Justin the nick of time – Checkers win 3-2 in the shootout with goal from Krueger

After dominating a big chunk of the game, the Charlotte Checkers topped the Houston Aeros 3-2 in a shootout Friday evening. The Checkers had a second period goal from Nic Blanchard and a game-tying goal from Justin Faulk with 12.8 seconds remaining in regulation. Justin Krueger scored the game-winner in the shootout. David McIntyre and Marco Scandella found the back of the net for Houston.

The Checkers got off to a strong start in the first period, outshooting the Aeros 11-4 and dominating the scoring chances. Drayson Bowman nearly put the Checkers on the board when he was fed a pass in front from Zac Dalpe, but the veteran forward pushed the puck wide off of a Houston defender’s lumber.

Checkers goaltender Dan Ellis was able to stay sharp which isn’t always easy with so little action.

“You have to move with the puck, move as the puck moves”,said Ellis, “and hopefully that gives you enough rhythm that when the puck does come that you have a little bit of a feel.”

Matt Hackett kept the game scoreless through the first, fending off all of Charlotte’s chances. He even battled through the fierce heckling from a misguided fan donning a Roberto Luongo sweater.

The Checkers’ hard work finally paid off seven minutes into the second period when Nic Blanchard tipped in a feed from Jerome Samson. Samson, bringing some skill to the fourth line, split through the Houston defenders to create a 3-on-1, slipped a pass over to Blanchard who redirected it in as he barreled into the goal.

Minutes after the Checkers took a 1-0 lead, Houston phenom and Minnesota’s top prospect Mikael Granlund moved in on a breakaway, deked forehand to backhand and attempted to go top shelf on Ellis, but the Checkers netminder came up with a brilliant glove save.

With under a minute remaining in the second, the Aeros knotted it up at 1 on a rebound goal by David McIntyre. Following a seeing-eye shot from the point, the puck squeezed through the pads of Ellis and McIntyre buried the rubber in the back of the net.

The Aeros completed the momentum shift early in the third when defenseman Marco Scandella saw an opening and snuck behind the Checkers defense and buried a wide open chance on Ellis, giving Houston a 2-1 advantage.

The Checkers didn’t get discouraged falling behind. They kept a majority of the play in the Houston zone and had a plethora of scoring chances throughout the period before Justin Faulk drew the game even at 2 with 12.8 seconds remaining in the game. Faulk received the puck at the point, hesitated and fired a slapshot through traffic that clipped Hackett’s glove and found the back of the net.

Justin Krueger scores in the seventh round for the Charlotte Checkers (Photo - J. Propst)
Justin Krueger scores in the seventh round for the Charlotte Checkers (Photo – J. Propst)

After a scoreless overtime period, Justin Krueger made a nifty move in the seventh round of the shootout to sneak the puck past the extended left pad of Hackett to give the Checkers the advantage where Ellis made short work of Nick Palmieri’s chance. Jerome Samson, Chris Terry and Zac Dalpe also scored in the shootout for Charlotte.

In their 26th game of the year, the Checkers have reached the first intermission of the 2012-13 season, however there isn’t much of a break to resurface the ice, let alone catch their breath with a game at noon tomorrow in Charlotte, and Sunday afternoon in San Antonio.

After a rough start to the home stand, Krueger was enthusiastic after the game about the direction his team is heading.

“It’s important for teams to have character and come back together and learn from those mistakes and why we lost those games and take the momentum,” Said Krueger, “We’ve got to keep rolling here.”


Getting to know the Houston Aeros with @3rdIntermission

First, a few comments and thoughts regarding training camp so far:

  • The addition of Drayson Bowman to the roster is a great one.  I’m anxious to see him on the ice at tomorrow’s scrimmage.
  • I still have hope that Jeff Skinner will decide to report to the Checkers, even if it’s not until November.  (Which means yes, I believe the lockout is going to continue at least until then.)
  • I’m working on a “Case For and Case Against” on the training camp roster.  With so many at camp, it is going to be tough to make the team.  Expect three posts later in the week exploring the strengths and weaknesses of Checkers players and their chances of making the final AHL roster.


