Tonight in Charlotte, the hometown Checkers lost by a score of 5-3 to the Hershey Bears, who had many many fans that traveled quite the distance from Pennsylvania to cheer on their team.
The first goal of the game was scored by Hershey’s Nathan Walker, who deflected a point shot from Tyson Strachman over Rick DiPietro’s glove.
The Checkers first powerplay included a number of offensive zone turnovers by Charlotte, zero scoring opportunities and no shots on goal.
And then the goals from Hershey started coming. The second goal was the result of Rick DiPietro being out of position and the Bears Ryan Stoa was able to score on a virtually empty net.
Hershey’s third goal was scored by Casey Wellman, another high glove shot where a Checkers defenseman was nowhere in sight.
Finally, after Hershey had four goals, the Checkers got on the board with an unassisted power play goal from Michal Jordan.
A tripping call sent Rasmus Rissanen to the box during the second period. It took Hershey less than a minute on the power play to score a fifth goal, this time from AHL journeyman Jeff Taffe. The fifth goal was enough to pull DiPietro from the game in favor of John Muse, who sits atop the standings as the best goalie in the league.
Things appeared to turn around for Charlotte. With the goaltending change, a fire was lit beneath them, and it didn’t take long for Adam Brace to score with an assist from Captain Brett Sutter. This extended Brace’s point streak to five, the longest active point streak on the Checkers.
Coach Jeff Daniels felt the team did a lot of great things despite the final outcome.
“I thought we did a lot of great things tonight. We’ve just got to continue them tomorrow.. We did a lot of good things. We skated well,” Daniels continued, “The power play scored a couple goals…. We can’t change the outcome of the last four games, but we can change the outcome tomorrow night.”
Elias Lindholm was one of the bright spots for the Checkers. In only his third game since being assigned to Charlotte from the Hurricanes, he scored his first AHL goal on the power play with 1:04 left in the game.
Lindholm felt good about his third game as a member of the Checkers. “I haven’t played too many games yet, but the speed is a little bit faster in the NHL.”
The Checkers face Hershey again tomorrow. It’s a Thirsty Thursday game, and the beer will be flowing!
Random assorted observations:
Rick DiPietro is now 0-3 with the Checkers. He has allowed 14 goals in just over 150 minutes of ice time.
Though DiPietro had a tough night between the pipes, many of the goals he allowed were at times when he had no support from Checkers defensemen.
Many many many giveaways by Charlotte in their offensive zone.
Allan, who’s a regular contributor to Chasing Checkers observed that Allan York is 2-0 with a shutout since he was released from his PTO with Charlotte.
Rasmus Rissanen was a -4 on the night (and was responsible for the tripping penalty that led to a Bears power play goal).
Every time the Checkers play the Bears (which isn’t often, unfortunately), I’m reminded of Justin Pogge’s epic performance/temper tantrum in Hershey that got him thrown out of the game. I believe the line from the Bears play by play announcer was something to the effect of, “Justin Pogge has LOST HIS MIND.” I miss the days of characters like Mr. Pogge playing in Charlotte. He was definitely entertaining!
Kudos to the Checkers for having a Hockey & Heels event. I think it has the potential to be a great night for ladies new to the sport. But please, please for the love of the hockey gods, fix the logo! It’s currently a FIGURE skate with a high heel on it. Hockey & Heels lesson number one: Hockey skates don’t have toe picks!
Tess and Haley here again! First of all, our apologies for not posting our thoughts earlier, Haley and I have been pretty busy between moving, school, work, and life. Regardless, better late than never!
We’ll go ahead and start this off with the massive elephant in the room. To rip it off like a band-aid, the Checkers don’t play at home until November 4th, nearly a month after their season starts. Luckily, the nine away-game stretch that starts out the season is the longest our fellas will be away. The hockey gods giveth, and the hockey gods taketh… and thankfully they made up for that nine game stretch by giving us a 10 game stretch at home from November 24th to December 15th!
