Quick Hits – Movie sets, player departures and more

Is it October yet?

Summer has been flying for me between traveling and working on a movie set, but with the 100 degree weather we’ve been having lately, there is nothing I’d like more than to be sitting on the ice at the arena watching the Checkers play!  The good news is, we’re down to 56 days until the Hurricanes play the Winnipeg Jets in Charlotte.  That’s less than two months!

Also, I know the production assistants on the movie were just trying to be helpful, but isn’t the orange paper sign a bit redundant?  These things are all over my work.  I was surprised there wasn’t one labeling the restrooms (which are already clearly labeled).  My favorite are the big yellow ones that say SET all over the stage… because, you know, it’s easily confused with the restrooms…

Anyway, back to Hockey.

All is quiet on the Checkers contract front.  Last year, the first Checkers signing was July 29, a one-year deal to new Washington Capital Jacob Micflikier.  The remainder of the AHL contracts (Brad Herauf, Elgin Reid, Ethan Graham, Bobby Goepfert, etc.), came in mid-August and later.  I’d expect more signings in the coming weeks to fill AHL roster holes.  We saw the first a couple of weeks ago with the signing of John Muse.

Things have been slow on the Checkers news front…. but here are a few things worth noting:

  • On the goalie front, two of the 2010/11 Goaltenders have signed deals with new teams.  Justin Pogge signed a one-year, two-way contract with the Phoenix Coyotes.  Since he is the sixth goaltender the Coyotes have under contract, one would assume he was signed for minor-league duty in Portland.
  • Goepardy expert Bobby Goepfert has signed in Germany with the DEG Metro Stars.  It’s a team in Dusseldorf.  His sense of humor and intermission commentary on the radio with Shaya will be missed!
  • Zac Dalpe is participating in a very cool camp as a part of the NHLPA.  It’s called the Allstate All-Canadians Camp.  Other NHLPA representatives include Hurricanes Jeff Skinner and Tim Brent, plus NHL present and future greats such as Jason Spezza, Steve Staios, Luke and Braden Schenn, and many others.  Camp participants are 42 Bantam aged (15 year old) youth who were selected from all across Canada.

The one about winning game one in the second round

Game one of the second round deserves a great write-up, but I fear I don’t have a LOT of stuff to talk about other than the obvious, which is the Charlotte Checkers beat the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins in the first game of the second round of the Calder Cup playoffs.  You see, I was at a world premiere/opening night of the local ballet company, and while I firmly believe that the Charlotte Checkers > ballet, the ballet pays me to be there, and the Checkers don’t.  The good news is opening night was great, the dancing was good, and the CHECKERS upset the Pens on their home ice.

As excited and proud I am of MY team winning, I know it’s just the first game, and anything and everything can change.  One game does’t win the series, but the team is on a four game winning streak now, which is a nice thing in the Playoffs.  Bottom line is I hope they stay confidence, but keep it in check because this is just the beginning.

I followed online via twitter, and on the radio when I could pop an earbud in to listen to Jason Shaya on the internet feed on my iPad.  So here are my observations about the game itself.

