Charlotte Checkers dominate in home opener win against the Chicago Wolves

Tim Wallace is fierce. I like him a lot (though Nate Beasley is the president and founder of his fan club, I’m merely a member!) (Photo – J. Propst)

Hits and misses… I know it’s a cliche, but it’s easier to separate my thoughts out this way!  What did you all think of the game? Of the crowd? Of the experience?  If the rest of the season goes the way the first month, we’re in for a treat in Charlotte!

Hits:

  • Only four days shy of exactly seven months ago, the Checkers played their last home game in Charlotte. Though they lost 2-1, their playoff hopes were still in tact, only to be dashed a week later in Milwaukee. Tonight’s return to home ice was a triumphant one. After a stellar nine-game roadtrip to start the season where the Checkers racked up 13 of a possible 16 points, hopes were high for the home team, and they didn’t disappoint.  Justin Peters was strong between the pipes, but the skaters in front of him played an even bigger role as offensive dynamos who continued their power play dominance
  • Chubby rappelled down onto the ice from the catwalk while wearing hockey skates, over 100 feet above the ice floor, and it was awesome.  I must send a special shout out to I.A.T.S.E. Local 322 riggers for their expertise in helping facilitate it and keeping our favorite mascot safe!
  • Drayson Bowman and his eight-game goal scoring streak is not a fluke. That guy is on fire, and gave it his all every single shift.  I’m going to cherish every moment of the NHL lockout because he’s in Charlotte, and I know he won’t be back in the AHL after it ends.
  • The Checkmates have new uniforms, and I’m a fan.  Though the sleeves are shorter, the tops give me confidence that I’m not at risk for seeing any nip during a particularly energetic dance move.
  • The D-pairings caught me off guard at first, but the more I watched the chemistry, the more I liked it.    For the most part, Sanguinetti and Bellemore played together and Jordan and Faulk skated together.
  • Speaking of defense, I love their role in the Checkers new highly touted forecheck. All of the defenseman were more aggressive and physical, and had a huge role in a number of the Checkers goals.
  • The Checkers as a whole made some great passes.  A specific example that comes to mind was Justin Faulk finding Riley Nash in the third period which led to the Checkers fourth goal of the night.
  • Justin Krueger continues to impress me with his fierceness.  He’s taken pucks and sticks to the face, and he isn’t afraid to use his body to prevent the other team from scoring.  He might not have lots of points on the score sheet, but his role is so much more important than those numbers.  If I was to buy a new Checkers jersey, it would be his!
  • The more I hear the Checkers goal song, the more I like it.  I love that it is original, and can only be heard here in Charlotte. (And hearing it four times on opening night was a treat!)
  • I can’t believe that Justin Faulk is only 20.  Do you know what I was doing when I was 20? Well, it definitely wasn’t anything close to what he’s doing as one of the best defenseman in the highest level of professional hockey.

Misses:

  • The three stars.  Justin Peters was the first star? Yeah, I get It, he was the

    Drayson Bowman is so fast he’s almost blurry! (Photo – J. Propst)

    winning goaltender and allowed only one goal, but he wasn’t even close to the best player on the ice. He was incredibly lucky to have a talented group of skaters in front of him, and he definitely made some good saves, but he also was fortunate that the at least two shots hit the posts and deflected away, or each of them could have been goals. I like Peters, and think he’s incredibly skilled, but he was not the first star of the night.

  • Not having Wilson on opening night.  There were a lot of fans in attendance this afternoon.  Many were local die-hards and long-time season ticket holders, some were new to Charlotte’s incredible hockey team, and many were down from Raleigh and surrounding areas to see the first taste of Hockey in North Carolina.  Wilson’s absence to old and new fans alike was incredibly noticeable. He is, hands down, one of the greatest assets this hockey team has.  Wilson has the charisma and energy to get a dead crowd moving, and an alive crowd on fire. The Checkers arena is one of the loudest in the AHL because of Wilson, and he was VERY missed this afternoon.
  • I know it was her first game filling in for Wilson, and his are HUGE shoes to fill, but Elle Bunn was just not very effective at getting the crowd involved.  Maybe she was overwhelmed with the countless sponsorship plugs.  Maybe they didn’t get a good sound check on her mic, because she could hardly be heard over the music (but other in-arena announcements were heard loud and clear). Maybe it’s because she kind of blended into the crowd in a plain black tee instead of a full-fledged team-color hockey sweater. It was a rough start.  I work in theater, so I’m going to chalk it up to opening night jitters.
  • My photography skills.  I’m still learning about my new camera, and everything about tonight’s shots are terrible! They will get better though, I promise!  If you want to see the only ones that don’t suck, head to the Chasing Checkers facebook page.
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4 thoughts on “Charlotte Checkers dominate in home opener win against the Chicago Wolves

  1. I had no idea that Elle was doing the in-game hosting until I read this. I don’t recall hearing her even once during the game, so it must have been a sound issue. It just seemed in all the spots where Wilson would usually say something to get the crowd going, there was nothing! It made for a bit of a weird experience for me at first, but the crowd seemed to pick itself up after the 1st. :) Other than that, I thought it was a thoroughly enjoyable game to watch. You know I always love our Checkers, but I think I love ‘em even more than ever this season!

    • She was there, but all she did was read from her script. I missed Wilson a lot. I missed his enthusiasm, his energy, and the obvious plain and simple fact that he is a HUGE fan of the Charlotte Checkers. That’s why he works so well, because there is no doubt in my mind that he loves the sport and loves the team. Elle, on the other hand, had the slickness of a paid advertisement. She read the script well, and has a pretty face, but she doesn’t make me believe she is a fan of hockey, let alone the Checkers. And I guess that’s what was missing the most. Anyone can read sponsor promos. Some will do it better than others, but to engage the fans and make them want to come back to another game, you need a convincing figure who keeps you engaged, and that’s Wilson. I was at the last-ever ECHL Checkers game, and was admittedly, not very invested in that team. But I’m serious, I had chills during the final game because of Wilson. The team was losing, it was the playoffs and their season (and tenure as a franchise) was on the brinks of extinction. But Wilson had the crowd on their feet. He had so much passion and emotion. Heck, I was on the verge of tears at the end of that game because of how much he inspired me to feel about the end of that era. His passion, which is so authentic is what you can’t recreate.

    • I heard from Checkers staff after the game that he had a “prior engagement.” Elle’s not a permanent replacement. :) I was worried since Wilson was tweeting a little during the game. Said he missed all us fans too!

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