Grrrr. Checkers get dumped 7-2 by the Iowa Wild.

I sat in front of my computer for a long time debating what to write about re: this afternoon’s Checkers game.  And to be honest, I’m taking the cop out route and going to summarize it very briefly.  It was hard to watch… seven goals allowed by the Checkers, a weak offensive effort, and questionable defending led to seven goals allowed by the Checkers (though, if Brody Sutter hadn’t received a relatively bogus call late in the game for alleged interference, I believe the score would have been 6-3, but oh well, a loss is a loss.)

Charlotte Checkers defenseman Michal Jordan skates with the puck down the ice in the team's 7-2 loss to the Iowa Wild. (Photo - J. Propst)

Charlotte Checkers defenseman Michal Jordan skates with the puck down the ice in the team’s 7-2 loss to the Iowa Wild. (Photo – J. Propst)

For the second night in a row, Charlotte’s special teams struggled. The powerplay was only able to convert on one of four attempts, and the penalty kill allowed two goals on seven opportunities by the Wild.

Brendan Woods took a brutal hit from Raphael Bussieres. It was ugly.  Woods was thrown face first into the glass at an awkward angle and had to be helped off the ice.  The five-minute boarding call Bussieres received hardly seems enough for what could be a very serious injury, and it will be interesting to see if anything further comes from the AHL.  The Checkers Manny Malhotra took matters into his own hands and received a number of penalties, including a 10-minute instigating misconduct, a two-minute instigating minor and a five-minute fighting major.

Coach Jeff Daniels could not pinpoint one particular downfall of the game. “It’s more about being pros. You’ve got to bring it every night. You can’t pick and choose when you want to play.”

I’m one of those crazy people who likes to find the good in things even when the score is 7-2, so here are a few things I noticed:

  • I liked the physicality of the Checkers. Brendan Woods, before he was boarded, was incredibly physical in his play.  Though the scrums didn’t amount to a result on the score sheet, seeing the players stand up for one another and keep the game physical was a definite positive (Matt Corrente, Nicolas Blanchard and Manny Malhotra all had fighting majors).  While I rarely focus on fighting in hockey, I think the scrums that did happen came at appropriate times and showed passion and grit from the home team.
  • Manny Malhotra is pretty amazing to watch. Unfortunately for us, I don’t think he’ll be in Charlotte for long, so enjoy it while you can, Checkers fans!  He’s a NHL player, and plays with great passion and integrity. Like Dan Ellis last season, I’m glad I had the opportunity to see him on Checkers home ice, and wish him the best in the NHL.
  • This is the only time Checkers fans have to see the Iowa Wild at home this season. After this weekend’s games, I’m okay with that fact.
  • It’s early in the season. This was only the Checkers fourth game, and there is plenty of time to make adjustments. It’s too early to panic about a poor showing in two home games.
  • Checkers Alternate captain Chris Terry scored one of only two goals for Charlotte. In four games played, he leads the team with four points (3g, 1a). (Photo - J. Propst)

    Checkers Alternate captain Chris Terry scored one of only two goals for Charlotte. In four games played, he leads the team with four points (3g, 1a). (Photo – J. Propst)

    From my off-the-ice perspective, Nic Blanchard is an incredible alternate captain. So is Chris Terry. Obviously, only those in the room really know what it takes though to lead the Checkers. With the team three weeks into the regular season, they are still without a full time captain. Any picks for a potential successor to the awesome Brett Sutter?

 

Completely unrelated to the game observations:

  • I know I saw the new seamless glass last weekend at the Checkers open house, but seriously people, it’s amazing. I am so grateful to an organization that puts as much as they do into the fan experience as the Checkers do.
  • THERE IS AN ORGAN! I’m such a sucker for history and sports culture, that hearing an organ at a hockey game made me grin from ear to ear. OK, it’s probably a keyboard, and I wish it was being played in a prominent location (and please, don’t let it be just sound effect.. but I’m pretty sure it was live!).  But it’s awesome.  In my own grad school studies I came across a guy who wrote a dissertation on the history of the hockey organ, and I was fascinated. I admit it, I’m a nerd.
  • The new Checkers jerseys… wow. I like them even more in action. I miss the Hurricane warning flags, but they home white sweaters look so sharp on the ice.  Way to go for a great new design! (And despite swearing off the purchase of any more jerseys, I might have to invest in one!)
  • Nathan Beasley can rock a bow tie like nobody’s business. And no, he didn’t pay me to say that.
  • I apologize for wearing brand new hand knit socks to the arena. I was so excited by their beautiful Checkers colored stripes that I hoped would be lucky, and they failed me. I promise not to wear them again, for fear of bad karma the yarn may hold in it.
  • I am going to try and do a better job of writing over here. I’ve got close to a million ideas, but I’ve written approximately 120 pages of academic papers in the past few months, with more to go, so finding time to write about hockey is often a challenge. The good news is, I graduate on DECEMBER 14, so freedom is coming (and an epic party after the fact!)

