The one about WINNING in the playoffs

The team I watched last night, THAT was my Checkers hockey team.  I could probably gush about them forever.  The interesting thing is, even though we won, unlike our previous game, I don’t feel like we played THAT much better than we had on Tuesday.  I’m not sure that came out right… what I mean is, while yes, we won on the scoreboard, and I feel like we earned it, I don’t think we played significantly better on the whole, mostly because the team I saw on Tuesday, albeit a losing one, played phenomenally as well… I think the Checkers have been fantastic this whole season.  I’m going to focus on a very few thoughts about the game.

Justin Faulk made his professional debut in Charlotte on April 20, 2011

Justin Faulk

University of Minnesota-Duluth NCAA  Champion and USA-Hockey phenom Justin Faulk made his professional debut last night for the Checkers.  He was paired with all of our top defensemen at different times during the game, and played a lot of minutes.  He fit in easily with the team, and played the majority of his shifts with Captain Bryan Rodney.

He was a thrill to watch.  He skated well, handled the puck, and tended to be in the right place at all the right times. He is definitely a player I look forward to watching more and more, and I was pretty excited to see him play in his first pro game!

Southern Hockey 

I love hockey in the South. I love the history, and the way we can meld the great southern culture and a fantastic sport together.  I love the hospitality of our fans, and how generous they are.  While hockey is not new to Charlotte (we are the birthplace of professional hockey in the South, after all… and the first Checkers came to be in the 1950’s!), our fanbase is still learning and maturing.

I love it when the passion of the fans come out “southern style,” like the guy sitting a few rows in front of me banging on the glass screaming at the officals, “Way to go, Ref!  Y’all suck!”  I think there should be more “y’all” in Hockey.  (Editor’s Note:  While I love this kind of southern culture though, I do NOT love Ric Flair.  At all.  I hate wooing, and refuse to do it!)

Mike Murphy

This guy has been “my” goalie since day one.  I’ve studied his numbers, and statistics, and I know I side with him a lot.  I’ve tried to be unbiased, but on the whole, I definitely prefer him in net, and after the way he played last night, it just cements the fact that he’s my number one goaltender.  Murphy made some great diving saves, and didn’t allow the first goal until midway through the second.  I’d missed seeing him play during the past month, so it was a treat to see him back in his old form, right where he left off in early March before getting injured.  Here’s hoping he gets the start on Friday.  I’ve known it for a long time, but I think Coach Daniels FINALLY gets that Murphy IS the key to success!  Murphy faced 37 SOG in the game (versus the 24 that Braden Holtby faced for the Hershey Bears).  He’s now 5-1 in six starts verses Hershey this year.  Not too shabby, if you ask me!

Zack Fitzgerald

Ever since I was slightly critical of Fitzgerald in a recent blog, he has impressed me time and time again.  Last night was no exception.  He played a very mature, responsible game and was able to keep it in check and not drop the gloves unnecessarily.   He funneled his energy in a positive way that inspired the team to rally together.  He was defensively responsible, and proved to be a great leader with a new guy like Faulk on the ice.

Sheldon Souray

I’m a huge Oilers fan, as in I’ve traveled to eight different states, and 10 arenas to see them play, and I own a couple of Oiler jerseys.  So when Shelly was an Oiler in the official sense, and not just in the sense he still gets his paycheck from them despite playing for Hershey in the AHL, I tried to like him, and at first I did.  I thought he would be a huge asset to the team, but things went south, and he ended up making a lot of enemies in his home province of Alberta, eventually getting demoted not only to the AHL, but to another team’s AHL team, all so the Oilers could keep his negative influence away from their prospects.  Double the fact that Souray is a skilled defenseman with a lot of grit (when he’s not injured), and the Oilers have finished LAST in the NHL the past two seasons, you’d think the team would want something, anything, to help them out of the hole they are in, but they shipped Souray to Hershey anyway.

Souray is a guy who you never want to face on the ice, and I’m pretty sure the Checkers can attest to that.  He had three minor penalties last night, but the one that frustrated me the most was during the third period.  He was officially given a roughing penalty, but what I saw was a cross check to the face of Nicolas Blanchard.  It was an incredibly dirty hit, and one that in the NHL, would have immediately been sent to Toronto.  I hope the play can in fact be reviewed after the fact, because it was nasty to see in person.

