The team I watched last night, THAT was my Checkers hockey team. I could probably gush about them forever. The interesting thing is, even though we won, unlike our previous game, I don’t feel like we played THAT much better than we had on Tuesday. I’m not sure that came out right… what I mean is, while yes, we won on the scoreboard, and I feel like we earned it, I don’t think we played significantly better on the whole, mostly because the team I saw on Tuesday, albeit a losing one, played phenomenally as well… I think the Checkers have been fantastic this whole season. I’m going to focus on a very few thoughts about the game.
University of Minnesota-Duluth NCAA Champion and USA-Hockey phenom Justin Faulk made his professional debut last night for the Checkers. He was paired with all of our top defensemen at different times during the game, and played a lot of minutes. He fit in easily with the team, and played the majority of his shifts with Captain Bryan Rodney.
He was a thrill to watch. He skated well, handled the puck, and tended to be in the right place at all the right times. He is definitely a player I look forward to watching more and more, and I was pretty excited to see him play in his first pro game!
I love hockey in the South. I love the history, and the way we can meld the great southern culture and a fantastic sport together. I love the hospitality of our fans, and how generous they are. While hockey is not new to Charlotte (we are the birthplace of professional hockey in the South, after all… and the first Checkers came to be in the 1950’s!), our fanbase is still learning and maturing.
I love it when the passion of the fans come out “southern style,” like the guy sitting a few rows in front of me banging on the glass screaming at the officals, “Way to go, Ref! Y’all suck!” I think there should be more “y’all” in Hockey. (Editor’s Note: While I love this kind of southern culture though, I do NOT love Ric Flair. At all. I hate wooing, and refuse to do it!)
This guy has been “my” goalie since day one. I’ve studied his numbers, and statistics, and I know I side with him a lot. I’ve tried to be unbiased, but on the whole, I definitely prefer him in net, and after the way he played last night, it just cements the fact that he’s my number one goaltender. Murphy made some great diving saves, and didn’t allow the first goal until midway through the second. I’d missed seeing him play during the past month, so it was a treat to see him back in his old form, right where he left off in early March before getting injured. Here’s hoping he gets the start on Friday. I’ve known it for a long time, but I think Coach Daniels FINALLY gets that Murphy IS the key to success! Murphy faced 37 SOG in the game (versus the 24 that Braden Holtby faced for the Hershey Bears). He’s now 5-1 in six starts verses Hershey this year. Not too shabby, if you ask me!
Ever since I was slightly critical of Fitzgerald in a recent blog, he has impressed me time and time again. Last night was no exception. He played a very mature, responsible game and was able to keep it in check and not drop the gloves unnecessarily. He funneled his energy in a positive way that inspired the team to rally together. He was defensively responsible, and proved to be a great leader with a new guy like Faulk on the ice.
I’m a huge Oilers fan, as in I’ve traveled to eight different states, and 10 arenas to see them play, and I own a couple of Oiler jerseys. So when Shelly was an Oiler in the official sense, and not just in the sense he still gets his paycheck from them despite playing for Hershey in the AHL, I tried to like him, and at first I did. I thought he would be a huge asset to the team, but things went south, and he ended up making a lot of enemies in his home province of Alberta, eventually getting demoted not only to the AHL, but to another team’s AHL team, all so the Oilers could keep his negative influence away from their prospects. Double the fact that Souray is a skilled defenseman with a lot of grit (when he’s not injured), and the Oilers have finished LAST in the NHL the past two seasons, you’d think the team would want something, anything, to help them out of the hole they are in, but they shipped Souray to Hershey anyway.
Souray is a guy who you never want to face on the ice, and I’m pretty sure the Checkers can attest to that. He had three minor penalties last night, but the one that frustrated me the most was during the third period. He was officially given a roughing penalty, but what I saw was a cross check to the face of Nicolas Blanchard. It was an incredibly dirty hit, and one that in the NHL, would have immediately been sent to Toronto. I hope the play can in fact be reviewed after the fact, because it was nasty to see in person.
The reviewing of plays is something I will probably get into in a later blog entry… I have a number of thoughts on the issue, but that is for a later time and date!
I love the Checkers
I love that the crowd was on their feet for the last two minutes of play. I love how passionate they were, and how loud our small crowd got. I love that the Checkers are hands down the best sports team in Charlotte. I love the organization from the top to the bottom (except for the Checkmates, of course).
Last night was the final game of the first round I get to see, and it kills me to admit that, but as much as I love my team, I love my best friend more. Her bachelorette party is going to be super fun, and I have a Blackberry which will give me game updates. And I feel very strongly that I’ll get to see the team again in the second round.
So win for me on Friday, and win for all of the other awesome fans in Charlotte.
Lets Go Checkers!!!!