Five new players to watch in Charlotte: Checkers training camp edition

 

Checkers training camp here in Charlotte is set to begin at 10am tomorrow at the Extreme Ice Center in Indian Trail, and while I’m looking forward to seeing many familiar faces, there are a number of new additions worth mentioning.  So here are a few of the players I am most anxious to see on the ice this year:

 

Danny Biega – Biega is set to begin his first full professional season, after spending four years at Harvard.  He played with both of his brothers while there, and his oldest brother Alex is going to be a member of the Utica Comets this season (who, as we all know, despite being in the same conference, will not face Charlotte).  Biega played one regular season game for the Checkers last year, but sustained an upper body injury that took him out for the last 15 games of the season before he returned for the playoffs. Biega is the kind of player who could make a big impact from day one with the Checkers.

 

Austin Levi at Checkers Training camp in 2012. (Photo - J. Propst)

Austin Levi at Checkers Training camp in 2012. (Photo – J. Propst)

Austin Levi – Levi spent five seasons with the Plymouth Whalers, an organization that brought the Checkers guys like Chris Terry, Michal Jordan, Brett Bellemore and Justin Peters.  Last season, he served as an alternate captain for the Whalers.  Levi is a big, physical defenseman who knows how to shut down the opposition.  Levi’s size and work ethic should prove to be valuable assets to the Checkers this year.

 

Keegan Lowe – Lowe’s family is about as Canadian as they come (his mom was an Alpine skier at the 1988 Calgary Olympics, and his dad is a six time Stanley cup winning defenseman), but since Keegan was born in Connecticut while his dad was playing for the New York Rangers, he’s played for Team USA at international competitions. Keegan grew up in Edmonton where his dad is currently the President of Hockey Operations for the Oilers. Keegan’s Edmonton Oil Kings made it to the Western Hockey League finals last year, a seven game series with Victor Rask’s Calgary Hitmen, who ultimately won the series.  Lowe’s still developing, but should add a lot of depth to the developing defense corps in Charlotte.

 

Brendan Woods – Brendan joins the Checkers after two years at the University of Wisconsin.  He was born in Pennsylvania (like Lowe, his dad was playing hockey at the time), but grew up in Saskatchewan. His dad is an ECHL hall of famer and current NHL assistant coach of the Anaheim Ducks.  Woods is a big forward who plays center and right wing, and should learn a lot in his first professional season this year.

 

Aaron Palushaj – A gritty right winger, Palushaj is about to enter his sixth professional season, after spending two years at the University of Michigan.  He’s played for the Peoria Rivermen, Hamilton Bulldogs, Montreal Canadiens and Colorado Avalanche before signing a contract with the Carolina Hurricanes this year.  Over the summer, he won a bronze medal for Team USA in the World Championships.  Assuming he clears waivers (he’s already been claimed once in his career, which is how he ended up in Colorado last year), he’s going to be a lot of fun to watch in Charlotte.

 

Victor Rask played 10 games for the Checkers last season. (Photo: J. Propst)

Victor Rask played 10 games for the Checkers last season. (Photo: J. Propst)

Victor Rask – Victor spent the first month of the season with the Checkers last year before the Hurricanes reassigned him to his junior team, the Calgary Hitman. He had five points in 10 games with Charlotte.  Rask is a physical player with phenomenal offensive potential.  As a member of Sweden’s World Junior team, he’s won consecutive medals, a gold in 2012 and silver in 2013.  Rask played in the WHL for two years, and this will be his third season in North America.

 

Roster notes:

  •  Earlier today, the Hurricanes placed the following players on waivers: Nicolas Blanchard, Michal Jordan, Justin Peters, Zach Boychuk, Aaron Palushaj, and Jared Staal.  It is presumed they will be assigned to Charlotte if they clear at noon tomorrow.
  • Chris Terry, Zac Dalpe, Brett Bellemore, Brett Sutter and Riley Nash, who were all Checkers regulars last year, remain at Hurricanes camp, all with very good chances of making the NHL squad this year.  They would require waivers to be sent to Charlotte.
  • Jeremy Welsh and Ryan Murphy remain at Hurricanes camp and would not require waivers to be assigned.

All Checkers practices this week are open to the public from 10am-noon in Indian Trail. There’s also a preseason game against the Admirals on Friday, September 27, and there’s Norfolking way the Checkers are going to lose!  I’ll see you at training camp!

 

Hurricanes Preseason Game 1: Blue Jackets defeat Carolina 5-4

Hear that squeaking? That’s my writing rust breaking free after a summer away from the rink. Thank goodness for preseason… maybe I’ll remember how to do this again after a game or two!