The reviewing of plays is something I will probably get into in a later blog entry… I have a number of thoughts on the issue, but that is for a later time and date!

I love the Checkers

I love that the crowd was on their feet for the last two minutes of play.  I love how passionate they were, and how loud our small crowd got.  I love that the Checkers are hands down the best sports team in Charlotte.  I love the organization from the top to the bottom (except for the Checkmates, of course).

Last night was the final game of the first round I get to see, and it kills me to admit that, but as much as I love my team, I love my best friend more.  Her bachelorette party is going to be super fun, and I have a Blackberry which will give me game updates.  And I feel very strongly that I’ll get to see the team again in the second round.

So win for me on Friday, and win for all of the other awesome fans in Charlotte.

Lets Go Checkers!!!!

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The one about the Bloody Ref(s)

I should have known at the beginning of the game it was going to be one of those nights.  As Jacob Micflikier was skating to the bench after one of his first shifts, Hershey Bears number 22, Francois Bouchard, blatantly speared Micflikier in the chest near the Checkers bench.  An official was less than 10 feet away, and watched it happen.  Micflikier pointed at himself, questioning the official, and the official’s only response was to nod, acknowledging that he saw what happened, and then skate off.

In the third period, after being highsticked across his face (his visor saved him, for sure) and that play being ignored, it took Zach Boychuck getting highsticked a second time and bleeding all over center ice, with only a minute or so to play, for an official to actually make a call.  Over and over again, stuff was ignored.  Hershey has a bad reputation for being a league/officials favorite, and last night confirmed that fact.  The biggest thing that I can not, and may not ever get over, was the first goal that was awarded in the first period.

The Goal that should NOT have been

So, I scoured the AHL rulebook after the game.  For long time, looking for something, ANYTHING, to try and explain how the heck the first “goal” tonight was considered legal.  You see, from where I was sitting, which was in the third row very near Mike Murphy’s net, I very clearly saw the puck become lodged in the netting on the top of the net, and a Hershey player flipped it out of the net (ABOVE the crossbar, obviously) where it landed on top of Murphy’s head and fell behind the goal line.

At first, I wondered why the play didn’t just get a whistle to blow the puck dead, but after further investigation of the AHL rule book, apparently a puck has to be frozen in the in the net for three seconds before an official can blow it dead.  I do not know how long it was frozen, so maybe the officials are slow counters (or just slow) and didn’t get to one…two…THREE before the Hershey player flipped it out.  Which leads me to the second potential rule violation.

According to AHL Rule 80.4 (In section 10, Game Flow, found on page 166 of my handy rulebook):

When an attacking player causes the puck to enter the opponent’s goal by contacting the puck above the height of the crossbar, either directly or deflected off any player or official, the goal shall not be allowed.  The determining factor is where the puck makes contact with the stick.

So, the only way that the puck could have gotten out of the net was with a high stick, since the puck was stuck in the net ABOVE the crossbar, and it was then deflected off of another player (Murphy) before crossing the goal line, but this rule clearly states THE GOAL SHALL NOT BE ALLOWED, and yet it was.

The first period wend downhill from there.  Murphy was scored on a second time from a really sharp, nearly unstoppable angle, he was crashed into multiple times by Hershey players, and ended up stuck under his own net when it came off it’s pegs and crashed on top of him.  After being out of the lineup for almost a month to the day, it was a rocky beginning.  Despite the tough first period though, and non-calls, the entire team rallied and played an amazing remaining 40 minutes of hockey.  They played hard, and came so close to tying up the game multiple times, but it just wasn’t enough.  They were fighting a losing battle with the officials.

Here are a few quick thoughts, observations from the game thanks to note taking at the bar afterwards with a big group of friends:

