The plight of realignment for the Charlotte Checkers – an editorial by @RedDogHockey

Yesterday’s article about AHL realignment created a lot of great dialogue with a number of readers, and this came from one of those conversations.  In his first post for Chasing Checkers, Tony shares some of his opinions about recent realignment.  You can follow Tony on Twitter at @RedDogHockey
The new AHL realignment structure came out yesterdayday, and it looks like more of the same for the Checkers schedule-wise for 2013-14.  That means another season out of place geographically in their division, too many games against their closest competitor, Norfolk, and the likelihood that they will not face a handful of teams in their own Conference.  
I think it is remiss that the Checkers and many other teams in the AHL do not play all of the teams in their own conference in the regular season.  It makes the conferences and divisions almost insignificant.  For example, if either of Norfolk or Charlotte are exceptionally weak teams this season and therefore one of them gets an advantage by playing more games against the other than the rest of their respective Conference foes do, how does that skew the standings and playoff possibilities?  The same goes for other teams that might play a team from another Conference more than their other Conference foes currently do for the sake of “geographical convenience”.
 
Talk about travel inconveniences for teams from smaller markets all you want, but how is it convenient for Charlotte to have division rivals as far as 3,000 miles away and no closer than 1,000 miles away and yet not play other teams in their Conference that are less than 1,000 miles away?  It sounds to me like the Checkers are taking one for the league because they have a major airline hub in town, and travel is seen as “easier” for them as it might be for other teams in smaller markets.
 
My solution?  Move Iowa to the West Division from the Midwest, put Lake Erie in the Midwest Division from the North, have Utica move from the North to the East Division, and place Charlotte and Norfolk in the North Division. Charlotte in a division named North is far less non-sensical than having them in a division named West.  Charlotte and Norfolk would get to continue their geographic rivalry (and, oddly, maybe play each other less than they do now?) while still fulfilling their travel obligations as a Western Conference team.  Norfolk’s travel dilemma is easily rectified.  Schedule Norfolk for games out West right after they play here and then they can use Charlotte’s airport as a gateway out West the next day to fulfill their away Western Conference schedule.  Do the same for Iowa.  Have them play in Chicago, then use O’Hare to head West to play their division foes.  The Midwest Division teams can use Chicago in this same way as well.  And Austin and Oklahoma City are close enough to Dallas/Fort Worth that this same scenario can be used by playing in Austin or OKC and then heading out from DFW to Vancouver (Abbotsford), Des Moines, Charlotte or Toronto. 
 
I am one of many relocated Western New Yorkers that has planted roots in Charlotte over the past 20 years, and I would love to see the Amerks come to town.  They, along w/Toronto and Hamilton (all three fellow Western Conference teams like Charlotte is) should be here at least once per season, and vice versa w/Charlotte visiting those three cities.  I imagine there are many other Charlotte residents that have come here to live from Western New York and the Golden Horseshoe area of Ontario that would love to see their local teams play in Charlotte.  Attendance for those games couldn’t be worse than they are for the 6th home date against Norfolk.  
 
If increased attendance is a primary objective of the league, then it just makes sense to give fans as much variety as possible.  The NHL tried a decreased travel schedule a few years ago, and the result was that the same teams played each other too often.  Some NHL teams did not visit other NHL teams every year, and in some instances the duration between visits by some teams in some NHL cities was longer than that.  The NHL ended up scrapping this schedule format and one of the reasons it did was that fans wanted to see all of the teams visit every other NHL city at last once per season as it had been previously, and which now happens again.  I know the AHL does not have the star power that the NHL does, but to not have all teams grouped efficiently geographically, and even worse, to not have Conference foes play each other at all in the regular season (yet still have the opportunity to meet in the first, second, or third round of the playoffs) or maximize the number of teams faced seems like a watered down product to me.  Let’s hope that changes soon.

 

Road Trip to Charlotte – a Texas Stars fan perspective

I love Twitter. I love that it introduces me to great people and fans of teams all across the country. I’ve had the privilege of meeting a lot of great AHL fans, and while I didn’t get to greet Erinn personally this weekend, she was great enough to put together a review of her weekend in Charlotte.  When I visit new arenas (like I did last season with Peoria/Rockford/Chicago/Milwaukee) I enjoy putting together my thoughts and observations about the new venues.  This is just as interesting to me, because I got to read what visitors to my beloved city see! So, without further adieu, Erinn’s recap!  You can follow her on Twitter at @atxstarsgirl

 

Road Trip to Charlotte

We arrived at Charlotte Douglas International Airport on Friday afternoon and hopped into a cab and made our way to uptown. We checked in at the Aloft in the Epicenter.  Wow, what a great location so much to do within walking distance!