Since we’ve made it to the fourth and final installment of the “Getting to know…” series, it must mean that Hockey season is right around the corner!

Today, I share with you some great thoughts from Heather over at The Third Intermission.  The Third Intermission is a great site with incredible Aeros content.  They have a team of writers who all contribute and are even working on adding a photographer to their entourage.  It’s well run and top-notch, so I highly recommend Checkers fans check it out.

Chasing Checkers – What can you tell us about hockey in Houston? It’s a city that boasts an NBA and NFL team, much like Charlotte.  Has hockey found it’s niche?

The Third Intermission – Hockey is pretty much an afterthought at best for most in Houston. Generally there is enough sporting news in town (throw in the MLS Dynamo and MLB Astros, in addition to the minor league baseball team doing crazy stuff like having Roger Clemens pitch), that the Aeros get the squeeze until playoff time.

But the city does have a pretty transient population and we get quite a few Canadians coming from the Alberta oil companies, plus other northerners who already liked hockey, and of course, the smart natives who’ve just grown to love hockey because hockey is awesome. So the fan base that the team has, while not huge, is quite devoted, either to the Aeros or just hockey in general. But it’s still exciting when I see someone (away from the rink) with a hockey license plate frame or sticker or shirt, etc. I always want to high-five them.

CC – How is the relationship between Minnesota and Houston?

T3I – I think it’s fair to characterize it as a “little sibling” relationship, but in general, since the Wild own the Aeros, it’s fairly positive. And because Houston is a major airline hub, the distance between the teams is no issue at all. Believe me, many players racked up many frequent flier miles last season, as our roster was the craziest revolving door I’ve ever seen. And not only can they get to Minnesota quickly, they can get anywhere in North America quickly, so it’s a great place to have a farm team.

Honestly, Minnesota’s had a bad time with drafting through most of the previous decade, so a lot of guys have moved straight to Minnesota. Mikko Koivu, Brent Burns, Cal Clutterbuck, Derek Boogaard. That’s about to change, though. This year’s team is overflowing with highly touted Wild picks, and most will stick around even if the lockout ends, as the Wild’s roster is fairly set. I think the expectation is that quite a few of these guys will end up in the show in 2 or 3 years.

CC – What can you tell a new South Division team about life in the newly named division?

T3I – The consensus I’ve gathered is that everyone is expecting Oklahoma City to basically kick everyone else in the teeth. The Aeros will be pretty stacked with high round picks fresh out of junior, but OKC is stacked with #1-in-the-draft picks with NHL experience. Whoa.

Rivalries sort of ebb and flow but San Antonio and Houston pretty much hate each other from the word go every season. There’s always a chance of a pretty good gong show when they roll in to town. The Wolves have also long been a tense rivalry with Houston. I’m not sad to see less of them lately.

CC – Is there anyone Checkers fans should follow in the media or with the team to keep abreast of one of our new division rivals?

T3I – The Third Intermission  is a great place for news and analysis on the Aeros. It’s 3 Aeros beat writers (me, Andrew, and John Royal of the Houston Press) joining forces to cover the team in a fairly relaxed, conversational way. We have a twitter, too: @3rdIntermission

CC – The Third Intermission has a full cast of contributors.  How did each of you get involved in the site?

John – “I’ve covered the Aeros for the Houston Press since 2007, and with T3I since the beginning. I also cover the University of Houston Cougars and Rice Owls.”
Heather – “For me personally, I’ve written for InGoal Magazine, Pro Hockey News, Hockey Wilderness on SBNation, and Backhand Shelf on theScore.com. This season, I’m going pro and covering the Aeros beat for the Houston Chronicle, which my parents are really excited about because I’m finally using that journalism degree they paid so much for.”
Andrew – “I have covered the Aeros, in some capacity, since 2001-02, their first year in the AHL. 
That first year, there was a weekly publication called Space City Sports. I was the Aeros correspondent, and I parlayed that into the Chronicle job the next year when the beat writer suddenly left the newspaper. I did the Chronicle Aeros beat for 10 years, and will continue to freelance and keep our Third Intermission Blog active. I am also an announcer for one of the college teams here in Houston, but my favorite freelance gig, by far, is covering the hockey team.”