  • Charlotte has the BEST fans.  Period.  It was SO GREAT to see everyone rally together so passionately about our team.  Everyone was into the game, cheering and on their feet over and over again.  It was playoff hockey at its best.  (Short of a win, of course!)
  • I totally understand that the sponsorship stuff is necessary to run a pro sports team (I did spend three years working with sponsorship and marketing for a NASCAR Sports marketing agency, afterall!), but it was SO NICE not to have the flow of the game interrupted by annoying commercial breaks… chicken eating, electric slide, etc.  It was also nice to just have Wilson rallying the crowd, etc., and not running around the arena getting all of the commercials in.
  • Uggh.  We had to see the Checkmates dance twice.  I use the term “dance” loosely.  Can’t they just be cheerleaders and fan motivators, and not do those stripper dances?
  • Every member of top brass from the Carolina Hurricanes was at the game last night.  The faces I recognized included Jim Rutherford, Jason Karmanos, Brian Tatum, Rod Brind’Amour, Glen Wesley, Tom Barrasso, Tom Rowe, Ron Francis and Paul Maurice.  Pretty great turnout from the big guys in Raleigh!  I hope they were impressed with what they saw, because I know I was.
  • Mike Murphy had a fantastic game despite the loss.  I know I keep saying that, but the scoreboard does not tell the whole story of the game.  He made some amazing saves, and was beaten up quite a bit by Hershey players, and he kept coming back.
  • While I think Murphy was awesome, I would wouldn’t be surprised if Justin Pogge gets the start tonight, since it’s a back-to-back situation, and we have no definitive starting goaltender.
  • We had seven scratches last night.   I love that the Checkers have our own crew of black aces!  I love that Bobby Goepfert is so much fun, even when he’s not playing.  He was dancing in the press box, and even throwing chuck a pucks.
  • In the best hair of the scratches department, newcomer Justin Faulk gets the award for best flow.  On the opposite end of the spectrum is Jared Staal, who’s ginger mane keeps getting bigger and bigger.
  • I wonder what Jared is doing with his phone during games.  Is he texting his big brother(s)?  Maybe  BBMing with Eric, or texting Tripp Tracey?  Maybe he was scheduling a hair appointment… because goodness knows he needs one!
  • Casey Borer had a great game and really bounced back from a bad game on Sunday.  Maybe it was because his parents were at the game… I only know this because he took them to Brixx afterwards, where I was enjoying their Tuesday night beer special with Fitzy’s Posse and my own crew of fan-friends.
That’s it for me… game four is tonight!  I hope and pray it’s not my last one this year.  Let me rephrase that.  Tonight marks the last game of the first round I get to attend… my best friend’s bachelorette party is on Friday night, and as the Maid of Honor, I can’t miss it!  I will definitely be thinking of my team and sending them good thoughts as they battle the Bears.   But I’ll see my team again when we take on our second-round opponents!  Positive thinking, people!  I KNOW we can do this, especially the way we played last night.
Lets go checkers!

The one about the roadtrip to Hershey

In the course of 36 hours, four of us drove to Hershey and back to cheer on our Charlotte Checkers.  While the game outcome wasn’t what I would have wanted, I wouldn’t trade the experience for anything.

I’m writing this in the passenger seat of a car that is headed back to Charlotte, and I’ll post it when I get home and recovered.  Our adventure is over, and despite the loss it was worth it to make the trip.  The team played incredibly hard and with a lot of fire and determination, but it just wasn’t our night.  Over the course of the season, I’ve come to love the team so much that I knew I just had to support them on the road in the playoffs, and it was totally worth it.

About the game:

Most confusing non-goal ever. Puck crossed the line, but disallowed. Penalty called on Dalpe AND Souray, each for slashing (nowhere near the puck), sending two players to the box. Whistle never blew till after puck crossed goal line, no time was added to scoreboard.

Zac Dalpe had a great night, scoring both of the Checkers goals.  I was incredibly impressed by two of our defensemen, Michal Jordan and Brett Bellemore.   know the AHL doesn’t track Time On Ice as an official stat, but by my best guess, I’d say Jordan was out there for at least 26 or 27 minutes, and Bellemore played close to that many minutes.  It seemed like every other shift, I’d see Jordan hustling and doing everything in his power to keep Hershey down.  Although Jordan had a -3 for the night, it’s not a true sign of how well he played at all.  He was a beast on the ice, and I was so glad to have him out there.

Casey Borer had a very lackluster performance, and seemed lazy at times on the ice.  His ice time seemed to decrease a great deal as the game went on.  Based on his performance (or lack there of) and the fact that clearly the Checkers want to play Jordan as many minutes as they do, we have got to bench one of our six regular defensemen in favor of newly signed Justin Faulk.  Even if Faulk isn’t ready to play major minutes with his new team, we’ve got guys like Jordan and Bellemore who can cover for him, so I think it’s time to give the rookie a shot.