About an hour before game time we made our way over to the Time Warner Cable Arena and strangely were metal detected. We’ve only run into this at one other arena and that was in Cleveland. I would say it’s a basketball arena thing but we don’t have to do this in San Antonio or Houston.  Maybe we’re more trusting in Texas?

One of the things that first struck me about this venue is that I couldn’t tell it was a basketball arena.  In Cleveland, San Antonio and Houston its very obvious that this is a hockey rink worked into a basketball arena. Kudos to Charlotte for getting it right.  The next thing that struck me about Charlotte was the fans.  Everyone was so very nice and accommodating!  Not a nasty comment the entire night. In fact, just the opposite. The fans here are just as passionate about their team as Mark and I are about our team.

We had the chance to truly enjoy a unique event in the Old Time Hockey weekend at Charlotte.  We ended up staying in the same hotel as the Hanson brothers and kept running into them. They were fun to watch at intermission and the bit with the kids chasing them off the ice was priceless.

Saturday day Uptown was invaded by 1000’s of green clad Charlotte residents in town to celebrate St. Patrick’s day. We enjoyed the parade and spent a long time at the street festival. It seems all we did all day was eat!

Saturday night we went to the viewing of Slapshot at the Studio Movie Grill where we had the chance to meet some of the Checkers players and I must say their reaction to us in our Stars gear was priceless, one of the players, I think it was Matt Marquardt, did a double take and said “I don’t like your shirts, but hi.”  Then as we were headed to the theater one of the other guys yells “Get ‘Em!” and then lunged at us, all in good fun. Made us both laugh!

Finally on Sunday we enjoyed another game at Time Warner Arena, our fan experience this time was just a great as it was on Friday (The fan yelling at us to go the “F***” home not with standing). We rather enjoyed watching the kiddos in the box between the two benches playing and watching the game and watching our guys smile and wave at them.

We’ve been on many hockey trips in the last two years, this one completing our quest to hit every arena in the Western Conference.  Mark and I both agree that our trip to Charlotte was just about perfect. Thanks for having us, wish we could come back in April!

What we recommend:

Stay: The Aloft in the Epicenter, they have a Charlotte Checkers Rate!

Eat: We enjoyed Ri Ra Irish Pub, Merts Heart and Soul, Roosters and Mortimar’s was great for people watching on Saturday afternoon.


-Erinn Hughes

Texas Stars Hockey Fan

 

Justin the nick of time – Checkers win 3-2 in the shootout with goal from Krueger

After dominating a big chunk of the game, the Charlotte Checkers topped the Houston Aeros 3-2 in a shootout Friday evening. The Checkers had a second period goal from Nic Blanchard and a game-tying goal from Justin Faulk with 12.8 seconds remaining in regulation. Justin Krueger scored the game-winner in the shootout. David McIntyre and Marco Scandella found the back of the net for Houston.

The Checkers got off to a strong start in the first period, outshooting the Aeros 11-4 and dominating the scoring chances. Drayson Bowman nearly put the Checkers on the board when he was fed a pass in front from Zac Dalpe, but the veteran forward pushed the puck wide off of a Houston defender’s lumber.

Checkers goaltender Dan Ellis was able to stay sharp which isn’t always easy with so little action.

“You have to move with the puck, move as the puck moves”,said Ellis, “and hopefully that gives you enough rhythm that when the puck does come that you have a little bit of a feel.”

Matt Hackett kept the game scoreless through the first, fending off all of Charlotte’s chances. He even battled through the fierce heckling from a misguided fan donning a Roberto Luongo sweater.

The Checkers’ hard work finally paid off seven minutes into the second period when Nic Blanchard tipped in a feed from Jerome Samson. Samson, bringing some skill to the fourth line, split through the Houston defenders to create a 3-on-1, slipped a pass over to Blanchard who redirected it in as he barreled into the goal.