Last night in Raleigh, the Hurricanes participated in their first preseason game against the Columbus Blue Jackets. The Jackets had a couple of other games this week – on Sunday at home, and followed by a split squad game where half the team played at home, and the other half was in Minnesota, so the rust seemed to be a bit less apparent in the first period, though their lineup was not nearly as stacked as that of the Hurricanes, who’s lineup was nearly completely composed of Hurricanes regulars, and a few guys on the cusp of making the team this year (specifically, Brett Bellemore, Chris Terry, Nicolas Blanchard, Brett Sutter and Michal Jordan).

I could recap the game goal by goal, but really it was a preseason game, at times a bit hard to follow because of a lineup that consisted of about 50% Canes regulars, and 50% Canes hopefuls .  The bottom line is due, I’d say, to sloppy play and still developing chemistry (or a lack thereof), and the Hurricanes lost 5-4 to the Columbus Blue Jackets.

A few relatively disjointed thoughts:

  • Michal Jordan netted his first and second NHL points with assists on goals by Alexander Semin and Jeremy Welsh.
  • Chris Terry, the Checkers alternate captain last season, also had an assist on the Welsh goal, and drew the Nikita Nikitin penalty which led to the Checkers first power play goal.  Terry spent time on both the power play and penalty kill.  As has been mentioned and written about by many others, including the great Paul Branecky, Terry is having an incredible camp, and his on-ice performance last night was quite notable.
  • Former Checker Drayson Bowman had five hits, which was second on the team to Tim Gleason’s seven.  Does anyone need a refresher on what Mr. Bowman looks like? Don’t get me wrong, he’s a phenomenal athlete, but he’s not exactly the type I’d expect to be on the giving end of huge hits, and with sizable men like Mike Komisarek and Kevin Westgarth on the ice for Carolina, I was a bit perplexed why they weren’t the ones dishing it out, and young Bowman was
  • Columbus’ goaltender Mike McKenna, who came into the game in the second in relief of Curtis McElhinney after he allowed three goals in five minutes, was perfect.  McKenna allowed zero goals on 12 shots.  He’s is a prolific tweeter (follow him, it’s worth it!) and is set to be the Springfield Falcons goalie this year.
  • At the end of two periods, shots on goal were in favor of the Hurricanes 26-15.  The third period had the Blue Jackets outshooting the Hurricanes 16-8. The third period was just sloppy all the way around, but again, it’s a preseason game, and the first one that, and I have confidence it will get better.  But still, yikes.
  • Six hours in the car and about 350 miles round trip makes for a long day, but it’s totally worth it! I need to get to more games in Raleigh. It’s great to see the NHL perspective i comparison with the AHL which I admittedly follow much more closely. I may have to check my calendar to see what other games I can attend this year!

Checkers training camp notes:

Earlier in the day, the Hurricanes announced that they had reduced their training camp roster to 35.  Sent back to the OHL was Brock McGinn, who spent time with the Checkers last year.  Assigned to Charlotte were Mike Murphy, Brody Sutter, Danny Biega, Victor Rask, Keegan Lowe, Austin Levi, Brendan Woods, Rasmus Rissanen, Beau Schmitz, Justin Shugg and new to the organization Mark Flood.  They will all be at Charlotte Checkers training camp which begins on Monday.

Charlotte Checkers Update: The Good, the Bad & the Ugly

The Good:

  • Dan Ellis makes a save for the Charlotte Checkers in Peoria on Saturday night. (Photo – S. Neer http://www.tsn-photography.com)

    The Checkers have only one more game in their nine game roadtrip before returning to Charlotte for their home opener on Sunday. Their record is currently 6-1-0-1, which is FREAKING AWESOME.  Last year, after eight games, the Checkers were 5-2-1, and in 2010 after eight games, they were 2-6.

  • Dan Ellis, after a PERFECT weekend on the road, was named the AHL player of the week.  Though he was only scheduled to play in one of the team’s three games, he played 38 minutes of the game on Friday in relief of Justin Peters, who had a bit of a shaky start.
  • Captain Brett Sutter had a hat trick on Sunday in Peoria.  Hopefully, Checkers fans will get to see another one at home this season!
  • Want to see some outstanding shots from the Checkers game in Peoria last weekend? Scott Neer of TSN Photography had some GREAT shots that are all posted at the Blue Note Zone.
  • After eight games worth of listening, it’s safe to say that the partnership with ESPN 730 is just about the COOLEST thing to come from the Checkers.  The feed is always crisp and clear, and I can stream it on my iPhone when on the road.  It’s SO much better than that product you have to pay for to get crappy video and audio!
  • The Chasing Checkers Game Day Twitter List seems to be getting a favorable response.  I will continue to add and fine tune each team’s Twitter lists and change them on game day.  Feel free to suggest people to add on any given day!
  • #LetsGoCheckers

    It’s almost Halloween, and that means pumpkin carving.  This was my first attempt at surface scraping… what do you think?

