behind Murphy’s net. Honestly, I’m not sure how it started because it all happened so fast, but it resulted in all kinds of penalties, including four fighting majors and two misconducts for “secondary altercations.” It was crazy, and took quite awhile for the smoke to clear and play to continue.
- Justin Krueger in the shootout is AWESOME. He’s now two-for-two on the season, despite not having his first AHL goal.
- Mike Murphy continues to be stellar in the shootout, and has only allowed one goal all season (none of which came last night)