  • This was a TOTALLY different game than any of the first round games vs. Hershey.  We only allowed one power play goal by the Bears (in 26 attempts) and tonight, allowed two Penguins PP goals in eight attempts.  On the flip side, we scored two PP goals in six tries.  Our penalty kill was a huge key to beating the Bears, and I want to see this come back.
  • Speed speed speed!  This was the kind of hockey our guys like to play.  They seemed to find their groove, went with it and excelled.
  • Mike Murphy had a fantastic game.  The first and third periods had him stopping twice as many shots as Brad Thiessen did.  Only in the last few minutes of the second period did the Checkers go on a shooting rampage, bombarding Thiessen with many, many shot attempts.
  • We took way too many penalties overall!  This is NOT how you when playoff games.  I want to see more restraint from our team going forward.
  • Jonathan Matsumoto had two goals, including the game winner.  Of course, right after his second goal, he went to the box for being a hooker which resulted on another Penguins PP goal.
  • I’m glad that Zack Fitzgerald was back in this game.  It sounds like we might need his lovable, enforcer, goon-like skills in this series.
  • There were a few near-misses/potential injuries to Penguins players.  Ben Street didn’t return to the bench for the second period, Brett Sterling left the ice for a bit during the second after a hit behind the net by Fitzgerald.  There was no call on the play, only a roughing call on the ensuing friction between Checkers and Penguins who were each standing up for their teammates.  In the third period, Brad Thiessen took a shot from Chris Terry that dropped him to the ice (it seems to have hit his collar bone) and he was down for a bit afterwards, but finished out the game.  I’ll be interested to see how banged up these guys really are.
Random observations about fans, team spirit, our awesome black aces, etc:
  •  I wanted to throw up in my mouth when I thought I could hear Chelsea Dagger playing in the Mohegan Sun arena.  I hate that song and the fact it’s the dumb Blackhawks goal song.  Did I really hear it, or were my ears playing tricks on me?
  • I loved hearing the fans in WBS.  They were cheering and chanting, and that’s a good thing at any hockey game.  I propose though, Charlotte Checkers fans, that we out-loud them.  Let’s turn it up next week, and make noise and support our team!
  • At my favorite bar, where I went for the end of the game, I talked to about a dozen guys who all asked me about the Checkers since I was the token person there in a Checkers jersey and not an NFL one on their draft day, and many of them said they were going to buy tickets after talking to me.
  • Bobby Goepfert should be the intermission interview at EVERY game.  I was laughing so hard.  He said Mike Murphy had a Justin Bieber-like quality (I mean, they both have nice hair, but it’s nothing at all alike…) and he said he likes spice.  Bobby Goepfert spice… I wonder what kind of spice he is?  Cajun?  Jalapeno?  Something mild like a basil/Italian spice?
  • I don’t know how to type Goepfert’s reaction to Shaya’s question about who drafted him… the Pittsburgh Penguins.  It was a sound of utter disgust, a true BLEH when he said that was who claimed him at the draft.  All I know is I’m glad he’s a part of the Checkers organization now, and would love to see him stick around after the way he’s supported us this year when we needed him.
Game two is Saturday night, and will be broadcast on AM radio here in Charlotte again.  I learned tonight that my iPad is NOT compatible with AHL live, so I was glad to have my radio app installed to listen to the feed that way!  Tune in!
Lets Go Checkers!

The one about the ride to Hershey, and inviting Bobby Goepfert to ride home with us.

So, Chasing Checkers is half-way to Hershey.  We made it safely and fortunately didn’t have to become tornado chasers, as we were able to avoid all of the storms that ravaged the Triad area.  We stopped for the night at a lovely Fairfield Marriott in Virginia.  The Teenybopper is quite vocal… about anything and everything.  She even recited most of the presidents of the U.S.A. (This discussion began after passing a sign for James Madison University, who according to The Teenybopper and her song, Madison was the fourth President.)

We also discussed epic signs seen at hockey games, including the countless prom offers requested by fans of Jeff Skinner.  The best sign of recent memory was actually one the Teenybopper is responsible for.  I don’t know about you, but I think Drayson Bowman should say yes!

We also decided that we should invite Bobby Goepfert to join us on the ride home.  We have a pretty sweet ride with a sunroof and leather seats.  The center back seat is empty, and would be the perfect place for a  slightly neurotic, germophobic fly-o-phobic goaltender to write a Twog about his adventure.  The Teenybopper will even serve him drinks from our cooler, which features a great selection of Dr. Pepper, Diet Dr. Pepper and bottled water.  She will however, not be serving peanuts, pretzels or lecture him on exit-row safety.