Minutes after the Checkers took a 1-0 lead, Houston phenom and Minnesota’s top prospect Mikael Granlund moved in on a breakaway, deked forehand to backhand and attempted to go top shelf on Ellis, but the Checkers netminder came up with a brilliant glove save.

With under a minute remaining in the second, the Aeros knotted it up at 1 on a rebound goal by David McIntyre. Following a seeing-eye shot from the point, the puck squeezed through the pads of Ellis and McIntyre buried the rubber in the back of the net.

The Aeros completed the momentum shift early in the third when defenseman Marco Scandella saw an opening and snuck behind the Checkers defense and buried a wide open chance on Ellis, giving Houston a 2-1 advantage.

The Checkers didn’t get discouraged falling behind. They kept a majority of the play in the Houston zone and had a plethora of scoring chances throughout the period before Justin Faulk drew the game even at 2 with 12.8 seconds remaining in the game. Faulk received the puck at the point, hesitated and fired a slapshot through traffic that clipped Hackett’s glove and found the back of the net.

Justin Krueger scores in the seventh round for the Charlotte Checkers (Photo - J. Propst)

Justin Krueger scores in the seventh round for the Charlotte Checkers (Photo – J. Propst)

After a scoreless overtime period, Justin Krueger made a nifty move in the seventh round of the shootout to sneak the puck past the extended left pad of Hackett to give the Checkers the advantage where Ellis made short work of Nick Palmieri’s chance. Jerome Samson, Chris Terry and Zac Dalpe also scored in the shootout for Charlotte.

In their 26th game of the year, the Checkers have reached the first intermission of the 2012-13 season, however there isn’t much of a break to resurface the ice, let alone catch their breath with a game at noon tomorrow in Charlotte, and Sunday afternoon in San Antonio.

After a rough start to the home stand, Krueger was enthusiastic after the game about the direction his team is heading.

“It’s important for teams to have character and come back together and learn from those mistakes and why we lost those games and take the momentum,” Said Krueger, “We’ve got to keep rolling here.”

The One About the ’12-’13 Schedule.

Tess and Haley here again! First of all, our apologies for not posting our thoughts earlier, Haley and I have been pretty busy between moving, school, work, and life. Regardless, better late than never!

We’ll go ahead and start this off with the massive elephant in the room. To rip it off like a band-aid, the Checkers don’t play at home until November 4th, nearly a month after their season starts. Luckily, the nine away-game stretch that starts out the season is the longest our fellas will be away. The hockey gods giveth, and the hockey gods taketh… and thankfully they made up for that nine game stretch by giving us a 10 game stretch at home from November 24th to December 15th!

As for the competitors this season, though the Checkers have once again changed divisions, the opponents won’t be all too unfamiliar. All of Charlotte’s adversaries this season are in the Western conference, with the exception of area rival, Norfolk Admirals. The team will face each of their South Division foes (Houston, Oklahoma City, San Antonio, and Texas). Since joining the Western Conference the Checkers have yet to face Hamilton, Rochester, and Toronto and will continue not oppose them during the regular season. However they will face Norfolk, Houston, OKC, Peoria, Milwaukee and Texas eight times and Abbotsford, Chicago, Grand Rapids, Lake Erie, and Rockford four times.

There are a few notable games in the schedule. The Checkers will have two doubleheaders with the Bobcats this season, December 15th and January 12th. On both dates the Checkers will play at noon and the Bobcats will follow at 7 pm. The November 24th game coincides with the team’s 5K Run & Walk, which is still open for registration and volunteer help.

The last game to keep your eye out for is on January 6th. The team will play in Raleigh against the Norfolk Admirals, the reigning Calder Cup champions. Keep in mind that the ‘Canes play the Isles the night before in Raleigh as well so make a weekend out of it! We’d also like to make note that the promotional schedule has yet to be released, so we’ll be sure to make mention of more notable games later.

Lastly, the Checkers have a huge advantage towards the end of the season. During the month of February the team only plays eight games, two of which are at home, then play 14 of their next 18 games at home, spanning from March 1st to April 12th. After the 12th, the team closes the season with four away games, ending regular season on April 20th.

To check out the Checkers schedule for yourself, go here. For the full AHL schedule, click here.
As always, we look forward to writing much more about the season to come!

 

 

Introducing Brandon Gentile, Welcoming Back Justin Peters, and Saying Farewell to John Muse

Haley and I are back with another Checkers update, we bear no rap this time around but we do have big news.