As for the competitors this season, though the Checkers have once again changed divisions, the opponents won’t be all too unfamiliar. All of Charlotte’s adversaries this season are in the Western conference, with the exception of area rival, Norfolk Admirals. The team will face each of their South Division foes (Houston, Oklahoma City, San Antonio, and Texas). Since joining the Western Conference the Checkers have yet to face Hamilton, Rochester, and Toronto and will continue not oppose them during the regular season. However they will face Norfolk, Houston, OKC, Peoria, Milwaukee and Texas eight times and Abbotsford, Chicago, Grand Rapids, Lake Erie, and Rockford four times.
There are a few notable games in the schedule. The Checkers will have two doubleheaders with the Bobcats this season, December 15th and January 12th. On both dates the Checkers will play at noon and the Bobcats will follow at 7 pm. The November 24th game coincides with the team’s 5K Run & Walk, which is still open for registration and volunteer help.
The last game to keep your eye out for is on January 6th. The team will play in Raleigh against the Norfolk Admirals, the reigning Calder Cup champions. Keep in mind that the ‘Canes play the Isles the night before in Raleigh as well so make a weekend out of it! We’d also like to make note that the promotional schedule has yet to be released, so we’ll be sure to make mention of more notable games later.
Lastly, the Checkers have a huge advantage towards the end of the season. During the month of February the team only plays eight games, two of which are at home, then play 14 of their next 18 games at home, spanning from March 1st to April 12th. After the 12th, the team closes the season with four away games, ending regular season on April 20th.
To check out the Checkers schedule for yourself, go here. For the full AHL schedule, click here.
As always, we look forward to writing much more about the season to come!
Once again, I forgot to post this. I’ll add my own thoughts at the end of Allan’s recap. – J
1. Good job of holding it together after giving up another 3rd period lead. The team stuck to how they had played the whole game and when they got the lead back the D stepped up and shut Grand Rapids down.
2. Coach Daniels mixed the centers up a good bit on the 4th line and it paid off on the first goal. Matsumoto kept the play alive in the corner and made a good feed back to the point for Jordan. Jordan ripped a nice shot and Soryal and Staal both were in front causing traffic. Soryal got his stick on it for a nice deflected goal.
3. Overall the PP looked better, but not great, they almost scored twice in the last 16 seconds of the first period. Dalpe did a nice job of staying with the blocked shot in the second period which led to a rebound and a wide open net he put away. They did give up an awful three on one shorthanded rush that Grand Rapids messed up. Still need to pass a little quicker to open up the other team. Missing Samson on the PP unit really makes a difference.
4. The PK unit was very solid and did a much better job than against Hershey but I’m sure every AHL team does better on the PK when not facing Hershey.
5. Grand Rapids had a goal waved off in the second that was questionable but they got it back when the puck went off Rissanen’s skate right back to Grand Rapids for an easy goal late in the second period.
6. Chris Murray absolutely destroyed Trevor Parkes in a second period fight. Parkes nailed Murray in the corner and he went right back after him near the penalty box. I was surprised the refs let it go as long as they did. Murray kept landing pretty clean shots on Parkes who was just trying to pull Murray down to stop it. Only bad part was Murray taking an additional minor penalty to get the fight started.
7. Not sure what started Boychuck and Tatar’s fight but it did not last long as Tatar pulled Boychuck down pretty fast and it was over.
8. While the fourth line played pretty well for most of the game they got burned bad on the equalizer in the second period. The forwards got sucked in pretty deep and a turnover led to a breakout the other way and a pretty easy one-two goal. Defensively having McNicoll and Staal on the same line is not that great because both can be knocked off the puck fairly easily for different reasons. Coach Daniels mixing the centers up on that line had been working better till that point.
9. Congrats to Rasmus Rissanen for the game winner and his first AHL goal. He only scored 5 goals in 2 years in the WHL but you can see the speed and puck handling ability coming around as he continues to play. I think he surprised the whole Grand Rapids team with the aggressivness of his rush and Joey MacDonald was not ready for that little wrist shot. Rissanen and Krueger continue to get more comfortable with puck handling and should add some more bonus offense by the end of the year.
