Checkers sink Admirals 4-1!

A super brief post before I go back to doing homework… graduation in 13 days!!!!!!!

 

Tonight’s game was a battle between one of the top teams in the Western Conference, and the team who currently sits at the bottom of the conference, the Charlotte Checkers.

The Checkers won the game with a score of 4-1, with goals from Chris Terry, Zach Boychuk, Justin Shugg and Aaron Palushaj.

Rasmus Rissanen passes the puck during the Checkers 4-1 victory over the Milwaukee Admirals. (Photo - J. Propst)

Rasmus Rissanen passes the puck during the Checkers 4-1 victory over the Milwaukee Admirals. (Photo – J. Propst)

The Checkers battled through four penalty kills (they nailed them all, and held the Admirals scoreless on the PP), had a number of fisticuffs, lost one player to injury during the first period, and a second to a game misconduct following a crazy scrum near the end of the second period.

Despite a shortened bench, Charlotte was able to rally and came away with their second home win of the season.  Coach Jeff Daniels was pleased at his team’s performance, particularly in the third period. “We were kind of shorthanded from a bench strength [perspective], we lost some guys tonight, but I thought we handled it well. We were disciplined and played hard and stayed out of the box. “

With another game tomorrow against the same Milwaukee Admirals team, the Checkers will need to capitalize on the energy and success they found on the ice tonight at home in Charlotte.  Chris Terry, who had two points tonight (1g, 1a), believes tonight’s performance can carry over into the game tomorrow. “We’ve got to come right in excited to play, excited about what our jobs are. You know, we play hockey for a living every day and we have to carry over what we did in the third today.”

Chris Terry said “[Coach Daniels] talked to us before the game and said your best players have to be your best players… Tonight we made sure we were the best players out there, leading by example.”

Checkers team leaders Terry, Brett Sutter and Zach Boychuk each came away with multi-point games.  Terry and Boychuk had a goal and an assist each, and Sutter had two assists.

 

 

Bits and pieces:

  • When I asked about Sean Dolan’s injury in the first period, Daniels replied, “He’s going to miss some time.”
  • Former Checkers captain Bryan Rodney made a return to Charlotte and was on the ice for the Admirals, wearing an Alternate captain’s A.  He was a -1, and had one SOG.
  • Three Checkers players had multi-point nights. Brett Sutter (2a) and Zach Boychuk and Chris Terry had a goal and an assist each.
  • My nephew (and his dad) were my game watching partners in crime tonight. Explaining the game of hockey to an eight year old prevents me from taking notes, but it was fun!
  • For a take from the other side check out The Admirals Roundtable.

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!)

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.

Game Four Recap – Checkers lose to Barons by a seven-goal margain

It’s safe to say tonight’s game incited many choice words and it’s hard to find a place to begin.

Everything looked clear on the front during warm-ups, the team had obvious high spirits and seemingly no worry as to whether or not this game was theirs. The beginning of the game sported some true playoff hockey despite scoring starting with a seemingly fluke goal by the Barons 34 seconds in. As time passed, probably the longest first period of our lives, OKC showed just how bloodthirsty they were for a win. Edging on elimination they gave all they had and then some as dirty play began to ensue. No one was the poster child for this quite like Ben Eager. Eager’s play was cheap and full of instigation, earning him a ten minute game misconduct before the conclusion of the second period.

Regardless, the end of the first period left hope. After watching OKC take 3 goals without ever looking back the Checkers needed to regroup and come back with a fire. Instead it took 5 minutes and 27 seconds for Rob Madore to be pulled. Current backup and fan favorite, Michael Murphy, entered the game, one he was surely not prepared for and arguably had no chance to be. The second period was awful, no other way to put it or option to sugar coat it. The Checkers had three shots on goal. Yes, three. Instead of regrouping they allowed the Barons to get under their skin and affect their play. For a large portion of the period they were played as puppies chasing their tails in hopes that something would happen. This proved unfruitful though, thankfully only two more goals were allowed in the hellish second.

