The Posse Report:
By Posse Members: Pete & Blaine Hurdle
Friday, April 22 2011
Charlotte Checkers vs. Hershey Bears in game five of the first round of the Calder Cup Playoffs.
The Posse is here in a guest blogger role to cover one of the greatest games in the history of Charlotte Checkers Hockey. The hockey gods only saw it fit that Charlotte would be without number four tonight, that’s right- Zack FitzGerald the namesake of the Posse did not skate with the team in their morning practice and was a no go on the ice as well. Taking his place in the line up was Bobby Sanguinetti, turns out FitzGerald missed the game with a broken thumb. The buzz in Time Warner Cable Arena is that he should be back in the lineup for game six on Sunday in Hershey.
Mike Murphy started for the third game in the row for the Checkers. The first period was filled with action coming mostly from the Hershey players. There was a definite presence of the fans who came down from Raleigh but the building seemed a little lack luster at the start of the game. While I don’t have the official attendance numbers it looked to me like the building was not quite as full as it normally is on a Friday night.
As the game got underway the Checkers fell victim to a Hershey goal early on, just their forth shot on. The team seemed to be missing each other on their passes, shots were not hitting the net and guys were getting knocked around. Brad Herauf took a stand and started laying some heavy hits and the team slowly started to rally off his lead. Mike Murphy found himself out of position and made an awkward leap towards the post for his first huge save of the game. Despite this the crowd was still very quiet for the most part.
8:34 into the first Jonathan Matsumoto pushed the net off from the side of Murphy. At first glance it did not seem like he was preventing a goal but I am sure he had his reason. TWC Arena showed the replay from an angle that did not give any other explanation. While in the box for delay of game Murphy came back with two more huge saves.
As the first period comes to an end it is easy to see that Hershey is dominating the Checkers physically. Without having Fitzgerald on the ice Brad Herauf took his physicality up a notch from hardcore to insane. Herauf is (generously) listed on the Checkers site as being 5’11 and 195 lbs, he was taking and giving giant hits. The Bear on the other end of much of that play was Sheldon Souray who is listed at 6’4, 233 lbs and played an NHL career including three NHL All-Star games. In my opinion Souray got away with an obvious boarding call with about four minutes left in the first, the refs went out of their way all game to keep the players from breaking into fights.
The second period starts up with the crowd finally starting to get vocal. I personally felt like the fans were not as loud as they have been in recent games, that was until the end of the third period. A few fans who made the trip up from Raleigh made it known that they were impressed with the cheering of the Checkers fans.
18:11 into the second Hershey gets their second goal in a defensive break down from the Checkers. Soon after Riley Nash gets tossed in the box for a very weak hooking call. It seemed that the refs call the second period much tighter than the rest of the game.
Boyd Kane from the Bears gets mowed down by Nicolas Blanchard into the far side boards at 15:36 in the second. Blanchard gets two minutes for boarding, TWC again does not show a replay.
Hershey goaltender, Braden Holtby starts to play much more aggressive in net. Holtby plays the body a few times against the Checkers leaving the puck to fall where it may. In short he created the chance of chance but kept making the saves when needed.
Jacob Micflicker had been quiet most of the game but towards the end of the second period he started to step it up offensively and physically. Micflicker and Herauf have been playing high energy hockey from the end of the regular season and well through the first round. Casey Borer also made his presence known on D by breaking up a huge play from the Bears.
Hershey gets their third goal from former ECHL Checker, Andrew Carroll. It seems that the Bears figured out how to beat the fast paced skating of the Checkers, mainly in the form of brute physicality. The Bears are leading in shots 28-16 with 16:27 left in the third. Oskar Osala who had been realitivly quiet thus far in the game starts to play noticeably better.
At a stoppage in play Wilson takes to the microphone and really gets the crowd on their collective feet. Shortly after this during a failure of communication between the Bear’s defense and Holtby the Checkers get their first goal of the game from Brett Sutter. Hershey get’s a boarding minor for a huge hit against Herauf who was quick to get up but slow to get to the bench. The Checkers ended the last 20 seconds on the power play with Bryan Rodney quarterbacking the movement with help from his defensive partner and 19 year old rookie, Justin Faulk. They have a great passing game and came close to grabbing a goal at the close of the second.