The One About the ’12-’13 Schedule.

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!



Charlotte Checkers – Playoff Outlook and regular season wind-down

Eight games, and a maximum of 16 points are on the line in the next two weeks.

The Checkers play the next four games at home, then play four more during the final week of the regular season (three of which I will be at, live and in person!).

The race to the post season in the west is a tight one.  Only three points separate positions four through nine in the conference.

Here’s a brief look at Charlotte’s remaining opponents:

Milwaukee Admirals – The Checkers face them three times in the next two weeks.  Twice at home, and once on April 15, the final game of the regular season for both teams.  While Milwaukee isn’t currently in the playoffs, if they were to take all six points from Charlotte, the post season wouldn’t be out of the picture.  The Admirals have a record of 34-28-2-4 on the season, and have 74 points in 68 games played.  They are 1-3-1 against Charlotte, the only victory coming last November in Milwaukee.

Abbotsford Heat – The Checkers have back-to-back matinee games against the Heat next weekend at home.  Abbotsford is fourth in the conference with 80 points.  They are in what is probably the toughest division in the entire league, and are one of four teams from the West currently sitting in a playoff position.  The Checkers are 1-1 against the Heat after they split a pair of games in January in Abbotsford.

Rockford IceHogs – Currently in 11th, the IceHogs are just on the outside of the playoffs looking in, but if they took four points from Charlotte, that could potentially be enough to get them into the post season.  The Checkers are 4-1-0-1 against the IceHogs, and both games in Rockford resulted in wins for Charlotte.  With two more games there in a five-day stretch, those two games will be crucial to the Checkers playoff hopes, and quest for not only a spot in the post season, but home ice advantage that will probably require them to sit atop the Midwest division.

Peoria Rivermen – The Checkers have a record of 5-2 against Peoria this season, and face them one more time during the final weekend of the season.  The Rivermen are currently in eighth place in the west with 78 points in 71 games played.  Mike Murphy is 3-0 against the Rivs this season, so I for one hope he gets the start in two weeks against them in Peoria.

Other teams to watch out for:

Chicago Wolves – I’ll be doing a lot of scoreboard watching regarding the Wolves.  They currently sit atop the Midwest division, and are three points ahead of Charlotte with 82.  The scheduling gods were smiling on Charlotte when they made up the Wolves final weeks of the season.  From April 4-13, Chicago has a five-game roadtrip that has them play Oklahoma City, all three Texas teams, and finally a game in Grand Rapids, Michigan before returning home for their last two games of the season.  Needless to say, I’ll be cheering for their opponents over the roadtrip stretch.  With the Vancouver Canucks playoff future bright, there’s also the chance of losing valuable prospects to the NHL club, something the Wolves never had to worry about during their tenure with the Atlanta Thrashers.

San Antonio Rampage – Currently in a three-way tie with Charlotte for fourth place, the Rampage have 79 points in 70 games played.  Five of their final six games are at home, a factor that may prove to be incredibly beneficial.

Houston Aeros – The other third of the Checkers three-way tie, the Aeros have 79 points in 70 games played.  They are 32-23-5-10.  Yes.  They have lost 15 games after 60 minutes of play, including 10 lost shootouts.  That’s an incredibly crazy stat if you ask me, and is the highest number of loser-points given to a team in the entire league.