All in all, it was a fun game to watch.  I was going to avoid discussing the goaltending situation for once, but I can’t do that.  Justin Pogge seemed strong at first, but a couple of the goals he let in just weren’t that challenging.  He seemed very tired, which is understandable considering how many starts he’s gotten recently, but he had also had two full days off since the last game with no traveling, so he should have gotten some rest.  Braden Holtby continues to confuse me when he plays the Checkers.  In this game, he was stronger than he usually was, but he never settled down, and had an edge of uncertainty about him the entire game, despite the final score.

Thoughts about the arena and the fans:

I have a feeling I’ll come back to the idea of Hershey and their fans in a later blog, but that will have to wait.

In a nutshell, I was reminded once again how lucky we are to have such a fantastic, state-of-the-art NHL caliber arena in Charlotte.  It’s not that the Giant Center is a dump, it’s a great barn that the Bears fans fill time and time again, but between the incredibly hard plastic seats, the overly high boards and glass that was far-too-short, I missed the TWCA a lot.

I was so used to being COLD at a hockey game (and I’ve been in a lot of professional rinks, all across the US and even Canada), but I’ve never been so warm at a game.  The ice seemed to be suffering as a result of the conditions, too. Pucks were bouncing all over the place, and there were a lot of odd slips and falls by players.

I really missed the Southern hospitality of the fans in Charlotte.  I’ve greeted so many away team fans and welcomed them to our arena that it was hard to get used to the absolutely repulsive and obscene things said to us by some of the male fans.

Fitzy

So… starting with the positives.  First of all, there are NO ICE GIRLS IN HERSHEY.  This was a huge plus.  I find hockey cheerleaders generally offensive, and that they tend to take away from the experience instead of adding to it.  I’m sorry, but scantily clad women gyrating like strippers to bad dance music just does not say HOCKEY to me.  If hockey cheerleaders actually engaged the crowd instead of dancing, I might not be so bothered by them, but they don’t lead chants or cheers.  They don’t help stir up the crowd.  Hershey’s fanbase proved that you do NOT need cheerleaders/dancers/ice girls to get the crowd involved.  The entire crowd cheered in unison every time the Bears scored (which unfortunately, was four times), and they were loud.  I loved that.  I did not, however, love the glass banging.  WHY is it ok in the AHL to bang on the glass??  It makes me crazy.

I did not like some of the fans near us.  While I completely understand I was in someone else’s barn, I don’t think I should have obscene things screamed at me by fans.  I was respectful, only cheering or standing when my team scored, to which I would receive “Sit down, bitch” or other colorful phrases.  During one of the intermissions, their mascot Coco skated to where we were sitting on the glass and kind of taunted us in a fun way, pointing to the polar bears on our jersey and giving us a thumbs down.  That’s totally fine, and I’m sure our own Chubby does similar things.  But then, this fan sitting two rows behind me (who I believe had previously called me “bitch”) yells “Hey Coco, teabag those Checkers fans”  because, you know, that is a REALLY family friendly thing to scream in front of your three children who all appeared to be under the age of five.

After the game, some of Fitzy’s Posse told us fans in their section held a small infant up when their team scored and would shake him like an ice girl shakes a pom-pom, which is a VERY disturbing image.  Shaking a baby at a hockey game?  Really?  I also heard stories of fans pouring beer over the VERY short glass (seriously, I could reach over it, and I’m not a tall person!)  onto the backs of the away team.  Is that really appropriate behavior?  I realize you want your home team to win (as will I this week in Charlotte), but pouring beer on a player is so juvenile and bush-league.  Do fans like that not realize that they wouldn’t have a game to be at if it wasn’t for the guys in Red, skating for the away team?  I’ve heard of entire sections of fans standing up and flipping off the away team, and somehow this is acceptable behavior in Hershey.  If a player did that, I’m sure they would face fines or even suspension, but apparently it’s ok for the Hershey fans to do… quite the double standard!

My absolute favorite argument was with a fan who thought it was really cool that they were paying one of their players $5 million dollars to play in the AHL.  I didn’t want to correct him, but actually, the Edmonton Oilers are paying Sheldon Souray $4.5 milion to play in the Eastern Conference of the AHL, for a team that has absolutely no connection to the Oil.  You see, Souray became quite a cancer in the dressing room last season, and the Oilers were unable to trade him.  They felt so strongly about how negatively he affected their club, that they didn’t want him on their own AHL team, the Oklahoma City Barons, where he might negatively influence their prospects, nor did they even want him on a western conference team, so they shipped him to Hershey in an agreement with the Washington Capitals.  So if a fan wants to think it’s COOL that the two-time, back-to-back WORST TEAM in the NHL doesn’t want a player that they shipped him for free to the Bears, then so be it.

