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!