Riley Nash continues to impress as we jump to the third, this rookie skates the ice with confidence of a seasoned veteran which is good news for such a young team. One minute into the third Drayson Bowman slaps one into the net for the Checkers 2nd goal. Later in the period they change the credit of the goal to Zach Boychuck in what might have been a tip in or deflection. Rodney and Faulk continue to play great together on the point and created the play that fed Bowman the puck.
The crowd is now going crazy, the Checkers have two unanswered goals. Chris Terry takes a hard hit from Hershey’s Patrick Wellar and Charlotte gets another chance on the power play and more of the Rodney/Faulk action.
Oscar Osala on a second wind steals a goal by taking the puck away from Holtby and forcing it into the net. In the replay it seems like Holtby was looking for some defensive backup but nobody was there. The frustrated Bears rack up another penalty as Charlotte’s Michal Jordan takes a hit from Steve Pinizzotto. To be honest I did not really see the hit too well but it shook up Michal as he stayed on the ground for a while.
It seems that Holtby is starting to play a little more nervous but he come through with some big saves, at one point right after the halfway mark of the third he leaned backwards against the goal, it popped up for a second and then fell back into place, the play was called dead. Seemed a little fishy to me.
The Hershey penalties gave Charlotte a good number of scoring chances as the shot count has jumped to 28 each. Murphy has seen very little action in the third. At 8:36 to go in the game Nick Dodge gets the eventual game winning goal with assists from Bowman and Osala. The goal is reviewed by the refs who keep it as a good goal.
Soon after Chris Terry runs into Holtby on a one-on-one chance and is given a goaltender interference call. Most of the Bears players that are on the ice tackle him to the ground and into the bottom of net. The fans were not happy with the call but it got everyone making noise and the booing of the refs which turned into harder cheering for the Checkers.
Nicolas Blanchard keeps the Bears from getting the puck on goal with a huge defensive play followed by a clear. It’s not long before the Bears are back on full attack in the Checkers defensive zone. An very aggressive game was played by both teams, there are three broken sticks on the ice at one time. The Checkers are in desperate need of a line change and the refs are looking to get the broken pieces of sticks of the ice. After a stoppage Bowman gets a great play off where he missed the inside of the goal by inches, he was skating in a way that showed you how tired he was but how capable and strong he was at the same time.
Holtby makes some more big saves as the Bears are within one goal of the Checkers. They pull Holtby, last time they tried this on Thursday it worked. With the extra attacker Hershey makes their play against the Checkers. Murphy comes up big with little over a minute left in the game, Bowman shoots the puck into the empty net for the insurance goal with one minute left in the game.
The crowd is going wild as the clock ticks down, the Checkers have scored five goals in a row after being down by three. It seems like the game is over but the refs call a penalty with 00.1 left in the game and Michal Jordan steps into the box for the final face-off.
Game over, the fans are all celebrating in the stands, you can tell the team really wanted the win as they leave the ice. The overall end of game atmosphere is out of this world, the fans are celebrating as if the Checkers were just named the world champions of hockey- that is one of the great things about the fans! When leaving TWC Arena there were multiple “we want the cup” and “let’s go Checkers” chants from the crowd as well as a sea of “Whoooooos” that started at the end of the game and might still be going.
During the intermission in the “though the eyes of the Checkers” interview most of the team picks Zac Dalpe as having the worst playoff beard.
I think Braden Holtby wins the award for most taunted player of the year by the Charlotte fans. There was rarely a second in the game where you would not hear the anti- Holtby chants. Holtby always gets some words from the Charlotte crowd but tonight took it to a new level.
The Raleigh crowd defiantly brought their cowbells, there was a noticeable increase in cowbell noise.
It was interesting to see the way that some of the fans who came down from Raleigh interacted at the Checkers game. I could tell many of them were not used to how up close and personal the game can be, the divide between the players and fans is totally different while the skill level is still very high.
Faulk is off to a great start, can’t wait to see what he does either in Charlotte or Raleigh.
It seems like Dalpe and Boychuck are getting caught up in more physical play than they are used to.
If Zack FitzGerald does come back Sunday who will sit? I don’t see Faulk sitting out and I think the team could really use FitzGerald’s physical presence and veteran know how on the ice.
I have total confidence in both Mike Murphy and Justin Pogge but would be surprised if Murphy does not start Sunday’s game.
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