The Bad: 

  • Chris Terry was given a three-game suspension by the AHL on Sunday for a peculiar elbowing situation in Grand Rapids on Friday.  I say peculiar, because there was no call on the ice when it happened, and Grand Rapids did not submit the play for review to the AHL.  Needless to say, Chris Terry who is considered to be one of the hardest working players on the Checkers and has never missed a game due to illness or injury, will now have five missed games in his professional career, all due to suspensions due to on-ice activities in Grand Rapids, Michigan.  Following the first-period elbow in Grand Rapids, Terry went on to score the game winning goal shorthanded, and added an empty net goal to seal the win for the Checkers. Terry SHOULD make his Checkers home appearance next Tuesday against Chicago.
  • My friends over at The Admirals Roundtable will have seen MY team, the Charlotte Checkers, twice after tomorrow night, and fans here at home still have yet to see them.  It’s not fair! Thankfully, waiting until Sunday seems bearable at this time.
  • I picked up my season tickets on Friday, though I wasn’t able to hang out for BBQ (and as a vegetarian, it wasn’t a huge loss, though I must say, the Q has great sides and an amazing beer selection!).  Is it petty for me to say I was a bit disappointed to have them handed to me in a manila envelope when I know other teams had much fancier presentation with souvenirs and mementos included? After getting cool Tervis tumblers season one along with a fun meet-the-team event, and season ticket holder jerseys season two… a plain envelope was a bit of a let down.
  • As you can probably tell, I’ve decided not to do game-day previews for away games this season.  As a graduate student desperately trying to finish my Master’s thesis, and having a crazy job in the busiest time of the year, I just can’t keep up with everything, so away games were the first sacrifice.  If you’d like to contribute to Chasing Checkers as a regular contributor of things like previews, please drop me a line and I can put you to work!

The Ugly:

  • Despite having a large roster of healthy players to pull from, Jared Staal and Justin Soryal have each only played in one game this season.  Soryal made the cut on Sunday in Peoria after Terry was suspended, and Staal’s only start came during the season opener in Houston on October 13.  Last week, Paul Branecky reported that Staal had a maintenance day, which just… seems peculiar considering he hasn’t played a game in weeks.
  • AJ Jenks and Justin Krueger have each only played in three games.  Their games tend to come with Victor Rask or Justin Faulk are scratched, neither of whom has had to play a three-in-three yet.

Quick Hits: A look back on the first month, thoughts on goalie charging

News and notes worth talking about.

1.  How about the Checkers?

Nine games in a row on the road, and they ended the roadtrip 5-4-0, which is pretty darn good if you ask me.  The travel was brutal, and involved overnight bus trips or 4:00 a.m. wake up calls on game days, but the team really pulled through, especially playing the majority of their games against teams in two of the toughest divisions in the AHL.

All in all, the Checkers should be commended for their efforts over the stretch.  The guys are probably happier than the fans are to be home for a bit, with only one game on the road (and in relatively close-by Norfolk) over the next nine games.

2.  Looking back at last season versus this year

The Checkers are 16 games into the 2011/12 season.  This is about 1/5 of the way through the year.  They have 19 points, and a record of 9-6-1-0, and lead their division.  Of the 16 games they’ve played, 11 of them have been on the road.

At this time in 2010, the Checkers were 6-7-1-2, with 15 points at the 16-game mark in early November.  They’d had seven home games (versus the five this year), and hardly looked like the playoff-caliber team they finished the season as.

It’s great to see a team that has come together so quickly, especially facing the adversity of a new division, new conference and a whole new type of travel.  Now… if only some of the awesomeness that is the Checkers would rub off on the Hurricanes….

3.  The Ryan Miller / Milan Lucic situation.

OK, so this is hardly current anymore, but I’m still upset that there was NO suspension/fine/slap on the wrist go to the principal’s office on Milan Lucic’s hit on Ryan Miller. It’s amazing to me that the guy didn’t get any discipline following the hit.  He raises his arms when he approaches Miller.  He doesn’t try to stop.  I don’t care that Miller wasn’t in the crease.  If Miller wasn’t a goalie, it STILL would have been a dirty hit.  

If you are interested in Ryan Miller’s response, here’s a great video.  Um… probably not safe for work, unless like me, you work with a bunch of foul-mouthed sailor types.  

Why does this have anything at all to do with the Checkers?  Because one week ago, our own Chris Terry was suspended for two games for a “charging” call on the Grand Rapids goaltender.  Obviously, MacDonald was in the crease, which is a more protected area, but Terry wasn’t TRYING to knock him down.  