10. The Checkers pretty easily handled the 6-5 empty net situation at the end of the game with Terry sniping a beauty from the red line to finish the game off.
11. Good game by the team as they continue to battle it out while waiting for the reinforments to return from injury and the NHL. I do hope they give Sean Dolan a SPC to keep him with the team or at least so they can send him to Florida instead of his previous ECHL team South Carolina.
Jenni’s Thoughts about Hershey and Grand Rapids:
I cringed a bit in the third when Chris Terry got that breakaway goal last night, and ended up crashing into Joey MacDonald. He would have had a fair chance to shoot the puck, but the Grand Rapids player (I didn’t jot down his name, only the play that occurred) grabbed Terry from behind and not only kept CT from shooting the puck, but also caused both skaters to go crashing into MacDonald in a play that almost resembled the fateful one that resulted in MacDonald missing 11 games due to a concussion in November.
My jaw dropped when the first goal of the night was scored… really? A line with Matsumoto, Soryal and Staal? I hope that was a line change and not an actual, intentional line because there is no stranger center with those two wingers than I have ever seen. Granted, it worked, but that doesn’t make it less odd.
The more I watch them, the more I like watching both Justin Krueger and Rasmus Rissanen. Neither one of them score a lot of goals, but is that really what defensemen are supposed to do? Rissanen took a couple of dumb penalties in the first, but he’s a really smart player who learns from his mistakes and seems to adapt pretty well. He played a clean remainder of the game, and who can forget him scoring the game winner!
Kudos to the Checkers organization on their continued awesomeness. First of all, I hear the “Checkers with the Checkers” event was fantastic. I hate I missed it! Secondly, thank you to the organization AND the fans that showed up yesterday. 11,000 plus on a Sunday afternoon is pretty great!
While the Checkers came away with only one point against Hershey, there are a lot of positives to take from those games. While down a skater, the Checkers made it to the shootout, which in and of itself is a huge feat. The second game was a loss by Charlotte, but there were great things happening on the ice. Hershey is a team that blows away their opponents, and wins hockey games with scores of 5-2 or 6-4. Charlotte isn’t like that, at all. The fact that the Checkers lost by one goal in each game is a big deal, and something that should be built upon. Hershey, partially as a result of their wins in Charlotte, took over the number one spot in the league. (For the record, the Checkers are in fourth… not too shabby!)
Overall, the feel of both Hershey games was playoff hockey. It was disciplined, and hard-hitting, and just incredibly impressive as a fan of the Charlotte team. If they can continue with that kind of focus for a full 60-minutes each game, this team can go far!
Yours truly, the Editor, forgot to post this… whoops! Better late than never! Post game from the Bears game on Thursday. Let’s Go Checkers!
Observations from a tough 4-3 loss to Hershey:
1. Even after the 2-0 first period lead Hershey looked fresher and faster than the Checkers–being down a forward the night before caught up with the team a little.
2. The first goal was caused by a nice bit of forechecking by Matsumoto, he knocked it off the stick of the D-man right to Blandchard who fed it to Terry. It happened so fast that Holtby was still standing straight up when it went in.
3. Pistilli put two nice moves on the defense which allowed him to put a shot on net which went off the D-man’s skate and in with 27 seconds left in the first. The goal was a little lucky but the moves that gave Pistilli the shot were not.
4. Potulny power play goal came right at the end of a 4-on-3 situation when the Checkers could not get it out of the zone. Murphy lost sight of the puck off a rebound and Borque made a perfect pass to a wide open skater.
5. Micfliker’s goal was a perfect tic tac toe play that had the penalty kill confused and Hershey made it look so easy I thought I was watching a video game.
6. Same thing on Potulny’s second goal which was a one-timer set up by a good face-off win and a one-time pass right to Potulny out front, it almost looked like Hershey was toying with the Checkers at that point.