The drive was nice, and and so was dinner  (we drove 20 minutes out of the way so we could go to an Outback Steakhouse, despite that the chief blogger here is a vegetarian, and then found another Outback was right across the street from our hotel…)  We followed the other AHL and NHL games on the schedule via Twitter.  We are all still in shock over the defeat of the Penguins by the Norfolk Admirals.  Our supersticious nature refuses to talk about what a second round match up for our team could mean if the Ads keep up their winning ways…. and we follow suit.

And now, it’s time to go to bed…. long day tomorrow, full of epic adventures and hockey in Pennsylvania!

Let’s Go Checkers!  BEAT THE BEARS!

The one about game # 80

Quick thoughts about game 80 for the Charlotte Checkers.

 

  • First, and most importantly, the Checkers defeated the Sharks by a score of 6-2. They finished the season with 97 points, and a record of 44-27-2-7.  Not bad for a first-year franchise!!!

 

  • Bobby Goepfert got the start in net.  This is something I DEFINITELY think was a good idea.  With Mike Murphy’s return to the team being uncertain, Goepfert needs ice time.  As every Checkers fan knows, Justin Pogge has had plenty of games that required him to be pulled (two of which were against Hershey, by the way) and we’ve got to have confidence in our netminder AND the back-up going into the playoffs.

 

  • On the radio/TV feed they were talking about watching Jared Staal develop this season.  How can we consider this a development year?  Maybe when he was in Ft. Meyers and actually getting ice time, but for the past month he’s sat in the press box in Charlotte, where his hair grew longer and longer as the time from his last game did as well.  If he’s not ready for the AHL, I can understand that.  I just don’t get why he’s in Charlotte if he’s not playing.  The only reason he played last night, I assume, is to rest some of our regulars.

 

  • Speaking of our regulars, three were NOT in the lineup last night.  Bryan Rodney, Zack Fitzgerald and Nick Blanchard all had the night off. I do not have any information as to whether they were injured, or just being rested.  I assume the latter.

 

  • Defenseman Rasmus Rissanen played in his first AHL game tonight.  He was a +1, and had three SOG.  Not bad for his first time in the lineup!

 

  • Chris Terry scored his 34th goal of the season.  He’s currently third in goals scored in the AHL, and 34 is twice the number of goals he had last season as a rookie in Albany.

 

  • On a disappointing note, the Carolina Hurricanes lost tonight 6-2.  The loss ended their season and playoff hopes.  The only positive I can see in this is that Drayson Bowman will be returned to Charlotte and available for the playoffs.  The Florida Everblades also lost, 5-3, finishing their first found of the playoffs vs. the Kalamazoo Wings.

 

  • The Checkers lineup saw a number of players not on the Clear Day list, including Jared Staal, Cedric McNicoll, and Bobby Goepfert.  Rasmus Rissanen, while not on the clear day list, is eligible as a junior player who’s season is finished.  As long as Mike Murphy is injured, Goepfert is eligible to dress and play in all playoff games.

 

And… be excited Chasing Checkers fans (I have some fans, right?)  I spent some time designing a VERY special playoff logo for the first-round matchup.  Expect to see it’s debut in the next couple of days!

 

Go Checkers!

The one about bad refs, bad goaltending, and wrapping up the season

A few thoughts as the Charlotte Checkers end their regular season this weekend with back-to-back games against the Worcester Sharks.

First, regarding this past Monday’s game against Norfolk:

  • Netminder Bobby Goepfert makes a save in the third period

    Netminder Bobby Goepfert makes a save in the third period

    Bobby Goepfert came into the game in relief of Justin Pogge on Monday night.  He had a great shift, stopping all 10 of the shots he faced in the final 12 minutes of the game, and some of the saves he made were pretty amazing.  In my opinion, Pogge wasn’t THAT bad throughout the course of the game, but in typical Pogge fashion, he had given up in the third and was being lazy.  This seems to be his thing… he has a mediocre performance, then just decides to quit and seems to even ask to get pulled.  I’ve seen it happen all season, where he lets in a couple of goals, then after each goal, he glances over at the bench and looks at the coach requesting relief, or expecting to see the back-up netminder getting ready.