When the third came around, Charlotte actually seemed somewhat rejuvenated and was well aware of the play they had to make up for. Things improved slightly, but nowhere near where they should have been. The Checkers did see some inspired play in the third after Zach Boychuk potted Charlotte’s only goal of the night. The team had not given up but the messy icing on the cake was surely having one of our own players tip in a goal on himself. But that is the story of the game. The loss was one the team gave to itself. Play was sloppy on both ends of the ice and frustrated to say the least, I’m not even sure Brett Sutter properly received a pass all night. Despite this the blame cannot be placed solely on one players’ shoulders, it is a burden that the entire team carries in one way or another.

All in all, this night is past everyone. It’s over. Tomorrow brings a new game, a new opportunity, a fresh start to advance to the second round of playoffs. The Checkers must take that new opportunity and face it as if this is the first game they’ve played against OKC. They have to lay everything on the ice and will have to bring their focus back to the moment rather than focusing on the frustrations of tonight’s game. The Checkers have all the talent in the world to make Calder a reality, but face elimination tomorrow night at 7pm.

Charlotte Checkers trample the OKC Barons 6-1 in Game Three

In the third game of a best-of-five first round playoff series, the Checkers came away with a 6-1 win over the Oklahoma City Barons tonight in Charlotte.  They now lead the series 2-1.

Chris Terry scored two goals for the Charlotte Checkers on the PP early in the first period. (Photo - J. Propst)

Chris Terry scored two goals for the Charlotte Checkers on the PP early in the first period. (Photo – J. Propst)

While there were only 3021 in the building (as opposed to the nearly 7000 average the Checkers had this season), the energy was infectious, and seemed to carry onto the ice.

Yann Danis, last season’s AHL Goaltender of the Year, struggled from the beginning, allowing six goals on 33 shots.  In the previous two games against Charlotte, Danis was the difference maker in both the OT game on Friday and the Barons 5-2 victory on Saturday.

Stellar goaltending from the Checkers Rob Madore kept the Checkers in the game from the beginning. He only allowed one goal on 38 shots, during one of three lengthy 5-on-3 penalty kills the Checkers had to overcome.

Charlotte Checkers captain Brett Sutter goes flying during game three against the Oklahoma City Barons. (Photo - J. Propst)

Charlotte Checkers captain Brett Sutter goes flying during game three against the Oklahoma City Barons. (Photo – J. Propst)

The Checkers got on the board early, and scored three goals in a six-minute span of the first period with an even-strength goal from Matt Marquardt, and two #Terryiffic power play goals from Chris Terry.

Five Checkers had multi-point nights.  Chris Terry had two goals, Zach Boychuk had three assists, Jeremy Welsh had two assists, Dan Biega had two assists, and Tim Wallace had one goal, one assist.

For the first time this playoff series, the Checkers played a complete game from start to finish, with an exceptional performance by special teams.  The power play contributed three goals, and the penalty kill was nearly perfect with only one goal allowed in nine opportunities by the Barons.

“As a team, I think we want to be more disciplined,” said coach Jeff Daniels in response to the nine penalty kills the Checkers had to overcome, “We don’t want to be giving up five-on-threes and being in the box so much, but the penalty killers did a great job.”

Dan Biega had two assists, his first professional points, in the Charlotte Checkers 6-1 victory over the OKC Barons. (Photo - J. Propst)

Dan Biega had two assists, his first professional points, in the Charlotte Checkers 6-1 victory over the OKC Barons. (Photo – J. Propst)

Moving forward to game four following a 6-1 win against the Barons, the Checkers will need to continue to play at the same level they did Wednesday night in Charlotte.

“The first two games we did a lot of good things, but the one thing we didn’t do is play a solid 60 [minutes] and I thought we were pretty close tonight.  Come Friday night, again it’s 0-0 and you’ve got 60 minutes to be great again.”

Momentum going forward is going to be crucial for continued success against the Barons in this playoff series.

“We finally played a full 60[minutes] and that’s what we were looking out to do,” shared Zach Boychuk, who finished the game with three assists, “We got some big powerplay goals so we’ve got to keep that up and keep playing physical.”

