Checkers offense shines in Admiral defeat.

I’m a bit sad I was pun-less in my story title tonight… I just couldn’t think of anything punny about Admirals…

I spoke with my friend Ryan from The Admirals Roundtable after the game, I swear, not to gloat, just to chat about the game that I saw in person, and he listened to from afar.  The one reassuring thing I could tell him is that it didn’t matter WHO the Checkers played tonight, no team could have beaten them.  Between lineup shakeups (the addition of Justin Shugg who has had a stellar season in Florida, and the healthy scratching of Jerome Samson) and just a renewed fire from the home team, they were unstoppable.

Charlotte came out strong and rebounded from an early Milwaukee power play goal in the first period to score two in the second, and a third in the third.

Milwaukee goaltender Magnus Hellberg was given back-to-back starts after strong play on Sunday, but suffered his first loss of the season.  He’s now 4-1 in seven games played.

The lineup shakeups seemed to be a big boost to the Checkers.  Defensive pairings were mixed up a bit from Sunday, with more of a balance between the offensive and defensive players paired together. Another theme of the game was leadership, from guys like Justin Peters who is constantly talking to his teammates throughout the game, to veterans like Tim Wallace.

Tim Wallace, the game’s well-deserved first star, was enthusiastic about what he felt the key to the win was. “I think just desperation.  I think you could tell in the room everyone was desperate. It wasn’t very fun coming to the rink when we were losing. So you know we’ve got a good team in here, good character, and it goes a long way.”

Zac Dalpe, who had a goal and an assist in tonight’s game, said a lot about the importance of having fun out there, and said it was a key to the game.   “Realizing that this game is fun.  I know it’s hard to find that fun when you’re losing all those games, but it’s nice to see some smiles tonight, for sure.”

A lot can be taken from this, because despite the fact these guys are highly skilled professional athletes, they are still young men who, since the time they could barely walk and had skates strapped onto their feet by their parents, have dreamed of playing this game for a living.  It’s like the young girl who attends the ballet for the first time as a child and 18 years later is a prima ballerina in The Nutcracker or a young musician who takes piano lessons as a child, and later ends up as the concertmaster for a symphony, the fun and love of the game remains a huge key to success, because if you can’t enjoy what you are doing, what’s the point?

Confidence and consistency will be a key moving forward, and according to Dalpe was a key to the game. “Just the fact we can play like that.  I mean, I think the first period, JD said it, it’s the best period we played in a month or so…  We’ve just got to keep it consistent.”

Other notes:

  • After the game, Jeff Daniels had positive things to say about Shugg, who played his first game with the Checkers this season.  “He got caught in a bit of a numbers game during training camp with the lockout and we felt it was best for his career to go down and play and play important minutes, so when he got called up he was gonna play.  And he showed today that he was ready to play and I felt like he had a really strong game.”
  • The second period shots-on-goal ratio of 11-2 in favor of Charlotte still blows me away.
  • Tomorrow I have an awesome featured planned, so check back for an interview with a HUGE fan of the Charlotte Checkers.
  • Leaving the rink after a win (even when it’s FREEZING COLD outside sure is a lot nicer than most of the games this month.
  • The crowd was a bit on the small side, but having Wilson back was a huge boost.
  • I posted a question on Twitter during the game… what would you name an all-Justin Checkers boyband?  There were some great answers that came in, so I figured I’d put it to a vote.
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