According to the Grand Rapids Press, MacDonald missed the past three games, but may be able to return to the ice early next week.

Chris Terry is a guy with a previously pristine record as far as discipline is concerned.  He was also thrown even harder into the crease by the Griffins Tomas Tatar.  The fact that Terry received a two game suspension and Lucic got nothing?  That frustrates me!  I totally get it’s not the same league, not the same people enforcing the rules, but Brendan ShanaBan has made a name for himself in being tough, and I hate he let Lucic, a repeat offender, slide.

4.  Movember!

Am I the only one super excited about seeing the Movember progress on Friday night?  Mustaches are so gross, but I LOVE them during this month!  Since I’m unable to grow one, I’ve been wearing my super-special mustache necklace quite a bit, and hope it will bring the Checkers some luck this weekend against the IceHogs.  If you haven’t already, DONATE to Team Terry or Team Durno.

Long overdue game notes and quotes from Friday’s game in Raleigh

Long overdue game notes from Friday.  The Canes lost to the Nashville Predators 3-2 in their second preseason game:

  • Crappy cellphone pic, but if there were 6000 fans at the game, there would be about one fan for every three seats...

    The attendance for the game is listed as 6375, but if there were actually more than 2000 people in the stands, it would be shocking.  Preseason games are usually poorly attended, but the small turnout was still surprising.

  • The following players were all competing for roster spots on Friday night, or will otherwise join the Checkers in Charlotte this season:  Brett Sutter, Drayson Bowman, Zach Boychuk, Chris Terry, Justin Faulk, Riley Nash, Justin Peters
  • Chris Terry

    Chris Terry makes his first NHL preseason start against the Nashville Predators. Photo Credit: Jenni Propst

    Friday marked Terry’s first NHL game (preseason or otherwise) since he was drafted by the Hurricanes in 2007.  He had no problems getting in front of the net and going after rebounds, and played a very physical game.  After the game, he said, “It was pretty good.  I was excited, a little nervous headed in, but overall thought it was pretty good for my first one.”  He also shared that his off-season training with Gary Roberts in Toronto gave him a huge improvement in his fitness and intensity.

  • Brett Sutter was incredibly physical, and had a lot of grit, characteristics that he displayed during his season with Charlotte.  He was going into the corners and playing with a lot of determination.  He seemed to really fit in with the Hurricanes, and had a very impressive performance.  He had over a minute of penalty kill TOI, in a game which only saw one minor penalty by the Hurricanes. 
  • Zach Boychuk seemed quiet and rather subdued.  In Charlotte, he was known for being one of the louder, chirpier players, but he seemed quiet Friday, at least at the morning skate and warmups when I was close enough to hear him.  Almost six of his 12 minutes of ice time came during the third period, when he played predominantly with Riley Nash and Brett Sutter.
  • Justin Faulk

    Justin Faulk makes his second NHL preseason start. He played the majority of the game with fellow rookie and D standout Ryan Murphy. Photo Credit: Jenni Propst

    Drayson Bowman had a very strong game.  He had a lot of finesse, which is not surprising having skated with the Hurricanes for the last month of the season last year.

  • Justin Peters played the final period, and stopped eight of the 10 shots he faced.  His performance did not leave me with a lot of confidence for the upcoming Checkers season.  He appeared in only 12 games last season, with a record of 3-5-1 (.875 SV%, 3.98 GAA).  This year, I would expect him to see much more ice time between the pipes, but with the strong end to Mike Murphy’s season last year and his undisputed number one goalie status, it will be interesting to see how the Checkers handle the goaltending situation this year.

The one about the worst hockey movie ever made… so bad I watched it twice

Farley Gordon or Jeff Skinner.... the resemblance is AMAZING!

One of Chasing Checkers best friends gave me an epicly awesome birthday present this year…. a video ordered all the way from the exotic website Amazon.CA… SCORE, A Hockey Musical.  I’m not sure why any movie studio thought combining singing, hockey and a really bad plot was worthy of producing, but I am SO GLAD they took a risk.

 

The main guy in the movie is a kid named Farley.  He’s a home-schooled kid who’s parents are artistic hippies and don’t let him play organized sports, a self proclaimed weirdo who doesn’t fit in.  There’s a Jeff Skinner like quality about Farley…. his smile, his innocence, the faint blush on his cheeks… if only the REAL Jeff Skinner would burst into song, or could play the accordion like Farley can.  THEN we’d have a real superhero hockey player in Raleigh!

 

It only takes a few horribly scripted songs to discover that Farley, who I think I’ll refer to as Jeff Skinner from here on out, is the son of none other than OLIVIA NEWTON-JOHN, of Grease fame.  (Of course, Newton-John is Australian…. not sure how she was cast in a Canadian hockey musical…)  Her most memorable line was, “Dear, don’t go outside, it’s as cold as Venus, you’ll get frostbite on your….” (Don’t worry, she didn’t finish the phrase!)