 

Tim Wallace scored for the Charlotte Checkers in the second period. (Photo - J. Propst)

Tim Wallace scored for the Charlotte Checkers in the second period. (Photo – J. Propst)

Tim Wallace, Jared Staal and Nicolas Blanchard returned to the lineup after playing in the Carolina Hurricanes final game oer the weekend.  All made their first playoff appearance for the Checkers this season.   Each added a physical presence to the game, and Wallace contributed an even-strength goal during the second period.

So far, all three playoff games has had a different lineup for the Checkers with the addition of players from the NHL club and players returning from injury.  Though last night’s lineup found a great deal of success against the Barons, it may continue to change moving forward.  After having as many as a dozen players injured at one time during the regular season, the Checkers currently have 17 healthy forwards, and 8 healthy defensemen, and more players may join the roster after last night’s loss by the Florida Everblades, and the WHL playoff completion by Victor Rask in Calgary.

Coach Daniels seems to feel reassured that the number of choices he can make in the lineup will help the team moving forward.

“It’s nice to have options after a month and a half without options, and we’re all in this together.”

 

 

Scoreboard watching around the AHL:

  • The Toronto Marlies are the only team to have swept their opponents (so far).  They defeated the Rochester Americans in three games.
  • The Texas Stars lead the Milwaukee Admirals 2-1 in their series.
  • Grand Rapids is up 2-1 over the Houston Aeros.
  • In the Eastern Conference, the eighth seed Hershey Bears lead the first seed Providence Bruins 2-0
  • The second seed Springfield Falcons are up 2-0 over the Manchester Monarchs
  • The Syracuse Crunch, who’s players won the Calder Cup last season in Norfolk, have won both games against the sixth-seed Portland Pirates.
  • Fifth place Wilkes-Barre/Scranton is up 2-0 over the fourth place Binghamton Senators.

 

Charlotte Checkers beat the OKC Barons in OT, Game 2 of the first playoff round is tonight

First, I must be completely honest. I did not pay 100% to this game. I was running a show (ballet…. the ballet always interrupts hockey watching! Good thing I love the ballet!) Therefore, some of my observations may not be as thorough as I’d like them to be. Because much of my game-watching was done from a muted laptop, I’m sure I missed a lot. But hey, some observations are better than no observations, right?

Now…. my own personal observations, in no particular order:

  • Rob Madore.  I was not surprised in the least that he was the starter for the Checkers last night. I also believe he will continue to play in that role, but, and I mean this is the most positive of ways, he’ll be on a short leash. A couple of bad games (that are his fault or his teammates, and I must say I believe it will be the latter more than the former), and he may get replaced by one of the Checkers other two willing and able goaltenders. In what has become Madore’s true fashion, he was able to stop shot after shot.  This was particularly important in the first period, when the Barons outshot the Checkers 13-5.  Not only that, but the Checkers had an entire powerplay where they didn’t register a single shot on the Barons goalie, Yann Danis.
  • After the first period and the disgustingly unbalanced SOG stats, all I could think was YIKES. As it’s been in the past month it seems, the Checkers came out a bit sluggish, but whatever was said in the room between periods seemed to work, because the second period was a drastically different pace, and one that favored Charlotte. SOG were nearly equal, and the Checkers scored two goals.  The first was from Justin Shugg, one of only two Justin’s that remains on the Charlotte roster (insert sad faces here).  Shugg’s goal was a beautiful one, coming of of a rebound while the Checkers were on their second powerplay of the game.
  • The next came from Brody Sutter, younger cousin of Brett who was possibly the biggest star of the Checkers playoff run two years ago.  Brody’s goal was a slick one, a wraparound goal on the backhand. The Checkers had the lead, but it was for a very brief period of time.
  • In a span of only 21 seconds late in the second period, the Barons scored two more goals. With only eight seconds left in Charlotte’s penalty kill, Mark Arcobello scored a wraparound goal, catching the visiting team off guard a bit in the midst of a line change, and there was little that could be done to prevent that Barons goal. 
  • Moments later, the Barons Josh Green scored another on Rob Madore, thanks in part to some sloppy defensive play by Charlotte.
  • A penalty at the whistle to end the second period and another right after it expired early in the third period would have given the Checkers nearly four straight minutes on the powerplay, but they didn’t need it.  On his first shift of the second power play,  Zach Boychuk scored, tying the game for the Checkers.  
  • The remaining 17 or so minutes of regulation were scoreless for both squads, taking them to overtime.
  • It only took a couple of minutes in overtime for the Checkers to end the game.  Brody Sutter’s game winning OT goal was a gorgeous deflection off of Brett Bellemore’s shot. 