Gameday – Charlotte at Houston, Post game from OKC

 Last night in Oklahoma City:

  • If there was an award for best defenseman during the first month of the season, I’d give it to Bobby Sanguinetti.  After suffering a serious injury last year he has finally recovered fully, and is a huge asset to the team.
  • The Checkers had only three minor penalties, one of which was a bogus delay-of-game call on Matt Pistilli.  The Barons, on the other hand, had only one minor.  Neither team was successful on the power play.
  • In a surprise (to me) move, coach Jeff Daniels started Justin Peters in goal, despite claiming it would be an “equal rotation” between Peters and Mike Murphy.  This was Peters first back-to-back start all season, and I’m told was a move to help him get his rhythm back.  While it was a successful exercise considering the Checkers won, it was risky move.  Murphy had played very well against Oklahoma City previously, and held the teams only victory against them.  Fortunately, the Checkers won.
  • Jared Staal has turned a new leaf.  The youngest brother was named the second star last night, and had an assist in Charlotte’s win.  He’s begun to impress me as of late, which is a big deal considering how poorly and little he had played in his previous season with the Checkers.  It was a good night for all of the active Staals… Jordan scored two goals against the Hurricanes, and Eric scored one as well, cementing the 5-3 win over the Penguins in Raleigh.
  • For a guy who was signed for his toughness, Justin Soryal is proving to be more than that!  He scored his second goal last night, and has three points on the season (2G, 1A).  His career high is five goals, from two years ago, and is well on his way to surpassing that.  Playing on a line with Jared Staal seems to be beneficial to both of them.  Soryal’s toughness and physicality is hopefully rubbing off on Staal, and maybe some of the goal scoring genes that are in Staal are rubbing off on Soryal!
  • In case you were wondering, Justin is still my favorite player.

Charlotte Checkers (9-5-1-0) at Houston Aeros (8-3-0-3)

  • Tonight marks the fourth and final meeting of Charlotte and Houston.  After the first three games, the Checkers are 1-2 against Houston.  The lone win came in a shoot out in Charlotte last month.  Each team has 19 points, though Charlotte leads their Midwest Division, and the Aeros are in third in their own.
  • Chris Terry, having served his two-game suspension following a charging call to Grand Rapids goalie Joey MacDonald, will return to the Checkers lineup tonight.
  • Two weeks ago in Houston, the teams had 44 minor PIMs between them during a crazy matchup that had the Checkers lose 5-3 (one was an empty net).  This was the first of only two times Charlotte has lost with a two-goal differential all season.
  • Both teams have two guys tied for the most points with 14.  Charlotte has Jerome Samson (7G, 7A) and Jon Matsumoto (5G, 9A), while Houston has Jon DiSalvatore (5G, 9A) and Jeff Taffe (4G, 10A)
  • Mike Murphy is expected to start in goal tonight.  While he had the past two nights off, a 4:30 a.m. bus call and flight to Houston the morning of the game makes for a challenging day for the starting goalie.
  • While unrelated to tonight’s matchup, Paul Branecky of the Checkers made an interesting observation last night in a tweet.  In last night’s Hurricanes game, Zach Boychuck only had 3:59 of ice time, and Zac Dalpe had 4:31.  Neither of these numbers bodes well with the pending return of Jussi Jokinen to the Hurricanes lineup.
  • Thank goodness, tonight is the ninth and final game of the road trip.  The Checkers return home for eight of their next nine games, including two at home next weekend.

Gametime:  6:05 p.m. EST

Charlotte Radio:  WBCN 1660 AM

Charlotte Twitter: @CheckersHockey@PaulBranecky,
Houston Twitter: @Houston_Aeros@3rdIntermission
Houston Blog:  The Third Intermission

Gametime:  6:05 p.m. EST

Charlotte Radio:  WBCN 1660 AM

Charlotte Twitter: @CheckersHockey@PaulBranecky,
Houston Twitter: @Houston_Aeros@3rdIntermission
Houston Blog:  The Third Intermission
Referee: Jarrod Ragusin (#42)
Linesmen: Paul Wilkinson (#73), Carl Sasyn (#12)

Thoughts on San Antonio and Houston

Editor’s Note: How awesome is it that Haley was able to make two of the West Division games this weekend?  Not only that, but she has some great observations about the games she saw in Texas.  It’s great having a first-hand account from a Checkers fan on the road.  Enjoy this first (of hopefully many!) contributions!