This season the Checkers have acquired some amazing flow. Not to be outdone in the hair department by any other team, the Checkers have signed defenseman, and keeper of the sickest Checker flow yet, Brandon Gentile to a PTO. Gentile turns 25 in April, and is a left-shot, defensive defenseman, from Clarkston, Michigan. He began his career with the U.S. National Under-18 Team then took the college route attending Michigan State for four years. From college he then played for the ECHL’s Gwinnett Gladiators, IHL’s Flint Generals, ECHL Alaska Ace’s, and then comes to us fresh off of a PTO with the Bridgeport Sound Tigers. We can’t be absolutely positive, but he may also be Thor in is free time.

Now, for the goalie situation. We all know being a Checkers tendy has been pretty wild as of late, but now it seems the waters have gone still. Both Justin Peters and John Muse have been reassigned to their respective teams. Everyone is finally healthy and moves had to be made. We first of all want to thank Muse, for his tremendous work while in Charlotte that earned him the nickname “Muses”. We don’t think anyone could have expected how phenomenal he’d be between the pipes for the Checkers. On the flip side, we’re happy to see the original CLT goalie tandem reunited for the first time in three months. It’s been so long in fact some have almost forgotten Justin Peters started the season with us. Hopefully he’ll step right back in and be in his November state that earned him the AHL goalie of the month. The reassignment of Peters also means a couple more things. 1) The Hurricanes are no longer entertaining the idea of sending Brian Boucher down for a conditioning stint, and 2) the Checkers no longer run the risk of Justin Peters not making their Clear Day roster.

Don’t forget to check out the Checkers’ article on the situation as well here.

Introducing Joe Sova

Nearly ten seconds after Joe Sova was acquired via trade from the New Jersey Devils (Alexei Ponikarovsky for fourth round 2012 pick and Sova) Chasing Checkers contributor Haley and I began cracking jokes to defer the shock of the trade. Suddenly Haley started singing Jay-Z’s “Izzo”… but with a twist. This little remix turned into an entire remake, Checkers style.

Ladies and gentlemen, put our hands together for the astonishing…
S to the izz-O…V to the izz-A…

Welcome ladies and gentlemen to the 8th wonder of the world
The flow o’ the century…oh it’s timeless…SOVE!
Thanks for comin’ out tonight
You coulda been anywhere in the world, but you’re here with me
I appreciate that…uuunnnh…

S to the izz-O, V to the izz-A
Fo’ shizzle my nizzle used to dangle up in NJ
Was scorin’ em in the state of the garden
Got it dirt cheap for them
Plus if they was short wit’ cheese I would work wit’ them
Boy and we…got rid of that dirt for them
Wasn’t born grinders I was checkin’ em
S to the izz-O, V to the izz-A
Fo’ sheezy my neezy keep my arms so breezy
Can’t leave puck alone the game needs me
Haters want me knocked and benched it ain’t easy
Teams wanna knock me, Refs wanna box me in
But somehow, I beat them penalties like Suttsy
S to the izz-O, V to the izz-A
Not guilty, he who does not feel me is not real to me
Therefore he doesn’t exist
So poof…vamoose son of a [expletive]

S to the izz-O, V to the izz-A
Fo’ shizzle my nizzle used to dangle up in NJ
S to the izz-O, V to the izz-A
That’s the anthem get’cha foam hands up
S to the izz-O, V to the izz-A
Not guilty ya’ll got-ta feel me
S to the izz-O, V to the izz-A
That’s the anthem get’cha foam hands UP!

I do this for my culture
To let ‘em know what a d-man look like…when a d-man is a Checker
Show ‘em how to deke on a rink full ‘o dusters
Iron League beastly, it need to be taken over
Ticket owners love me I’m raisin’ the Calder Cup up
I’m always chirpin’ benders for how they did on the odd rush
Watch us like you own us for all the years that you hold us
We can talk, but scorin’ talks so talk mo’ pucks

[CHORUS]

