Checkers exhibition game one vs. the Lake Erie Monsters

What is a Lake Erie Monster?  Is it like the Ogopogo who lives in the Okanagan Lake in Kelowna, B.C., or the Loch Ness in Scotland?  Just curious…. regardless, it was great having them in Charlotte Indian Trail for a preseason game!

Special thanks to @TessQC for contributions/ideas/opinions to this piece.

So many thoughts…

  • The Checkers played a mixed lineup of Checkers veterans, newly signed AHLers, and newly signed Hurricanes contracts.
  • It’s official, Justin is my favorite player.
  • Great atmosphere at the Xicenter tonight.  Everyone was there because of their true love of the game and the team.  I met so many new people, some of whom it was their first Checkers game ever (and from as far away as Buffalo, NY!).  Hockey fans know where to come for a good night though, and it was Indian Trail!
  • In the lineup, Checkers veterans included Mike Murphy, Matt Pistilli, Chris Terry, Nicolas Blanchard, Michal Jordan, Brett Bellemore, Jared Staal, Mike McKenzie, Cedric McNicoll
  • New to the Hurricanes organization were Chris Durno, Justin Krueger, Mathieu Roy, Rasmus Rissanen, Justin Soryal, and Justin Shugg
  • AHL tryout Scott Pitt made his debut, and there were a number of Checkers AHL contracts in the lineup, including Matt Beca, Ryan Donald, John Muse, and Chris Murray
  • The players who most impressed me as far as just mad skills or most improvement was a three-way tie, shared by Mike Murphy, Matt Pistilli and Chris Terry.
  • A number of guys out there hadn’t had the chance to play with this year’s Checkers (Murphy, Terry, etc.) but they found their way as the game went on.  I have great, great feelings about the 2011/12 Checkers!
  • Pistilli was on fire.  There was something new and fierce about his performance.  According to Paul Branecky, he took boxing lessons over the summer, and it showed.  He had this fire where he was aggressive with the puck, and going deep into the crease for rebounds.  I really liked what I saw from him tonight.  For a guy that spent a lot of the season in the ECHL last year, he’s come a long way.  I’m looking forward to seeing him in Charlotte this year.
  • Mike Murphy played with the same end-of-season confidence he left Charlotte with last season.  It took him some time last year to develop the poise and confidence he played with, but after a summer away, it’s still there.  Watching him play, I saw a mature, confident netminder.  If this is his baseline for the year, we can only expect incredible things between the pipes in Charlotte this season.
  • ChrisTerry was a beast tonight.  Just as I noticed in his game in Raleigh, he has a new, sharper edge to his play.  He’s more physical, a bit faster, and skates with more purpose.  He goes into the corners, and plays with a great type of agression.  Whatever magic Gary Roberts has DEFINITELY rubbed off on Terry.  I am confident he will live up to his “Terryiffic” nickname this season.
  • Jared Staal.  I admit that I like to mock him as the baby Staal, and youngest sibling of superstars Eric, Marc and Jordan.  Last year, he spent most of the year in Florida, and when he was in Charlotte, I was rarely impressed.  He lacked the intensity and purpose of a professional hockey player, but he has definitely improved since I last saw him skate mid-season last year.  He is a bit faster, and more aggressive.  He’s using his size with more, and skating with a purpose.  He doesn’t seem to be afraid to go into the net, or into the corners to battle for pucks.  There’s a vast improvement, but he still skates a bit like a Clydesdale (hence, he has been Christened with a new nickname, Clyde).  I think Gary Roberts did good work with Jared this summer.  It may take him some time, but he’s a guy that could definitely be successful in Charlotte if he continues to progress as he did this summer.
  • Justin Krueger is a guy I’m going to pay more attention to.  After four years at Cornell, he spent last year in Switzerland, playing on European ice, which is very different than the rinks in North America.  European ice is still 200 feet long, but is 13 feet wider, at 98 feet, vs. the 85 foot wide footprint found in North America, and may players have a hard time adjusting to the different dimensions.  I think Krueger is a guy who is going to continue to develop during camp, and I’m anxious to see where he goes.
Observations that have nothing to do with the actual sport, but are worth mentioning:
  • Five dollars to park at the Xicenter, really?  Honestly, charging $10-$15 just to ATTEND a game in a rink with terrible sightlines, hard plastic bleachers, etc., is a bit steep, but then to charge for parking?  I asked the parking attendants who was profiting, and they couldn’t answer.  Uptown, we have plenty of options to park, AND it’s uptown, where it’s expected you have to pay, but I drove 45 minutes to Indian Trail to see a game at a practice facility, and felt a bit robbed for and additional 50% of my ticket price to be charged to park.
  • I really do love the Xicenter, and it’s a fantastic training facility (AND THEY HAVE CURLING!  I WANT TO PLAY!), but being in a tiny barn, did anyone else feel like they were in a scene from Slapshot?  Lets Go Chiefs!  If only Ogie Oglethorpe had dropped the gloves with Soryal…
  • This may be the ONLY time I say this all season, but I was IMPRESSED by the Checkmates.  Why?  They were wearing shirts that covered them in a modest but still attractive way, and their dance was not as provocative as I’ve seen them.  If they would wear tshirts EVERY game, I would stop mocking them.  I promise.
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2 thoughts on “Checkers exhibition game one vs. the Lake Erie Monsters

  1. You forgot about the Monster that lives in that scary scary tunnel in the Basement of The Biltmore House ..and just which of the 3 Justin’s is your new favorite and how does Murph feel about this? Boxing lessons during the summer….sounds much too violent for peace loving me…. paying for parking in Indian Trail, now that’s a rip off for sure! Wow,,,interesting to hear there’s been an upgrade of your opinion of the Checkmates….wonder if it will last?

    • I didn’t know there was a Monster in the Biltmore House…. did Keaton tell you this?

      And actually, Mom, there are four Justin’s (The Goalie Justin didn’t play yesterday, and there will be a fifth, probably!) I’m glad you picked up on that comment in the post. It was mostly a joke. Justin is going to be my favorite player all year, but I’ll never put a last name to the first. The Justin’s scored three goals today!

      The Checkmates don’t offend me when they aren’t showing too much skin. Their dances today AND yesterday were toned down and less T&A-esque. And they wore tshirts instead of those boob tops that make me want to cover my eyes. They might be on the upswing as far as my opinion is concerned!

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