 

So Jeff Skinner is recruited to play for the Brampton Blades, who’s logo isn’t a skate blade as you might expect, but is instead a circular saw blade, and quite scary looking!  Jeff Skinner had a rather moving solo in the dressing room of the Brampton Blades when the coach was trying to convince him to quit the team.  I thought I’d share some of the riveting lyrics with you:

Oh, Jeff Skinner, you are so adorable!

“Just because I still have my front teeth

Doesn’t mean I can’t compete.

I might not come with a hockey pedigree,

Why can’t I still dream of being the next Crosby

 

 

Another memorable line:  Hockey without fighting is like Kraft Dinner without Cheese

 

During the fight scene that reminds one of the Charleston Chiefs in Slapshot, there’s a very choreographed dance of sorts between the opposing players.  All I’m saying is it gives a whole new meaning to the term, “Fight Choreography.”  Until this moment, I hoped the hockey player actors were actual junior hockey players in Canada, but after seeing them dance, I take those thoughts back, because NOBODY needs to be humiliated like that, and have it captured on film.  I can’t imagine the hazing those kids would go through later in life when clips of the movie show up in their professional dressing rooms.
As we were watching the movie, I realized I was pretty sure one of the Charlotte Checkers was from Brampton…. so I looked at our roster, and discovered none other than Chris Terry is a Brampton native.  I wish I could ask Mr. Terryiffic if he was around town when this cinematic gem was filmed.  I am also curious if he knows anyone that was an extra in the movie, and if so, could he get my DVD autographed.  Heck, maybe I should just ask Chris to sign my copy since he’s an actual resident of the famed town of Brampton.

 

If I was going to make it to Canada this summer, I can assure you I would make a pilgrimage to Brampton just to see the sites the movie was filmed in.  I thought it was awesome going to Salzburg, Austria a few summers ago to visit places the Sound of Music was filmed, but I don’t think that can compare to setting foot inside the barn the mythical Brampton Blades played in.

 

Later into the movie, I was very disturbed by another song and dance routine the team did in the dressing room in various stages of undress.  The dancing had a kind of Backstreet Boys feel… and it was all about being “Real Men”, but I was bothered by a number of things.  First of all, real men do NOT dance around in their underwear in choreographed routines.  Secondly, a real man hockey player would NEVER dance on top of the team’s crest on the floor of the room.  They defaced the Brampton Blades with their singing and dancing!  If someone did that to the Checkers logo (not that there is one on the floor of the Checkers dressing room) I would be horrified and offended.  Come on, Score, a Jeff Skinner Musical writers.  I can’t believe you let the boys dance on the logo like that!  It’s COMPLETELY unrealistic!

 

So, anyway, if you haven’t seen Score, the Jeff Skinner Musical go out and rent it RIGHT AWAY!  Of course, I doubt you’ll find it at Redbox, and maybe not on Netflix and it’s so bad I don’t even think they’d show it on the Lifetime movie channel, but if you are a trustworthy friend of mine, I MIGHT let you borrow it, if you put down a MAJOR security deposit.  (We’re talking about your name signed in blood, or an autographed Sidney Crosby jersey as collateral!)

 

Seriously, you need to see this movie….. the GREAT ONE’S DAD is in it!  OK, Wayne isn’t, but WALTER IS!  And so is Theo Fleury, AND HE SINGS!  He’s like… a singing hockey angel.  So for as awful as this movie is, it somehow gets street cred with the cameos by a Fleury and a Gretzky!
Walk… no RUN…. to Amazon.ca and get your own copy of this movie.  It will change your life, it changed mine!

 

 

The one about Senators links, and moving onto the third round

I’m still not sure I’ve come down from the win last night…. and I wasn’t there, and certainly wasn’t an actual part of the team playing in Wilkes-Barre.  What the Checkers did this series AND Last is just phenomenal.  They overcame the back-to-back Calder Cup Champions in the first round, and then in the second, defeated the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins, a team many believed would be the one to go all the way.  The Checkers had a great year in Charlotte, but the Pens had 20 more points in the final standings, the goalie of the year, and coach of the year.  On paper, they should have been nearly unstoppable.  I could write a formal write up of the game, but I think I’ll leave my “documentation” to the cheesy liveblog my friends and I wrote during the game, though I will say one more time.  CHRIS TERRY WAS TERRYIFFIC!  Can we please get this term written into Checkers terminology?

So here we are, in our inaugural season in Charlotte, heading into the third round of the AHL  playoffs, a round that will determine the Eastern conference champions, and who will go on to battle for the ultimate AHL trophy, the Calder Cup.  It’s pretty incredible, and I can’t wait to see it unfold, and cheer our team all the way to the finish.