I want to end on a positive note though… not all of the fans we encountered were bad people.  We sat with great people during warmups, and met a lot of concerned fans who asked about the tornado damage in Raleigh and all over North Carolina.  Many were impressed we made the trek to Hershey, and we invited them to come see their team play in Charlotte.

We definitely missed Chief Fan Rouser Wilson, and the way the Checkers have an in-game personality who keeps things flowing.  To be honest though, we did NOT miss all of the “commercials” we are forced to endure at Checkers games at every single TV timeout.  I don’t know how Hershey can avoid all of these promos, but it was nice to not have to see someone stuffing their face with chicken, or doing the chicken dance or the electric slide at every break in play!  And again, I LOVED that there weren’t half-naked ice girls skating around in figure skate to clear the ice, and instead their were professional looking ice-technicians in hockey skates doing it instead.

After the game, all of the Checkers fans found their way to the back of the arena where the players exited, and many of them circulated among the crowd, genuinely thanking us for making the trip.  I’m not one to really seek out the team like that, or ever ask for autographs (like some of the ebay-selling autograph hounds were doing) but it was so nice to see our team so thankful of the support the fans in Charlotte provide.  Zack Fitzgerald was of course one of the most incredible players, who sought out every fan in a Checkers, Canes or River Rats jersey to personally thank them for coming.  THAT is why we have a first-class team in the Charlotte Checkers!

Wrapping it up:

First of all, THANK YOU for reading this far.  I have a lot more to say, but I fear if I wrote anything else, nobody would want to read it.  I also have at least 50 great pictures of the game, warmups, etc., but don’t want to overload this blog with photographs!

Secondly, LET’S DO THIS CHECKERS (and fans!)!!!!!  Tomorrow night is going to be a HUGE game in Charlotte, and we need the W.  If all ends the way it should, we could wrap the series up on Friday and head to the second round.  So please come out and support OUR team.  They deserve everything we can give them.

Lets Go Checkers!

CHECKERS WIN! Defeat Hershey 5-4 in game 1

I know, it’s taken me forever to get this up, but I’m distracted and had to drive to Asheville and back, and have to pack and get ready for the ROADTRIP to Hershey.

I paid for the AHL live video broadcast for the first time all season, and I’m still undecided about how I feel about it.  $10 was definitely way too much for what I got, but it was nice to see the game.  I think I was almost distracted though.  I’ve gotten so used to just LISTENING to away games, having pictures and audio was a lot for me to focus on.

But enough about that… the GAME!  The Checkers won by a score of 5-4 vs. the back-to-back Calder Cup champion Hershey Bears.  I’m not gonna lie and say I wasn’t nervous when it only took the Bears 1:10 into the first period to score the first goal.

A few thoughts about the matchup:

  • Hershey is so chocolate obsessed that even the mic windscreens are chocolate colored.  Can we please get bright red ones in Charlotte?
  • Two of the goals against us seemed to be the result of Pogge being out of position.  He tends to do this a lot, and it is VERY frustrating.  On another note, I hope he bought Bryan Rodney a beer as thanks for saving his butt when he was screwing around with the puck behind the trapezoid in the first.  Later, in the second something similar happened and if it wasn’t for one of Pogge’s teammates being there, he would have lost the puck and been scored on.
  • After all of these incidents, I wrote on my notepad “I do not trust Pogge in the trapezoid” and I stand by that statement.
  • Bears netminder Braden Holtby was clearly not paying attention at times, too.  I like seeing Holtby distracted though, because it results in great goals like the one by Chris Terry in the first.
  • It was great to see the Checkers score a shorthanded goal (Thank you, Brett Bellemore!)
  • While it stinks the Canes didn’t make the post-season, it was however awesome to see Drayson Bowman back on the ice, especially when he scored the GWG in the third!
  • The Checkers were 0-5 on the powerplay, but as mentioned earlier, did have one shorthanded goal.
  • The Bears went 1-4 on the powerplay.
  • These powerplay stats have got to stop!  We MUST take advantage of opportunities and score on the PP, especially if we can keep them in the box more than we go there ourselves.