7. Kane’s goal was set-up by a lazy pass by Matsumoto just inside the Hershey zone which set-up a 2-1 break out. Sanguinetti really did not committ to either the shooter or passer and Murphy was doomed.
8. I really hope Matthew Ford get some kind of suspension for his boarding call on Blanchard. About two minutes left in the game, Charlotte was totally gassed and he just took a run and went high in the corner for no real good reason. Blanchard was bleeding and had to be taken straight off the ice.
9. Boychuck scored on the ensuing five minute major by getting in close to the cease and getting a dirty goal. Nice to see Boychuck working an area he usually stays away from. The Checkers got a couple more close on net in the final minute but alas no equalizer.
10. If the game had gone to overtime the Checkers would have been down to 10 forwards–Bowman went off in the second and did not return and the aforementioned hit to Blanchard. Bowman going out really drained some energy and pulled a good defensive forward out for the decisive third period.
11. The refs made up for the lack of calls the night before, stuff they let go Wednesday was called Thursday.
12. I really hope any other team in the East knocks Hershey out of the playoffs. They are a great team but it is also a team paid for to win the Calder Cup not develop talent. When the Caps need to rebuild/really develop draft picks this team is going to be hurting.
13. The Checkers had to be hurting from the night before but against a team this fast the lazy passes and just going into the corner with the puck were not going to cut it.
14. The power play looked bad, Hershey attacked and pressured the puck and the Checkers constantly turned it over and were lucky not to give up a short handed goal in this one.
15. Sean Dolan looked very good on the 4th line even without much help from his wings. He is pretty good on the face-off, does a decent job holding the puck and makes heads up passes. He also got a few shifts on the PK unit so Coach Daniels must see something as well. If he goes back to the ECHL I’m sure he will be back up with a team in the AHL before the year is out.
16. Considering the injuries (before and during the game) and the call-ups the Checkers did a good job against a stacked AHL team but it is still rough to watch another 3rd period lead vanish–a theme this year that needs to go away.
Observations from the Checkers 3-2 Twelve Round Shootout loss to the Hershey Bears:
1. All in all great effort by the Checkers especially being down to only 11 forwards two of which have only recently joined the team from the ECHL.
2. Even strength, the Checkers were the better team. The Bears PP made all the difference. The Bears just park the massive Graham Mink in front of the net and he sets a great screen. This completely caused the first goal as Murphy did not get a clean look at the point shot and it wound up going between his legs.
3. The second PP goal is on Murphy, it was just him and Micflikier at a hard angle and Murphy left a gap up top for the shooter–it was almost the same goal Sutter had for a game winner in the Playoffs last year against the WBS baby Pens. The PK unit did a decent job and had all but killed that penalty off.
4. The cross ice pass from Beca to Boychuck was a beauty and Zach easily put it away to tie the game. The team looked a little down after the second but came right back out and out hustled the Bears in the third. great bounce back period.
5. Speaking of not finishing the Checkers has a ton of chances in the first (odd man rushes, nice passes etc…) that they could not finish and it came back to bite them. Pistilli missed more chances than I care to count he hustled like crazy all night but if he had finished a few times…….
6. The Terry–Matsumoto—Blanchard line was the only one Coach Daniels did not tinker with being down a foward. The other 3 lines were a mix and match of whatever wing was fresh at the time.
7. Sean Dolan held his own as fourth line center and Matt Beca played much better as the game went on. Justin Soryal by far had the least TOI and did nothing offensively and considering they only had 11 forwards it makes you wonder that if everyone is healthy he might be looking at a few press box games.
8. The defense looked good all night and everyone jumped up in the rushes a little bit to give some of the forwards a break.
9. Murphy while he made some SUPER saves looked a bit off—he got beat bad twice as Hershy hit the post both times, spit out more rebounds than usual and bit too hard on some players moves. Of course that is where he made one of the best saves I’ve seen in awhile laying on his back with an open net on Matt Ford–you could see his face in the replay and he was not a happy camper.