I’ve got a busy week ahead of me between work and family stuff, but I’m planning to go to practice a couple of times, and I’m going to write something more “formal” in the way of stats and a comparison of the Sens and Checkers, but wanted to get a few things down right now off the top of my head.

Binghamton Senators Fast Facts:

  • Like the Checkers, Binghamton are in the East division of the East conference.  The finished fifth in our division, but earned a “transfer” spot to the Atlantic conference by finishing ahead of their fourth seed.
  • The Senators finished the season with 92 points (compared to the Checkers 97 points)
  • In eight games verses Binghamton, the Checkers had a record of 4-3-1.
  • Like the Checkers, Binghamton had to defeat the first and second seeds in their playoff division to make it to the Conference finals.
Binghamton Twitter accounts and Links of Interest:
Finally… a plea, to you, the readers!
It kills me to say this, because I truly am heartbroken to miss the games, but I won’t be there on Thursday or Friday night at TWCA. My baby brother is graduating with his master’s degree, so I’ll be in Chicago with the family celebrating his huge accomplishiment.  I thought about changing my flight to late Friday night or Saturday morning, but it’s expensive, and it’s not like life won’t go on without hockey!  What I need is some people who want to volunteer to write some kind of post-game write up.  It’ll be unlikely that I can even listen to the game on the radio, let alone see it, so I need your help.  If you are interested, drop me an email to chasingthecheckers (at) gmail.com.
That’s it for now… be looking for more updates this week!
Lets Go Checkers

The one about Lets Go Checkers, and rallying together

So, I was beginning to feel as neurotic as a goalie, freaking out about superstitions, to the point that for a hot second, I actually worried that by not drinking North Carolina beer prior to the game last night, I hurt my team’s chances.  (I know, there is NO WAY that North Carolina beer makes a difference, although it is good beer…. I’d had Craggie’s Antebellum Ale prior to games three and four, but none until AFTER the game yesterday).  Anyway.  So I’m changing my outlook, and starting fresh.  I am not wearing the same things I wore to the three games this week, though I will don my Chris Terry jersey before puck drop because it only seems right to cheer for my team wearing one of my favorite player’s name and number.

From here on out, it’s not about superstitions and rituals.  It’s about what feels right, and what makes me feel good, but first and foremost, what is the most positive, and exudes the most positive energy.  No voo-doo dolls, or goalie sucks chants (because, I’ve said it a million times, Brad Thiessen doesn’t suck, as much as I wish he did!!!!).  No taunting fans of the other team who are only being trolls and begging for attention.  Only positive feelings from here on out!

The bottom line is, I believe in my head and my heart that the Checkers are the better team.  I believe they have everything it takes to win.  Obviously, the Penguins are a strong team.  They have one of the best netminders in the league, and some great, NHL caliber guys on their roster.  It’s going to be a fight to the finish, and with every ounce of my being, I want the Checkers to come out victorious, and I believe they can and they will.

So tonight, I’m watching the game with some of my favorite people and fellow Checkers fans.  We’re going to cheer for our team, and applaud them until the final buzzer.  If our voices could carry 600 miles, I’m sure Mike Murphy would be able to hear us chanting his name all the way in Wilkes-Barre.

This team means the world to me… more than I dreamed they would when I bought my season tickets a little over a year ago, shortly after it was announced Charlotte was getting an AHL franchise.  I believe in the Charlotte Checkers, and I believe they are going to win tonight.

Lets Go Checkers

The one about winning in OT! Checkers lead series 2-1

My evening at the arena started off with a very nice lady asking me about my Plymouth Whalers jersey and if I was from Michigan.  I assured her I was not, and just a fan of the team and former players, and that Terry had been a favorite of mine all season long, at which point she finally told me she was Chris’ mom.  I wish I’d had more time to talk to her, because if I had I would have told her how much I’d enjoyed watching him play this year, and that he went from just another player in the lineup, to the one I most look forward to skating, and that we gave him the nickname Terryiffic (what can I say, I like making up nicknames!).  I would have loved to tell her how genuine he was on the few occasions I’ve spoken to him, and how much he means to this team, both on and off the ice.  I can count on my hands the number of times I’ve spoken to Terry, and that’s three, and each time he impressed me with his sincerity and charisma, which is why I went to the trouble of getting a Plymouth Whalers jersey complete with his name, number and Captain’s C.  I think mom’s need to hear stuff like that about their children, and Mrs. Terry should have the privilege of hearing from the fans in Charlotte how much her son means to us!