– Lets begin with the Aeros cheerleaders, usually they wear very revealing clothing but tonight just took the cake. I’m assuming they were Halloween costumes, but they were all wearing shorts and binki-type tops with fur lining and scarves, to resemble a bomber pilot. But the message wasn’t very clear at all….possibly lost somewhere in the abyss of skin showing.

– The San Antonio Rampage have a very nice organization, but the effects and announcer were a little over the top. The fans were also very very quiet, the attendance was 6,157 but it seemed like there were only 2,000 total even at their loudest times. My friend and I were the only two Checkers fans there, and with each goal you could hear our screams literally echo around the massive arena.

– In the beginning of the Rampage game the Checkers seemed unsure of how to handle the Rampage, sitting back and letting them control the game with ease. But after the first goal they stopped playing defensive hockey and owned the game. I wasn’t nervous at any point after Brett Sutter scored that short handed goal, the team turned around and just kept going at them, wearing them down, but allowing 36 shots.

Mike Murphy was sensational in the crease, as his last few starts have shown. If the defense can continue blocking shots, taking away lanes and helping him out more(possibly by staying out of the box?), the outcome tonight would have been much different. I’m wondering, along with probably every other Checkers fan out there, what the case is going to be once Justin Peters is healed.

Brett Sutter and Justin Faulk look bound and determined to get called back up, those two are playing with an huge amount of emotion and it’s showing for them. Sutter surprisingly only ended up a +1 on the weekend, with a strong defensive performance and that extra push to show how bad he wants to be in Raleigh. Faulk has continued to impress me, he was so frustrated with himself after the empty net goal he broke his stick getting back to the bench. I selfishly love having him in Charlotte for now, but he’s going to be a star when he can find his groove up in the big leagues. I don’t remember the last time I saw a defenseman with the amount of skill he has at his age, it’s such a treat to watch him compete.

-The team looked much better on Saturday night versus tonight’s game, but either way we need to cut back on penalties. There was absolutely no reason to have 11 infractions. The penalty kill looked strong, spending a lot of the time outside of the defensive zone, with quite the amount of chagrin from Houston fans.

– I don’t think they called no goal on Drayson Bowman’s shot at the end of the second. I know I’m not an official or anything near one, but I’m pretty sure I saw the puck cross the line before the buzzer sounded even from my awkward vantage point.

They need to figure out a way to crack Houston before the last game, chances are these teams are going to face each other in the playoffs and it would be better to figure them out now. At certain points during the game I saw the Checkers I knew, but at others the Aeros just broke down their positions and saw right through their defense, leaving them scrambling and chasing from behind.

– I also wanted to point out the fact of how little I like Aeros fans. I really dislike the “Hey goalie you suck” chants in general, but it’s a little much when you score an empty net goal and you’re still chastising Murphy for sucking…There were also two different groups right behind me chirping in my ear the whole time about how big of “pansies” they were. For some reason this man had a bone to pick with Chris Terry and Mike Murphy, and wouldn’t stop even after Terry had tacked on an assit to his night and I had a few words with him. And plenty of complaints about the refereeing, even when the calls were good for the Aeros. There were four other Checkers fans on the same row as us who were very kind and somehow louder than my friend and I. Even all the way in Texas, Checkers fans still feel like family to me.

Gameday: Charlotte at Houston

 Charlotte at San Antonio:

  • San Antonio proved why they have the worst PK in the AHL by allowing a shorthanded goal by Brett Sutter in the first.  (Not that Checkers fans are complaining!)
  • Chris Terry had a Terryiffic game by following up Sutter’s goal with a Power Play goal in the first, and another goal early in the second.  Terry continues to be one of the most well-rounded players on the team. He plays on the Power Play, Penalty Kill, and is a force to be reckoned with even strength.  All around, he’s a true asset to the team.
  • Mike Murphy.  What can be said other than he’s AMAZING.  He won his fourth straight game, and if he doesn’t get the start tomorrow in Houston, I might begin an “Occupy the goal crease” movement that rivals those on Wall Street and downtown Charlotte.
  • Speaking of Murphy, it is going to be VERY interesting to see what happens when Justin Peters returns from injury.  Murphy has played unbelievably well, and earned the right to start.
  • Can we please keep Justin Shugg?  I like him a lot.  And not just because his name is Justin.  He’s got so much potential!
  • More game notes will be posted tomorrow or Monday from a Chasing Checkers guest reporter who was lucky to get to see the team in San Antonio, AND will be at the game in Houston later today.