10. Everyone that was there reacted in some way to Micflikier just getting CRUSHED by Rasmus Rissanen behind the net. Micflickier got him back in front the Checkers bench (it looked like an elbow).
11. The refs did a nice job of letting everyone play and the only so-so penalty was Bellmore against Micflickier which was more of a big guy on a little guy and the little guy doing some acting. But other than that everything else was pretty obvious and nothing ticky-tac.
12. Overtime was basically two very tired teams playing for the shoot-out. The only real good chance was for Hershey with 3 seconds left when the Checkers just stood around and let them set up a one time deflect play that Murphy did a nice job stopping.
13. 12 round shoot-out and it is pretty easy to breakdown. If the Checkers went high on Sabourin they beat him–when Hershey went five hole on Murphy they beat him. The Checkers got everything on net while Hershy actually had a complete whiff on a shot and quite a few wide. Pistilli redeemd himself with a really nice forehand backhand move that I thought for sure was going to be the game winner in the sixth round. Blanchard came up big in the 11th (never remember him being anywhere near a shoot out before) and Sanguinetti rung the post the the 12th. I have no idea what Murphy was doing on the final shooter, he looked like a soccer goalie that had to guess a side. Mitchell did not have that great of a move but oh well.
14. Again, great game against what is a REALLY good Hershey team if the Checkers play even strength hockey again like that tonight and shore up the special teams they will be in good shape for a win.
Editor’s note: Once again, huge thank you to Allan for his post-game thoughts. While I was able to watch the game online, you just don’t REALLY see what’s happening on a tiny computer screen. The few thoughts I have are as follows.
I was SO IMPRESSED by the Checkers. This was playoff style hockey, if you ask me, and the team came out with the same intensity they did last April when they beat Hershey.
Considering Charlotte has MAJOR injury problems right now (Nash, Staal, Durno, Shugg, Roy) and the three call-ups in Raleigh, it was a great team effort.
Mike Murphy is a goalie god. Sure, he wasn’t perfect, but he made some saves that were just jaw-dropping, awe inspiring. I couldn’t believe them!
Allan and I definitely agree… SPECIAL TEAMS lost the game for Charlotte. I knew it was going to come down to that monster Power Play and Penalty Kill by the Bears, and it did. I’m looking forward to another awesome match up tonight!
A couple of quick notes about tonight:
Derek Joslin was recalled by the Hurricanes. Chris Murray is on his way to Charlotte from Florida.
Jared Staal took part in the optional skate this morning. Hopefully he can go tonight, as 12 forwards would definitely be better than 11!
First of all, congratulations to Jerome Samson on his first NHL goal last night. His was the only goal of the night for Carolina, and he was the second star of the game! Nice work, Jerome!
Hershey Bears (21-8-4-3) at Charlotte Checkers (21-8-4-3)
The last time the Checkers met their former division rival Bears was last April, when the two teams met in the first round of the Playoffs. The Checkers, who were in fact the underdogs, defeated the Bears in game six, with an overtime goal by the great Nicolas Blanchard.
The Bears lead the Eastern Conference with 49 points, and are second overall in the league.The Checkers are in fourth place overall with 45 points, and continue to lead the Midwest division.
Stat-for-stat, the Checkers and Bears are very evenly matched, so tonight’s game should be exciting to watch, especially with the Bears wanting to prove something after the last loss they faced against the Checkers.
Offensive dynamos might be a good word to describe the 2011-12 Bears. Keith Aucoin leads the team in points with 59 (that’s almost two points a game!). He’s got 8 goals, and an UNREAL 51 assists.
Chris Bourque has the most goals with 20 (plus 34 assists, making his points total 54). Four of those goals were shorthanded, a state he leads the league in, so watch out Checkers!
The Bears have the best Power Play in the AHL. Forward Graham Mink leads the team, and the league, with 11, and he’s only played in 26 games. Chris Bourque is second on the team in PPG with 9.
The Bears are also third in the AHL on the Penalty Kill (though, for the record, Charlotte isn’t far behind in sixth.)