Yeah…
Sove is back, life stories told through wrap
around chances like I’m Zach Boychuk
Like I’m scoring soft goals…no…
Sove did that so hopefully you won’t have to go through that
I was raised in the Chi-town, Blackhawks and Bulls
Smokeshows out back, stealin’ Bellemore’s sofa
Murphy’s in the blue paint, focused on the save
Bunnies at the glass seats, focused on the beauties
Me guarding the blue line, why you think you’ll score goals?
Stick’s in my palm, watchin’ the hard shot o’ Bowman
So you know I seen it all before
I seen show dreams deflate like a true fiend’s weight
To try and to fail, the two things I hate
Succeed in this gongshow, the two things is great
S to the izz-O, V to the izz-A
What else can I say about dude, I gets “biznasty”

[CHORUS]

Joe Sova is a 23 year old right shot who attented University of Alaska-Fairbanks, racking up 58 points with 13 goals and 45 assists over three seasons. He was named top rookie in 08-09 at Alaska-Fairbanks and played three seasons of his junior career in the USHL with the Omaha Lancers and Sioux City.

He hails from Berwyn, IL, a suburb of Chicago, and has split time between the AHL’s Albany Devils and the ECHL’s Kalamazoo Wings. He’s a -6 through 11 games with 1 goal and 3 assists at the AHL level. With the K-Wings he’s a +10 with 2 goals and 5 assists.

Judging by some other facts we found, he really likes BBQ (which should make him very happy to be in Carolina)…. We’re very excited to welcome him to Charlotte and to see how he fits in on our blue line. And we hope we didn’t add any extra pressure to his fresh start here with our song! (Though we have faith he’s capable of doing all of these things!)

Special teams huge in the 3-2 shoot-out loss

Observations from the Checkers 3-2 Twelve Round Shootout loss to the Hershey Bears:

1.  All in all great effort by the Checkers especially being down to only 11 forwards two of which have only recently joined the team from the ECHL.

2. Even strength, the Checkers were the better team.  The Bears PP made all the difference. The Bears just park the massive Graham Mink in front of the net and he sets a great screen.  This completely caused the first goal as Murphy did not get a clean look at the point shot and it wound up going between his legs.

3. The second PP goal is on Murphy, it was just him and Micflikier at a hard angle and Murphy left a gap up top for the shooter–it was almost the same goal Sutter had for a game winner in the Playoffs last year against the WBS baby Pens.  The PK unit did a decent job and had all but killed that penalty off.

4. The cross ice pass from Beca to Boychuck was a beauty and Zach easily put it away to tie the game. The team looked a little down after the second but came right back out and out hustled the Bears in the third.  great bounce back period.

5. Speaking of not finishing the Checkers has a ton of chances in the first (odd man rushes, nice passes etc…) that they could not finish and it came back to bite them.  Pistilli missed more chances than I care to count he hustled like crazy all night but if he had finished a few times…….

6. The Terry–Matsumoto—Blanchard line was the only one Coach Daniels did not tinker with being down a foward.  The other 3 lines were a mix and match of whatever wing was fresh at the time.

7. Sean Dolan held his own as fourth line center and Matt Beca played much better as the game went on.  Justin Soryal by far had the least TOI and did nothing offensively and considering they only had 11 forwards it makes you wonder that if everyone is healthy he might be looking at a few press box games.

8. The defense looked good all night  and everyone jumped up in the rushes a little bit to give some of the forwards a break.

9. Murphy while he made some SUPER saves looked a bit off—he got beat bad twice as Hershy hit the post both times, spit out more rebounds than usual and bit too hard on some players moves.  Of course that is where he made one of the best saves I’ve seen in awhile laying on his back with an open net on Matt Ford–you could see his face in the replay and he was not a happy camper.

10. Everyone that was there reacted in some way to Micflikier just getting CRUSHED by Rasmus Rissanen behind the net.  Micflickier got him back in front the Checkers bench (it looked like an elbow).

11.  The refs did a nice job of letting everyone play and the only so-so penalty was Bellmore against Micflickier which was more of a big guy on a little guy and the little guy doing some acting.  But other than that everything else was pretty obvious and nothing ticky-tac.

12. Overtime was basically two very tired teams playing for the shoot-out.  The only real good chance was for Hershey with 3 seconds left when the Checkers just stood around and let them set up a one time deflect play that Murphy did a nice job stopping.