So onto the game… I’ve decided that I am a horrible blogger when it comes to recounting specific details of a game.  I watched it with all kinds of enthusiasm, but I’m terrible at minute details, especially when it comes to remembering them.  I tried to jot down notes at intermission, but too much was running through my head.  So, a few random thoughts:

  • I have been wondering how the NHL tracks Time On Ice.  Do they have special stopwatches?  A guy who just times each and every player?  Can I borrow one of these special contraptions from an NHL team?  Can I sign up to learn how to be a stop watch runner?  I was the scorekeeper for my middle school volleyball team… I’m sure I could learn.  Do the Hurricanes have the necessary equipment in Raleigh?  Can I borrow it since they don’t need it till next year?  I REALLY wish we could see how much time the Checkers D-men spend on the ice, because wow, was it unbalanced (once again).  The majority of minutes were taken up by Jordan and Bellemore (as usual) with a close second to Rodney and Faulk (wow, that kid can SKATE!  We’ve nicknamed him Wheels, until something better comes along!).  Borer seemed to take more shifts than Sanguinetti, but still not close to the time the top two pairs got.  Sanguinetti was put into the lineup in place of Zack Fitzgerald, who was a healthy scratch.  I really hope that Sanguinetti gets his magic back…
  • I thought Michal Jordan was going to drop the gloves only minutes into the first period.  Jordan is the kind of player you want on your side… especially when Mike Murphy is in net.  Jordan is very defensively minded, loyal, and rarely takes stupid penalties, and he is ALWAYS there when his goaltender needs him.  He had an outstanding game tonight, and finished the evening with a +2.
  • It was pretty great for a Monday night in Charlotte to have a crowd of 3700 fill the stands.  While the numbers were much less than the 12K + we had at some weekend games during the season, they were into it, cheering and backing the team.  I love a loud, enthusiastic crowd.  What I REALLY want to see is these numbers increase this week!  I bought my parents tickets to the game on Wednesday, and they are driving in from Boone, NC to take in their first playoff game, and are super excited.  So I would encourage each and every one of you reading this to bring a friend (OR MORE!) to the games this week.  Our team needs our support!
  • Seriously?  Checkmates danced at all three intermissions?  That is three times too many, in my opinion!  Uggh.  In the words of Ralph from The Simpsons, their bad dancing made my feet hurt.
  • I kind of hate the “*insert goalie name here* Sucks” chants.  I don’t believe the are effective at all, and would much prefer a good LETS GO CHECKERS chant to be echoing through the arena.  I’m a Checkers fan, down to the bone, but the Thiessen sucks chants bugged me tonight, because it doesn’t matter how much I love my team, that kid is REALLY FREAKING GOOD.  He made saves most goalies never would be able to make, and played an incredible game.
  •  The OT Game Winner by Brett Sutter was a shot no goalie could have EVER stopped (though high blocker side does seem to be Thiessen’s weakness, from what I’ve seen.  So take note of that, Checkers, and shoot high, blocker side!)
  • Mike Murphy was just… AMAZING tonight.  He made some incredible saves, time and time again.  Watching him develop and grow this season, even just in the past four months, has been amazing.  I noticed a drastic period of growth with him that began in late December/Early January, and now, in May, he’s a different goaltender.  He’s brimming with confidence, and knows he can make the plays and stop pucks in ways he didn’t before.  He’s definitely a superstar in my book!
  • Despite the fact that the font is TOTALLY incorrect and a blatant jersey (tshirt) foul, I was excited to see NEW name and number tees on sale at the merch booth!  I bought a Murphy one, and considered getting a Dalpe one as well, to go along with the other two I already own.  Charlotte Checkers, rocking the merchandise world.  (Next batch though, can you PLEASE use accurate fonts to match the player jerseys?  Pleaseandthankyou!)
  • We missed a number of breakaway attempts…. at least four that I can recall (Terry, Dalpe, Boychuck and someone else I can’t remember).  Somehow, we have to figure out how to score on these.
  • I was glad we stayed out of the box more than last game!  There were some pretty dirty dives by the Penguins, and missed calls on both sides, but that’s hockey I guess.  The special teams on both sides were outstanding.
  • I am too tired to upload pics, but I saw some hilarious and awesome signs in the crowd tonight, and was inspired to maybe make something epic and awesome for Wednesday and Friday.  The best sign of the night I saw was “Murphy makes more saves than Jesus.”   OK, so maybe it’s a bit sacrilegious, and my dad the Pastor wouldn’t approve, but it made me giggle, anyway!
  • Mike Lappan deserves all of the credit for this stat find, but tonight was the WBS Pens FIRST OT loss of the season, and they only lost one in the shootout, in 80 regular season games.  WOW.  One more reason to be proud of our Charlotte Checkers!
I will see y’all on Wednesday at TWCA.  Loud and proud, Charlotte!  That’s what we need to be!
Lets Go Checkers!