The one where I preview the playoffs

It’s playoff time in Charlotte, and I love it.  I love it so much I did a bit of fine-tuning on the Hershey Bears logo…. I think it looks a lot better like this, don’t you?

Charlotte vs. Hershey – By the Numbers

Overall, the two teams met eight times this season.  Charlotte’s record is 4-3-0-1.

Charlotte Goaltending

Mike Murphy – 4-2-0   ~  2.23 GAA  ~ .930 Save %

Justin Pogge – 0-1-1 ~ 2.64 GAA ~ .922 Save %

Of note regarding this record:  Each netminder made four starts.  Pogge was pulled once, and thrown out of another game with a misconduct penalty and big-time temper tantrum.  Murphy replaced him and ended up taking the loss.

Pogge’s one loss  was a nearly perfect game for him.  Hershey scored the loan goal, about ten minutes into the third period.  So despite him never beating the Hershey bears, he did come close.

The bad news about the Checkers goaltending situation – Murphy hasn’t played since March 20, when he left the game after suffering a concussion at the hands of a goalie-tripping Wilke-Barre Penguin player took him out behind the Checkers net.  Murphy missed the final nine games of the season, and only started skating again this past Monday (April 11), and is considered to be day-to-day.   Based on comments made by Checkers coach Jeff Daniels a week or so ago, I doubt he’s going to start Murphy “cold” after such a long absence, unless of course Pogge blows it big time in the first game.

Braden Holtby guards the net vs. Charlotte on Dec. 10, 2011

Bears Goaltending

Braden Holtby 3-2-0 ~ 3.15 GAA ~ .887 Save %

Dany Sabourin 2-1-0 ~ 2.69 GAA ~ .921 Save %

The Capitals organization has a lot of depth in goal.  Holtby spent a lot of time in Washington this season as the starting netminder, and he could very well still be there today if the Capitals weren’t so deep in goal.  He didn’t seem to have the ability to focus in the games versus Charlotte this season.  I know some of those starts surrounded big call-ups, so maybe his head wasn’t in the game.  I wouldn’t mind if that lack of focus continued for our playoff run!

Charlotte Offensive Leaders vs. Hershey

  • Zach Boychuck – 7GP, 0G, 9A
  • Zac Dalpe – 8 GP, 4G, 4A
  • Chris Terry – 8 GP, 5G, 2A
  • Jacob Micflikier – 8 GP, 4G, 3A
  • Bryan Rodney – 8 GP, 4G, 3A

Hershey Offensive Leaders vs. Charlotte

  • Kyle Greentree – 6GP, 5G, 1A
  • Brian Fahee – 5GP, 0G, 6A
  • Brian Willisee – 8GP, 1G, 4A
  • Boyd Kane – 8GP, 2G, 2A

Zack Fitzgerald leads the Checkers in PIMs with 228

Charlotte PIM Leaders vs. Hershey

  • Brad Herauf – 6GP, 0G, 1A,  29 PIMs
  • Justin Pogge – 4GP, 22 PIMs
  • Zack Fitsgerald – 6GP, 13 PIMs

So… if Pogge can stay on his side of the red line and not get thrown out of the game, and we can make use of our powerplay, we’ve got a shot.  The Checkers scored against Hershey seven times on the PP, vs. Hershey scoring 6 times on the powerplay (and one shorthanded, as well).

Steve Pinizzotto leads the Bears with 178 PIMs

Hershey PIM Leaders vs. Hershey


  • Brian Willisie – 8GP, 16 PIMs
  • Boyd Kane – 8GP, 14 PIMs
  • Zach Miskovic – 8GP, 12 PIMs
  • Kyle Greentree – 6GP, 10 PIMs
  • Steve Pinizzotto – 7GP, 9 PIMs

Wrap-up thoughts about the series

I’m anxious to see if Murphy gets a shot this series.  I think he’s the proven winner vs. Hershey, but it’s complicated with his recent injury.  If Holtby keeps it together, Hershey could be a tough team to beat.

Last year in the division finals, the Bears swept the River Rats in four games on the way to winning the Calder Cup.  Many of those former River Rats and current Checkers remember that, and I hope they use it to put some extra fight into their game.

With the Hurricanes not in the playoffs, Charlotte may have a slight edge on roster depth.  Nobody is at risk for being called up, where Hershey isn’t in the same boat.   Generally speaking though, the teams are relatively evenly matched, which should make for an exciting series that could easily go the full seven games.

Let’s Go Checkers!