13. 12 round shoot-out and it is pretty easy to breakdown.  If the Checkers went high on Sabourin they beat him–when Hershey went five hole on Murphy they beat him.  The Checkers got everything on net while Hershy actually had a complete whiff on a shot and quite a few wide.  Pistilli redeemd himself with a really nice forehand backhand move that I thought for sure was going to be the game winner in the sixth round.  Blanchard came up big in the 11th (never remember him being anywhere near a shoot out before) and Sanguinetti rung the post the the 12th.  I have no idea what Murphy was doing on the final shooter, he looked like a soccer goalie that had to guess a side.  Mitchell did not have that great of a move but oh well.

14.  Again, great game against what is a REALLY good Hershey team if the Checkers play even strength hockey again like that tonight and shore up the special teams they will be in good shape for a win.

Editor’s note:  Once again, huge thank you to Allan for his post-game thoughts.  While I was able to watch the game online, you just don’t REALLY see what’s happening on a tiny computer screen.  The few thoughts I have are as follows.  

  •  I was SO IMPRESSED by the Checkers.  This was playoff style hockey, if you ask me, and the team came out with the same intensity they did last April when they beat Hershey.  
  • Considering Charlotte has MAJOR injury problems right now (Nash, Staal, Durno, Shugg, Roy) and the three call-ups in Raleigh, it was a great team effort.  
  • Mike Murphy is a goalie god.  Sure, he wasn’t perfect, but he made some saves that were just jaw-dropping, awe inspiring.  I couldn’t believe them! 
  • Allan and I definitely agree… SPECIAL TEAMS lost the game for Charlotte.  I knew it was going to come down to that monster Power Play and Penalty Kill by the Bears, and it did.  I’m looking forward to another awesome match up tonight!
A couple of quick notes about tonight:
  • Derek Joslin was recalled by the Hurricanes.  Chris Murray is on his way to Charlotte from Florida.
  • Jared Staal took part in the optional skate this morning.  Hopefully he can go tonight, as 12 forwards would definitely be better than 11!

Five in Row Checkers WIN 3-2

Observations from a scrappy win over the Texas Stars

1. That was not the Checkers best effort against a team that is struggling in the Western Conference.  Coach Daniels summed it up pretty well in the post game interview calling out the team for the way they played for most of the first period.  The team had a lot of sloppy passes and seemed to be slower than Texas.

2. I think the team got a little passive after the GREAT goal by Zac Dalpe early on–he got going on a nice outlet pass from Chris Terry and with a defender draped on him still managed to put on a nice forehand backhand move to beat the goalie low corner.

3. Mike Murphy seemed a bit out of sorts early on spitting out a rare long rebound which lead to the first goal and then giving up the second goal by guessing wrong on what Luke Gadzic was going to do out front.  Of course the defense did not help much on either goal espcially the second one where they left Gadzic just standing there with no one on him near the net while everyone took part in some puck watching. Mathieu Roy left his man on the first goal giving him an easy put back on the rebound.

4. Welcome back to Brett Sutter!  The Captain came out with a ton of energy after just being reassigned by the Canes.  The goal that tied it up was just pure effort to keep it behind the net and stuff it home on the wrap-around.  This was the turning point of the game because it really woke the team up and the intensity was there for the rest of the game.

5. On the ensuing face-off Nicholas Blanchard completely laid out Francis Waither (also just recently reassigned by Dallas) in a fight that was completly one-sided.  Waither left bloodied and did not return until about six minutes into the second period.

6. While the PP did not score they got some good looks and shots, but Michal Jordan still looks completely uncomfortable playing on the unit.  The team did a get job keeping it in the zone on their only PP of the second period and Jon Matsumoto broke straight in on the goalie and beat him five-hole right after the PP had expired for what was the game winner.

7.  While he did not look good in the first, Murphy was spot on for the rest of game as was the PK unit.  The big moment was killing off 35 seconds of a 5-3 with less than six minutes left in the game.  Everyone stayed in their lanes, kept Murphy from being screened and did not panic when they could not get it clear.  Texas had the third ranked PP in the AHL coming in and the Checkers shut them out 0-5.

8. Wasn’t pretty but they got the job done and if this team starts scoring like they did last year with the goalie tandem they have the entire AHL will be trouble.

9. Notes on the lines etc…. Justin Shugg was a scratch (as well as Staal) I actually thought Soryal might get the night off to add a little scoring but Daniels ran a true grind line out there (Soryal, Sutter, Blanchard) and it paid off. Durno moved to wing on the third line and the second line was Terry, Daple and Boychuck. Tons of speed but that line was the one that got caught not playing D on the second goal.