  • Bobby Sanguinetti left the game with an apparent injury.  He never left the bench to return to the training room, and came back in the third period, much to the relief of this blogger.  We’ve already got too many injuries that make me nervous.  Hopefully, Friday’s game will see the return of Michal Jordan and others.
  • The officiating was the WORST I have seen this season.  Zach Boychuck was mouthing off to one of the refs after his boarding call in the second, and after that, Ref #37, Jason Rollins, seemed to have it out for the Checkers.  It was already a game with an “extra” official, so there were plenty of stripes on the ice to make calls, but he took it into his own hands to make calls that were out of his immediate area, even at opposite ends of the ice.  Every time I looked at him, he was blowing his whistle for a call against the Checkers.  It seemed to become personal with him.  I don’t know if he has bad blood in Charlotte after his years and years of officiating in the ECHL, or had something else to prove, but so many of his calls seemed bogus.  After Boychuck’s boarding call, the Checkers couldn’t stay out of the box, and were scored on three times, two of which were power play goals.  Needless to say, it wasn’t a fun game to watch.

On the Checkers front:

  • Following the game on Monday, Bobby Goepfert returned to Florida as the Everblades began their first round playoffs with a two-game homestand against the Kalamazoo Wings.  The Everblades were 1-1 in the first two playoff games, and head to Kalamazoo for three games which will be held on Friday, Saturday and Monday.
  • Mike Murphy has still not returned to practice, and unless the Checkers plan on dressing Jason Shaya for the final two home games, I would have to assume that Goepfert will come back to Charlotte regardless of the Everblades playoff needs.  Goepfert is under contract with the Checkers, and technically is only “on loan” to Florida.
  • I did a lot of reading on concussion protocols within the NHL/AHL, and what they mean regarding Murphy’s recovery.  The NHL was the first major league to adopt the SCORE testing, and the other pro sports (NFL, NBA, etc) have adopted similar protocols as well.   The players take the test at the beginning of the season (it’s computer given, and takes about 30 minutes from what I understand, asking a series of questions that test memory, etc.).  This test is also available to student athletes of all ages so that parents can monitor the health and well being of their Children.  The Pittsburgh Penguins announced they are partnering with their non-profit organization and UPMC Sports Medicine to offer the baseline testing to youth hockey players in Pittsburgh.
  • It’s now been nearly three weeks since Murphy suffered a concussion vs. Wilkes-Barre, and I hope he is close to being able to play again.  (And fingers are crossed he can ace his SCORE test when it’s presented to him, if it hasn’t been already!)

Looking ahead to Worcester:

  • The Checkers record against Worcester is 1-1 this season, allowing only 3 goals against in the two games.  Worcester is in a playoff battle right now of epic proportions.  They are one point back, and one game ahead of the Connecticut Whale.  Only one of these two teams will make the playoffs, as both are in pursuit of the final of eight playoff spots in the Eastern Conference.  The Sharks final two games are against the Checkers, and the Whale will face Bridgeport twice and Norfolk once this weekend.  The Sharks will be fighting with a playoff like intensity this weekend, so I hope the Checkers are ready!
  • Some interesting comparison stats between Worcester and Charlotte:

-Just to show how tough our own division is, Charlotte is third in the East Division, Worcester is fourth in the Atlantic Division.  By comparison, Charlotte is seventh league-wide, while Worcester is 19th.

-Both teams share the same record in the last ten games, 5-4-0-1

-Each team has scored only four goals in the previous two meetings (Game scores were Charlotte 4-2 and Worcester 2-0)

Quick Hits – Phantoms suspensions, Goalie injuries etc.