Other thoughts:

  • Last night, Mike Murphy was the backup to Rob Madore, and John Muse was a healthy scratch.  It was a pleasant surprise, seeing Murphy’s name on the scoresheet. Does this mean in the “goalie rankings” he’s moved up to number two? Maybe. Murph is, of course, the winning-est goaltender in Checkers history, and nobody can ever forget his stellar performance in the 2011 playoffs that saw him relieve Justin Pogge of his starting duties just a couple of games into the first round.  Charlotte went on to make it all the way to the Eastern Conference Finals where they were defeated by the eventual Calder Cup winning Binghamton Senators.
  • I was really impressed with Brock McGinn. Though he didn’t make it onto the score sheet, he continued to be physical and has no problem using his body at the right times to make big plays.  He appeared to be hit late in overtime, but left the ice on his own.  Here’s hoping it was nothing serious!
  • Once the sluggishness of the first period was over, the Checkers played like a team I recognize.  While they seemed to slip a bit late in the second period, they generally stayed strong and physical throughout the second and third periods.  Overtime, though it was only a few minutes long, was completely controlled by Charlotte.  More play like this will result in plenty more playoff games won by the Checkers.
  • Game two is tonight at 8p.m.  I will be watching, as always, from a lightbooth while working a ballet performance.  Let’s Go Checkers!

A few links to get you through game day two:

From Tend the Farm: Charlotte Beats OKC In Overtime, Takes 1-0 Series Lead

From The Charlotte Observer: Checkers rough up Barons

From Paul Branecky: Brody Sutter’s OT goal wins game 1

The Checkers star in Charlotte, defeat Texas 4-3

Tonight’s game saw two Checkers take the ice with Charlotte for the first time.  Brendon Nash, older brother of Riley, was paired for most of the game with fellow defenseman Justin Krueger. He’s on loan from San Antonio for the remainder of the season.

Brock McGinn also played his first game as a Checker after practicing with the team for the past week following the conclusion of his OHL season with the Guelph Storm.  McGinn is a speedy forward who isn’t afraid to use his body and had no trouble finding himself down in front of the net a number of times.

“I thought he was great.  He didn’t play scared and he was out there. He can skate well and was out there on the forecheck and he likes to bang bodies,” commented Coach Jeff Daniels, “He was tenacious and I think he’s only 19 years old, and that’s a very big and very good team to jump in on his first game and he played very well.”

In recent weeks, the first period of play has been slow to get started, with very little offensive effort, but tonight  the first period proved to be a big one.  A big check by Captain Brett Sutter led to a turnover by Mike Commodore.  Matt Beca capitalized on it, and made the score 1-0.

Despite being outshot 20-7 in the second period, and two goals within the first two minutes, the Checkers were able to keep it together.  Stellar play by goaltender Rob Madore played a huge part in this. He made countless saves during a Stars play and kept the Checkers in the game through a period that was quite sluggish at times, and had a slightly offensive Checkers offense.

“To his credit, I thought he really bounced back,” said Daniels on the play of Rob Madore who faced 47 shots, “I mean,  we’re up 1-0, then down 2-1, and it could have been 3-1 or 4-1 without Rob making some big saves in the second period.”