Tonight marks former Checker Jacob Micflikier’s first return to Charlotte since last season. He has 38 points so far this year (13G, 25A).
Joel Rechlicz, a Hershey RW who leads the LEAGUE in PIM with 167, was suspended by the AHL for one game after fighting a guy that was sitting on the bench. He currently has two points on the season (1G, 1A).
Hershey’s starting goaltender will be familiar to Checkers fans. Braden Holtby faced Charlotte in the playoffs last year, and put up fantastic numbers. He continues to have a great season. In 22 games this year, he’s 12-8-0-2 (2.64 GAA and .903 SV%).
By comparison, Mike Murphy, who started in the final games of the first round of the Checkers playoff series last year and in turn beat Holtby, has equally stellar numbers. In 24 games, he’s 13-9-0 (2.56 GAA and .923 SV%).
Riley Nash was cleared for contact this morning, and resumed full practice with the team. However, he will not play tonight, leaving the Checkers with only 11 forwards.
Matt Beca has been recalled from Florida for tonight’s game.
Justin Shugg, Mathieu Roy and Chris Durno remain sidelined with injuries, while Justin Peters, Brett Sutter and Jerome Samson are currently with the Hurricanes. Jared Staal did not participate in the morning skate, and is questionable for tonight’s game.
Stay tuned for post-game commentary and analysis from Allan!
I didn’t watch or listen to the game thanks to the fact I was at work without access all afternoon/evening, but it sounded like it was an amazing. Who am I kidding, it WAS an awesome game because the Charlotte Checkers defeated the Hershey Bears and ended their playoff run. The back-to-back Calder Cup Champions (and they’ve won three in the last five years) have never lost a series at home in the Giant Center. The last time they lost a series at home, it was in their old arena in 2002.
Nicolas Blanchard scored the game winning goal, only a minute and a half into the overtime period. Mike Murphy stopped 26 of 27 shots, and had another phenomenal performance between the pipes. If he doesn’t start every game in the second round, I will be shocked. Zack Fitzgerald misses his second straight game with a thumb injury, but he’s hard to keep down so I would expect to see him back sooner than later.
The Checkers have a few days to rest up and recharge (and practice, practice, practice, I’m sure!) before the first playoff game of the second round.
Here are a few keys to the Checkers series win against Hershey:
The Checkers ROCKED the penalty kill, only allowing one goal (in 26 PK’s)
The Checkers were able to capitalize on four power plays (in 33 attempts)
Justin Faulk. This kid is AMAZING and I love seeing him in a Checkers sweater. He’s fit in so well already, and is getting big minutes with the top-defensemen on the team.
The Zac(h)’s. Dalpe’s a rookie, and had eight points in six games… three goals, five assists. Boychuck has seven points, with three goals and four assists.
Mike Murphy went 3-1 in his four starts against Hershey. He had some rough first periods, but when Murphy starts a game, he ends it strong. His final first-round stats were phenomenal. He had a 2.24 GAA, and .926 SV%.
So next up, Wilkes-Barre/Scranton and the Penguins. The Pens had the best record in the AHL, and the Checkers went 1-6-0-1, only beating the Pens once in regulation. While this is a daunting stat, I still have a lot of faith in our Checkers. They have fight and determination, and a full roster with no risk of our NHL Club needing our guys. Game one is on Thursday in Wilkes-Barre, and game two follows on Saturday. If I didn’t have a show this week, I can assure you I would be in Wilkes-Barre for the first two games! I even had a brief fantasy about seeing how much it would cost to charter a bus up and back, and see if there were enough Checkers fans interested in a crazy yet epic roadtrip.
The Checkers will be at home a week from Monday. Game three is Monday, May 2 at 7 p.m., and game four is Wednesday, May 4 at 7 p.m. These games are going to be INCREDIBLE, and I will be bringing everyone I know to cheer our team on to victory.
A few interesting facts and figures about the game in a couple of hours.
