Checkers score a touchdown against Chicago, defeat Wolves 6-5.

Early on in tonight’s matchup, it would have been easy to count the Checkers out. They had allowed the first two shots of the game, and were down 2-0 only 1:40 into the contest. The home team rallied, again and again, and after yo-yoing between being a goal behind and tied, they finally took the lead with 6:31 to go in the game with an even strength goal by Zach Boychuk.

Coach Morris recognized the team’s ability to bounce back.

“We showed some resilience, and I thought that it looked pretty dire at the start of the game,” Morris continued, “Guys just stuck with it, so, we’ll take it. They’re not all gonna be pretty. And hopefully we learned some things along the way.”

Four power play goals led to the Checkers victory at home against Chicago.

Drew MacIntyre made his first appearance for the Checkers since December 15. He was injured over the Christmas break while playing for Team Canada at the Spengler Cup in Switzerland. Having missed the past month of Checkers play, it was no surprise he was a bit shaky on the start, but his teammates rallied around him to score six goals and win the game.

Coach Morris was complimentary of MacIntyre’s play despite the shaky start.

“He had a rough outing. That’s not the typical Mac game. He’s coming off an injury…. So we’ve got to cut him some slack. He made some big saves.” Morris continued, “It’s not an easy position to play, especially when you’ve been out so long.”

The Checkers are in a tight race for the playoffs, in a tough central division. The Wolves, who are division rivals, are lower in the standings but still a crucial matchup.

Brendan Woods, who was the game’s first star with two goals, recognized the importance of a strong showing against the Chicago Wolves.

“We have a board up in our room. Right when you walk in you see it,” Woods continued, “It’s really tight when you look at the standings. You can’t take any nights off with the division we have. It’s all really close, so any chance you have with a team coming in your building, in your division, it’s huge.”

Coach Morris also commented on the importance of a strong showing against division rival Chicago.

“They have no problem scoring goals against us. I thought we’d need a touchdown after the first two shots.”

The Checkers sit solidly in a playoff spot, but with over a third of the season to play, the team must continue to win games and pick up points in the standings. Since December 9, they’ve shown they know how to win.

After a 12 game point streak that took them through most of December and into January, and have points again in the past five starts.

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Charlotte Checkers lose a close game in OT to Oklahoma City.

First, a few administrative notes:

  • Holy cow, Queen city! Could today have been a more beautiful day? Blue sky, warm weather, and I get to sit on my patio sipping a beer writing my post-game story while my 11-year old puppy Will Shakespeare rolls in the grass. Life is good.
  • Every four years, February is my favorite month. I can feel, taste and smell (in my dreams, anyway) the Olympic ice. And I’m not just talking about hockey (USA USA USA!).  Curling is possibly my favorite Olympic winter sport, and I am also a huge fan of short track speed skating. And Olympic ski jumping for women this year! It’s a first!!! I can’t wait for those events to begin.
  • Knit your own Team USA hat like the athlete's are wearing in Sochi! (Designed by me, photo credit -  E. Kinsman)

    Knit your own Team USA hat like the athlete’s are wearing in Sochi! (Designed by me, photo credit – E. Kinsman)

    And about the Olympics, do you want your very own Team USA themed hand knit hat? I designed a free pattern that replicates the hat our team wore in the opening ceremonies.  You can download it here.

  • Speaking of February, happy birthday to Chasing Checkers.  According to my hosting site, it celebrated it’s anniversary this week. I can’t believe I’m going into my fourth year here. What a fun and wild ride it’s been.

A giveaway by Charlotte Checkers captain Brett Sutter in front of Mike Murphy resulted in an overtime defeat by the Oklahoma City Barons. They won the game 4-3 in another heated matchup between the two Western division rivals. The one point OT loss by the Checkers ended the team’s three game regulation losing streak.

The first period looked good with a nice goal from Justin Shugg that went over the Baron’s Richard Bachman’s blocker. The steep angle made it a nearly impossible shot to stop.  Shugg, who has appeared pretty regularly on the scoresheet for Charlotte, made his first appearance in the goal column in six games.  He now has six points (3g, 3a) in eight appearances against Oklahoma City.

Brendan Woods, who had family in attendance, had a stellar game. After missing nearly two weeks to an injury in January, this was his first goal in only his fourth game back.  He nearly missed having a Gordie Howe hat trick after a fight with Baron’s tough guy Ben Eager.  Woods ended the night with one goal, one fight, four shots and nine PIMs.

AS0D3361“I guess you can look at the positive and we got one point, but we’d like to have two (points) with the standings being so close,” Woods stated, “These next few games will be crucial.”

Forward lines were moved around, with Chris Terry moving off of the top-scoring line with Zach Boychuk.

Coach Jeff Daniels acknowledged the change was meant to shake things up a bit.  “We were trying to get more balance and more scoring throughout our forward lines. I thought a couple lines were good and a couple were just okay.”

Brody Sutter scored with 37 seconds to go in the game, tying it at three a piece and leading the team to overtime.  The excitement was short lived, as halfway through overtime, a costly giveaway by Brett Sutter led to a goal by the Baron’s Roman Horak.

With a bit of a grin, Woods acknowledged that having family in attendance added to his energy. With his dad an assistant coach in Anaheim, his mom and dad were both able to make it to this afternoon’s game.  “It definitely gives you a little extra jump. I’m sure she was a little nervous with that fight against Ben Eager, but yeah, it was fun.”

The Charlotte Checkers had another sellout this afternoon. It's great to see the arena filled to capacity on a regular basis! (Photo - Jenni Propst)

The Charlotte Checkers had another sellout this afternoon. It’s great to see the arena filled to capacity on a regular basis! (Photo – Jenni Propst)

The Checkers head into the (brief) All-Star break with a few days of rest after a tough travel schedule, and return on Friday for a couple of “home” games in Raleigh. They sit a few points out of a playoff spot, and divisional games will continue to be incredibly important, especially the two against Abbotsford next weekend, who sit atop the West division.