A big third period saw Jeremy Welsh score to make the score 3-2, only to have Texas immediately tie it up.  With less than two minutes left in the game, Zach Boychuk, with a feed from Chris Terry and Bobby Raymond, ended up scoring the game winner on the power play.

Bobby Raymond had two points on the night (1g,1a) and also a number of key defensive plays that kept the Checkers in the game.

Tomorrow’s rematch against the Texas Stars is the final home game for the Checkers this season before the team takes the road for their final four games in Chicago, Peoria and Milwaukee.

 

Odds & Ends

  • If the playoffs started today, Charlotte would face the Houston Aeros.  Following the news that the Aeros are relocating to Iowa next season, it may be the last time Charlotte faces a team from Houston for awhile.
  • In Nicolas Blanchard’s first game with the Carolina Hurricanes, he had four hits and his first fighting major at the NHL level.
  • Be watching the Chasing Checkers Twitter feed and website tomorrow for a pretty special Q&A with a former Stanley Cup winner with the Carolina Hurricanes.

I knew there was #NorfolkingWay the Admirals could take the Checkers. Charlotte wins 3-1.

During the post-game media scrum, Zac Dalpe was looking on as a group of reporters gathered around his good friend and teammate Zach Boychuk, and you could tell Dalpe was just itching to be able to participate in some way.  I offered my iPhone (which I record the interviews with) to Zac so he could at least ask some questions since he’s still not playing, and he just grinned.

Boychuk, with a huge grin on his face in response to Dalpe’s creeping into the media scrum from the sidelines, had this to say.  “I think he wants to get in here, and get out there on the ice, and play together maybe.”

You can tell that Dalpe’s ready to be back, which is great news for the entire Hurricanes organization.

Even better news for Checkers fans is that with an incredibly shortened bench as far as the regular, more veteran Checkers, the team has found a way to win again, and are beginning to return to their successful special teams again.

Tonight saw birthday boy Beau Schmitz rack up two more points (1g, 1a), bringing his total over the past seven games of his most recall to five points (3g, 2a).

In his fifth game with Charlotte, Casey Pierro-Zabotel registered his first AHL goal.  There’s nothing quite like seeing a player who’s worked so hard to get to this level see the results of his effort in the form of a goal on the scoresheet, especially one that ended up being the game winner.

In his first game played IN Charlotte since December 21, Zach Boychuk registered a goal, a beautiful shot that went over Norfolk goaltender Frederik Andersen’s glove hand. This is Boychuk’s second goal in as many games since being returned to the Checkers after a crazy month that due to waiver claims, saw him play for the Pittsburgh Penguins, Nashville Predators, and now Charlotte again.

“It’s nice to come to a team and play lots of minutes and improve and get better,” said Boychuk, “ And those guys in the locker room there have been really good friends for a long time, and I’m really happy to be back with them.

The biggest story of the night was probably the play of goaltender Rob Madore.  In his second straight start (and third appearance) with the Checkers, he faced 38 shots, turning all but one of them away, and was named the first star of the game for his outstanding performance.  After almost a month of watching games from the bench, his play the past three games has given him and the players in front of him a great deal of confidence about his ability.

Jeff Daniels had only positive things to say about Madore’s performance.

“He competes so hard.  He doesn’t quit on any shot and gets upset when any puck gets past him. “

I believe a win like tonight’s can carry the team through the week, and to the back-to-back games against the San Antonio Rampage this weekend.  The four points on the line will be crucial as the regular season is nearly over.

 

Let’s Go Checkers!

Quick Hits:

  • Though the team is finally finding a way to win again after some struggles that can be credited to losing three goaltenders to Raleigh over the past two months, and an injured list that still boasts 11 skaters, though a few are close to returning. Zac Dalpe, AJ Jenks, Justin Shugg, Marc-Andre Gragnani and Jerome Samson have all been taking part in full practices, and should see a game soon.
  • The win against Norfolk moved the Checkers from fourth to second in the west, though if the playoffs started today, they’d still be a fourth seed, facing at this moment, the Houston Aeros.
  • Attending a game with family is so much fun.  Two nephews, a niece, two brothers and two sisters-in-law all joined me, and it was great fun! As the only member of my family in Charlotte, it’s a rare treat to get to share the team with them!
  • Thank goodness for spellcheck, or I would have had a sentence in this post about “Goat tending” which would bring a whole new idea to the sport of ice hockey.
  • For all of you who read my silly goaltending post yesterday and complimented me on it, whether in comments, tweets, facebook messages or in person, I thank you.  My favorite posts are the ones that make people laugh, and it means a lot when I get feedback that what I’m trying to do is working!

