Considering there were nine players in the lineup that didn’t start the season with the Charlotte Checkers, the outcome of the game against the Grand Rapids Griffins was anything but predictable . I knew there was more than enough skill to win the game, but it’s a tough situation when you have new players in the mix, a huge chunk of players who had been keys to the team for the first half of the season now residing in Raleigh, a number of lingering injuries and guys like Captain Brett Sutter sitting out due to waiver rules.
At times, the play on the ice was a bit sloppy. Many of the new Checkers had played together in Florida, and others, like Matt Pistilli, had experience with the organization, but not since last season. Goaltender Justin Peters had a couple of near misses during the first period of the game, with pucks ringing off the goalposts, but thanks to stellar play by himself and the team in front of him, kept the Griffins scoreless during all three periods. The shutout was the third in Peter’s last three starts.
New center Luke Pither definitely made a name for himself in his first appearance. In his first game in a Checkers sweater, he scored the only goal of the night at the midway point of the first period. It was Pither’s first AHL goal in over a year, and made a great first impression for his new teammates and the fans in Charlotte.
Leading up to his first appearance with the Checkers, Pither had already had a very busy week. Prior to arriving in Charlotte, he’d been playing for the Wheeling Nailers. On Sunday, the team was about to have their third game in three days. Pither’s dad was visiting, and the two were having breakfast when he received the news he’d been traded to the Hurricanes. Before hearing from either the Flyers or Hurricanes organizations, social media helped him learn he would be moving to North Carolina.
“I actually checked Twitter and Bob McKenzie said I got traded to Carolina’s system and that’s the way I found out.”
The timeline leading to Pither’s arrival in Charlotte was pretty short.
“The next day I drove seven hours down here, a then practice and a pre-game skate today and now I’m playing.”
In the end, all the Checkers needed was Pither’s one goal, as they defeated the Grand Rapids Griffins by a score of 1-0, extending their winning streak to a season and franchise-long six games.