Today the AHL announced that two Adirondak Phantoms players received suspensions following the game in Charlotte on Tuesday. Zac Rinaldo received three games for the “intent to injure” call he received in the third period.  Oliver Lauridsen was suspended for two games for the elbow to Mike McKenzie.  Both of these fall under rule 28.1, supplementary discipline.  For the rule geeks out there, this rule reads:

Supplementary Discipline. In addition to the automatic fines and suspensions imposed under these rules, the President may, at his discretion, investigate any incident that occurs in connection with any Pre-season, Exhibition, League or Playoff game and may assess additional fines and/or suspensions for any offense committed during the course of a game or any aftermath thereof by a player, goalkeeper, Trainer, Manager, Coach or non-playing Club personnel or Club executive, whether or not such offense has been penalized by the Referee.

I don’t know that the Checkers requested further investigation (as they can do, for a mere $250 which is refundable if the league finds someone’s actions GUILTY as charged), but regardless I’m happy to see these careless actions penalized as they were.  Lauridsen was a first time offender, so any suspension is a big deal.  Rinaldo has had more of his share of penalties (287 PIMs this year already… yikes!), but I guess since he didn’t actually injure, and just intended to, the league only gave him three games.

 

 

Yesterday, the team left for their two-game roadtrip. In Charlotte, the weather was close to 80 degrees, and in Hartford today, it’s hovering just above freezing at about 40 degrees.  And people why I love hockey in the south!  Saturday, the team plays in Portland before returning to Charlotte on Sunday for a 5 p.m. game against the Norfolk Admirals.  Goaltender Mike Murphy did practice or travel with the team, despite earlier reports they hoped he could play on Friday. Bobby Goepfert was recalled from Florida again, and after a game in Fort Meyers on Wednesday he flew to Hartford to meet the Checkers for the weekend of games.

Justin Pogge has not played against the Whale in the Checkers previous three meetings (Murphy has a record of 2-1 against them).   The Whale are third in their division and seventh in the Eastern conference.  It should be a spirited matchup, with a number of former ECHL Checkers now playing for the Whale.

 

 

 

 

 

Quick hits

Tuesday Night Observations-

  • I already miss netminder Mike Murphy, and fear he could require a lengthy recovery.  When he was tripped in Wilkes-Barre, he apparently hit his head on the ice and we all know what head injuries can mean in hockey.  Justin Pogge played well last night, but the Phantoms were shorthanded a great deal and Pogge only faced 19 shots in 60 minutes of play.

 

  • Netminder Bobby Goepfert was headed back to Fort Meyers, FL tonight so he can play for the Everblades at home.  I understand he will return to the Checkers after that game for our two game road trip this weekend to back up Pogge until Murphy makes a full recovery.

 

  • It was great to see the Checkers getting so many shots on goal.  I’ve been worried about their offensive production as of late, and their ability to shoot the puck.  Phantoms goalie faced 40 shots, which is more goal attempts than we’ve been able to produce lately.  It seems whenever we call up Cedric McNicoll he brings some fire to our offense.
  • I think Jason Shaya is a much better play by play guy when he’s by himself.  He was very distracted last night with former Checkers coach Derek Wilkinson in the booth with him.  Instead of Wilkinson adding color, the two of them tended to ramble and talk to each other while action was going on instead of following the play.  While their dialog was interesting, it wasn’t pertinent to the game.  A lot seemed to be missed for those of us listening at home.
  • Congratulations are in order to Mike McKenzie on his first AHL goal.  Unfortunately, he was taken out of the game by a nasty elbow.  Here’s hoping he’s okay and has a speedy recovery.
  • With Zach Boychuck’s two goals and assist, he was named one of the AHL’s three stars of the night for March 22.
  • The NHL Flyers have quite the reputation for dirty play on the ice, and it seems that their AHL club follows in those footsteps, but maybe that has to do with former Flyer and big time fighter Riley Cote being one of the assistant coaches.

 

  • Looking at the gamesheet from last night, the Phantoms took 60 minutes worth of penalties for fighting, unsportsmanlike conduct for elbowing Mike McKenzie (and taking him out of the game) and an “Intent to Injure” game misconduct, which I understand was a cross check to the face.   That 60 minute figure doesn’t include the “regular” penalties for hooking, tripping, etc.  Tack on another 22 PIM’s and you reach the Phantoms total of 82 minutes last night.
  • I’m anxious to see what the AHL does as far as penalties to Oliver Lauridsen.  Last night was Lauridsen’s second professional game after completing three years at St. Cloud State in the NCAA, and he doled out a pretty nasty elbow.  In light of continued attention being drawn to head shots, I hope this elbow doesn’t go unnoticed, regardless of Lauridsen’s youth and inexperience.