Checkers lose 3-2 to the #NorfolkingAdmirals

And then there were eight.

Of the 20 players that dressed tonight in Charlotte, only eight were on the opening-night roster for the Checkers in October.  The list of injured players was even longer than the healthy opening-night Checkers, and came in at nine.  (Just for a refresher, the injured players are: Zac Dalpe, Sean Dolan, Marc-Andre Gragnani, AJ Jenks, Michal Jordan, Andreas Nodl, Luke Pither, Jerome Samson &  Justin Shugg).

Tonight, three more players made their Checkers debut.  Forwards Casey Pierro-Zabotel and C.J. Severyn were signed to professional try-outs yesterday, while defenseman Danny Biega signed a three-year entry-level contract with the Hurricanes today, following the end of his Harvard season.  Biega was a third-round draft pick of the Hurricanes in 2010, and just completed his fourth year of NCAA hockey.  Biega, unfortunately, left the game after only his first three shifts.  Disoriented after a hit, he left the ice with Checkers trainer Brian Maddox and did not return.

Overall, it was a great effort by the Checkers, especially with so many new players on the ice, and chemistry still being developed.

“One advantage is they’re all trying to make an impression and they all want to stay here and they are bringing some energy to the lineup,” said Coach Jeff Daniels about the new additions to the lineup. “They are playing hard, and if they keep playing like that we’ll start winning some games.”

The game was not short on physicality.  Jeremy Welsh nearly fought after the final buzzer, and Nicolas Blanchard threw some hard blows at John Kurtz during the second period. The Checkers penalty kill remained strong, killing four of five penalties, and maintaining their second-place PK in the league.

Brett Sutter’s goal in the third period seemed to inject a new level of energy into the Checkers lineup, but the team was unable to carry on the momentum to a game-tying goal.

Though the game ended as a loss on the scoresheet, a lot can be taken from the energy and level of play that the Checkers exhibited.

“I have to say the new guys have been picking up very quickly and contributing offensively and defensively, and especially working very hard,” said Checkers defenseman Justin Krueger. “Even though we had a loss there was still a lot of energy and good stuff from the new guys and I feel like we are headed in the right direction.”

 

Odds and ends and off-topic rambling:

  • Good news Checkers fans – Zac Dalpe took part in the morning skate today, though he was wearing a yellow no-contact jersey.  Fingers are crossed his recovery is speedy!
  • In honor of the upcoming “Old Time Hockey” weekend, I was tempted to ask the guys at the post game media scrum what advice they thought the Hanson brothers would give a team battling countless injuries, but decided to keep it professional.  I am, however, tempted to ask for a box of foil to be delivered to the locker room.  And to ask the Checkmates to incorporate a pinwheel into their routine this weekend, because that would be epic!
  • Speaking of old time hockey…. by the end of the season I’m going to have a hand-knit retro Checkers sweater, and it’s going to be amazing.
  • I miss Mike Murphy a lot.  And I even miss Justin Pogge.  There, I said it.  I wonder if we could lure either of them back to Charlotte.  Of course, if I was living in Italy like Pogge is, I’m not sure I’d want to leave!
  • I have some great marketing ideas for the Checkers and penalty box sponsorship opportunities that can help the team on and off the ice.  How does the “Brussels Sprouts and Lima Beans Penalty Box” sound for the Checkers? They wouldn’t want to visit it, right? And the “Krispy Kreme” visitors box, complete with a red neon “Hot and Now” sign above it.  Lure the visiting team in there for some glazed goodness!

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.”