An Update From the Swamp

Things have been rolling along down here in the swamp. After their rough start at the beginning of the season, the Blades have been consistently winning games. Unfortunately, their 6-3-1-0 record over the last ten games isn’t good enough in the ultra competitive South Division. On their week long road trip last week the Blades were able to come away with five of six possible points. Things are looking good right now.

Part of that success has been the play of forward Mike McKenzie. After struggling early on, he’s been on a tear lately. He’s had four goal (two on the power play) and ten assists in his last 18 games. His goal last night against the Gwinnett Gladiators was a thing of beauty.

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Matt Beca continues to struggle though. He’s only had one goal and seven assists in his last seventeen games. I have to believe he’ll find his old scoring touch soon. He put up some nice numbers last season.

Ryan Donald is quickly becoming a fan favorite down here with his physical playing style. He has one of the better +/- stats amongst defencemen with a +3 and has contributed a goal and seven assists sine being sent down.

Kyle Lawson had also been playing pretty well since coming back from injury. Unfortunately, he was on the receiving end of a nasty elbow in last nights game and spent quite a bit of time down on the ice. He was able to get up under his own power and skated to the bench. It remains to be seen how he’s been affected and what fine, if any, will be handed down as a result of that hit.

John Muse hasn’t been getting too many minutes lately due to Lightning prospect Pat Nagle’s winning streak. He had to be pulled in his start against the Greenville Road Warriors on the 18th after giving up four goals in a little over 27 minutes. Before that he had backstopped the Blades to two wins over the Wheeling Nailers, dropping only one game in that series when he gave up three goals in the third. I would imagine that this Friday or Saturday he’ll get a start as Nagle has been in net for two losses now.

I should also mention his new mask. How cool is his new Everblades lid?!002

That’s it for now. The Blades finish off their home series with the Gladiators this week and host the Elmira Jackals next week. We’ll be having our annual Teddy Bear Toss, and an auction of bears the players made afterward. You read that right. The team sent the players to Build-A-Bear and they made and dressed stuffed animals. If you can handle the cuteness of hockey players making stuffed animals I suggest heading over to the Blades Facebook photo album of the event. It’s the best thing ever.

An Update From the Swamp

Editor’s Note:  Thanks again to Ms. Swamp Hockey for her second installment updating Checkers fans on “our” guys in Florida.  If you aren’t following her on Twitter, you should be…. @SwampHockey, and definitely check out her blog that chronicles the Everblades at Swamphockey.com

Hey kiddos! It’s that time again. Let me just start off by saying, this post is all good news. The Everblades have bounced back and put together a three game win streak. It’s not just any win streak either. The Blades are beating some of the best teams in the East right now and it feels good.

The source of these wins is pretty much one guy.

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Checkers prospect John Muse has been tearing it up since he was sent down. He’s started thee games and over the course of those games has faced 79 shots. How many has he let in? Three. Included in there is a shut-out of the top team in the entire Conference. His play has earned him the third best GAA in the entire league too. Needless to say, he’s been absolutely amazing and pretty much has the starting gig locked down. He will probably sit for one of the back to back home games we’re having on Friday and Saturday. Which is sad, but you can only ride a hot goalie so much I guess.

Now that my gushing is over, on to the rest of our Canes and Checkers prospects.

- Remember me mentioning my belief that Mike McKenzie would score? He did. The very next game. He’s now up to one goal and three assists so far this season.

- McKenzie’s sometimes line mate Matt Beca still hasn’t found the back of the net, but he has managed four assists. He did get into what is his first professional fight.

- Defenseman Chris Murray has been tearing it up lately. He’s netted three power play goals in the last three games. He’s also upped his assist totals to seven. That’s good enough to tie him for first in points for the Everblades.

- The most recent player the Everblades have received, defenseman Ryan Donald, currently has one goal and one assist. He also is in possession of the best beard on the team.

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No one can compete with that beard. No one.

- Kyle Lawson’s been having injury issues of late, so he’s currently sitting at 0 points on the season. He did come back last night, and he managed a +1 his first game back.

The Everblades will play two more games against the Wheeling Nailers Friday and Saturday. They will then host the Greenville Road Warriors next Friday and Saturday, before heading off on a quick, one week road trip.