The one about summer jobs

I realize there are many more important things to talk about regarding Checkers hockey than summer jobs, but after watching Justin Pogge fall apart on Saturday night, and Mike Murphy get injured on Sunday, my hockey nerves are a bit shot and I’m having a hard time concentrating on the real life trials and tribulations facing our team.  The light at the end of the tunnel is that goaltender Bobby Goepfert arrived in Charlotte last night from Florida.  Goepfert is especially amusing on twitter, and has made me a lover of Jeopardy (Or, Goepardy, as we call it now) and a hater of the reigning champion Tom.  If you are on twitter, you’ve got to follow @geffman47.  You won’t be disappointed!

As of yet, the AHL hasn’t reported this as an official transaction so I hope that his arrival in Charlotte was more precautionary than anything else, but if he gets to stay for awhile, I hope more Checkers fans will get to experience his unique (and awesome!) personality.

Arriving with Goepfert in Charlotte is another Everblade, Cedric Lalonde-McNicoll.  I assume he is a safety net for ailing forward Oskar Osala.  Since Jared Staal has not played since being assigned to Charlotte by the Hurricanes, I assume he will continue to watch games from the press box as he has been all month.

So I’ve been thinking… what if our own Charlotte Checkers players had to get summer jobs like the ones I had when I was their age.  I, personally, spent my college summers either working at a fantastic summer camp in the mountains of North Carolina, or sweating in the NC humidity on an outdoor stage at Carowinds.  I can assure you, summer camp > theme park employment!

So what if the guys had to get a summer job?  Some are easier to “find” for them than others… so without further adieu, my suggestions for summer employment.

Justin Pogge already has the beginnings of a modeling portfolio, so CLEARLY he should move to NY or LA and get on continuing that journey to being a covergirl… err… I mean coverboy.  Or maybe in Penticton there is a big market for goalies-turned-models.  I was in the vicinity of Penticton last summer, and it didn’t seem to be overrun with models, so it might be a good fit… you know, less competition and all that.

Netminder Mike Murphy has quite the appreciation for animals, which is obvious to all of us who follow him on twitter.  While initially the focus of his tweets seemed to be on monkeys, he seems to have moved on to other animals as well.  So maybe he should become a zookeeper?  If he wants to stay in North Carolina, maybe the zoo in Ashboro is looking for a summer intern.  Anyone have connections?  Just be careful, Murph… Monkeys are known to throw poo….

Alternate Captain Nicolas Blanchard has a fantastic smile, and one that at first glance, you’d never know he’s missing teeth on the top and bottom (as his teammates have shared in interviews).  While I’m not sure he should become a spokesperson for a dentist, he’d be great for a company that makes denture adhesive… I think it’s unfortunate that all of those poly-grip ads are full of unattractive blue hairs.  Heck, if Blanch was smiling at me from TV talking about the benefits of a product, I might have to buy some myself!

Defenseman Zack Fitzgerald should of course intern as a tattoo artist.   At a recent skate with the Checkers, he was drawing a pretty awesome skull and crossbones tattoo in sharpie on a young boy’s arm.  I figure, he trades in that Sharpie for a needle and ink, and there’s no telling what kind of damage he could do!

Rookie Michal Jordan has quite the career ahead of him as an “As seen on TV” salesman/infomercial actor.  All I know is his believable pitch of the Pasta Boat and Right-Fit Button made me want to go out and get myself a set of them!  I have a few connections in the theater business if he wants to explore some acting classes over the summer…

Who else has some summer job ideas for our Checkers?

Feel free to submit suggestions, and maybe we’ll see a part two of this post!