In five games vs. the Bears in this playoff series, the Checkers have won all three games where they had less SOG than the opponent. Both games they led shooting were lost.
In three games vs. Hershey in the playoffs, Mike Murphy has allowed only eight goals. He has a 2.68 GAA, and .916 SV%
In five games vs. Charlotte in the playoffs, Braden Holtby has allowed 16 goals. He has a 3.23 GAA, and .885 SV%
The Checkers average approximately two PIM’s less per game during this series (13.4 PIM per game, vs. 15.8 PIM per game for the Bears). These two minutes per game may prove to be a big deal if the Checkers can capitalize on the power play, as they have four times during the series.
The Bears have only one power play goal in the series, a sign that the Checkers has an extremely strong penalty kill that will hopefully continue.
In all five games, the Checkers have not been leading after the first or second period.
Tonight’s game is available in Charlotte on WBCN, 1600 AM. The action starts at 5 p.m.
The Checkers can move on to the second round with a win in tonight’s matchup.
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.
After the Hurricanes beat writer Chip Alexander made some twitter comments about Sheldon Souray being very old and in need of a new career, I did some very quick math of the current rosters of Hershey vs. Charlotte. I did all of the active players, not just the “Top 20”, and the average age of the Charlotte Checkers if only 23, whereas the average age of Hershey is almost 26. That’s a pretty significant difference. The Checkers don’t have any players older than 28, and the Bears have seven. I’m not sure what this stat means, exactly, but it’s interesting never the less. Hershey is clearly more experienced overall, I see a lot of fight, speed and grit in the much younger Checkers, and I hope it’s going to pay off.
Zac Dalpe now has three goals and three assists in the four games so far vs. Hershey. Not too shabby! He still makes me a bit nervous when he plays the point on the power play though, but if it gives him more scoring chances, I’ll take it!
One of the weirdest stat I’ve ever seen is that whoever has the least shots on goal in this series has won the game. Game one: C-26, H-31 : Charlotte Wins. Game two: C-24, H-20 – Hershey wins. Game three: C-30, H-21 – Hershey Wins. Game four: C-24, H-27 – Charlotte wins. By no means do I think we should keep shooting less to win, but I think this is a testament of taking your time and setting up shots and making good plays that take advantage of scoring opportunities and not just throwing the puck at the net and hoping something good comes out of it. Sure, that may work at times in the regular season, but the playoffs are a different animal, and good opportunities are worth waiting for.
While I LOVE that the Checkers are FINALLY getting regular news media, I hate that the only reason we have it is because the Hurricanes are out of the playoffs, and the Raleigh News and Observer’s Chip Alexander is in Charlotte for the Checkers playoffs. Why don’t we get this kind of coverage in the REGULAR season? There have been FIVE articles in the Charlotte Observer in the past three days. I’m not sure if there were five articles in the entire regular season, other than a one-paragraph game write up prior to this week. With that in mind, what do we have to do in Charlotte to get the Checkers recognized SEASON long, and not just during the week the playoffs are in town?
Holy blog hits, batman! I’m sure I’m the only one who pays attention to this (actually, I’m the only one who can see it, I think) but in the past week, this little blog has really started to take off. It might be mostly Hershey fans checking it out, but it’s cool! I can’t believe there are hundreds of people who actually want to read what I write every day, but I’ll take it!
I ordered an iPad about a month ago, and it arrived on Monday. I decided to see what a WordPress blog looks like on it, and WOW, it makes Chasing Checkers look like I’m some awesome web designer, when really, I know enough HTML to make myself dangerous, but that’s about it.
I have a very special treat, readers… more guest bloggers! I can’t be at the game tonight, so to give everyone a fair idea of what the game is all about, I’ve recruited some VERY special fans to write up their experience. They pretty much have free reign, but I think it’s going to be awesome. So be on the lookout for a special update from the one and only Fitzy’s Posse!
Make me proud tonight, Charlotte. Cheer for the team, and have fun at the game. Lets Go Checkers!