 Charlotte (6-2-0-1) at Houston (5-1-0-3)

  • The Checkers and Aeros each lead their own divisions with 13 points a piece.
  • This is the third game in three days for both Charlotte and Houston, and also the third of four games against Houston this season.
  • In their first contests, Charlotte lost one game (when Peters was injured), and won one game in the shootout.
  • Houston lost last night in the shootout vs. Oklahoma City.  They were down 3-0 after the first period, then came back to tie the game in the third, eventually losing in the shootout.  They will definitely be interested in leading from the start later today.
  • Today is the third of four meetings between the Aeros and Checkers.
  • In the first two games against Houston, Jon DiSalvatore, Jeff Taffe and Casey Wellman led the points with two each (1G, 1A).
  • Carson McMillian should make his debut against Charlotte tonight.  During the first two match ups, the Centerman was suspended following a game against San Antonio.
  • Justin Faulk leads the Checkers vs. the Aeros with two points (1G, 1A).
  • Mike Murphy, who is 5-0 in his last five starts, should get the start for Charlotte.

Gametime:  6:05 p.m. EST

Charlotte Radio:  WBCN 1660 AM

Charlotte Twitter: @CheckersHockey@PaulBranecky,
Houston Twitter: @Houston_Aeros@3rdIntermission
Houston Blog:  The Third Intermission
Referees: Tim Mayer (#19), Ian Croft (#87
Linesmen: Fred Hudy (#30), Carl Sasyn (#12)

Gameday: Houston at Charlotte, part two

I missed the game live last night, and am trudging my way through the archived video on AHLlive.com.  The audio was less than stellar… to no fault of Jason Shaya’s! It started off with problems from the local radio feed, but in the end, was still imbalanced.  It’s as if the gain on the microphones of Jason Shaya and Chris Jablonski was turned up too much, allowing too much sound into them.  Basically, the ambient noise was too prevalent and Shaya’s voice was peaking the signal levels, becoming distorted.  The in-arena noise… music, Wilson’s promo stuff, etc., is distracting when you are listening to play by play.  What can I say… I’m a bit of a techie geek and know stuff about sound engineering.


  • Justin Peters left the game in the third period with an apparent lower body injury.  He had to be helped off the ice.  Mike Murphy came into the game cold, and missed the first shot on net, but had a strong remaining ten minutes.
  • As a result of Peters injury, John Muse has been recalled from Florida.
  • The black jersey curse continues, with the Aeros breaking the tie and winning the game with four seconds to go.
  • Chris Terry, in lieu of Captain Brett Sutter, was wearing a third A for the Checkers.  It was great to see him wearing a letter!
  • Zach Boychuk scored both of the Checkers powerplay goals.  I wonder if it was his way of protesting NOT getting a call up this week to Raleigh.  If so, I’ll take it that kind of protest!
  • The Checkers proved again that they are the best 40-minute team in the AHL.  If there weren’t third periods, they’d have a couple more in the win column.
  • Last night was the third-straight game they gave up the lead in the third period. Can we petition to have third periods removed from the AHL?
  • After a great job last Sunday preventing the opposing team from shooting the puck, the Checkers continued that for the first two periods, with more SOG than Houston.  The third period was a different story… the Aeros outshot the Checkers 17-8.  Yuck.
  • Mike Murphy will get the start in net tonight.  John Muse is expected to dress as his back-up.
  • Following last-season’s tradition of road-red jerseys in the game after the cursed black ones, I’d expect to see the Checkers in red tonight.  I do love those red jerseys!
Gametime:  7:00 p.m. EST
Charlotte Radio:  WFNZ 610

Charlotte Twitter: @CheckersHockey@PaulBranecky,
Houston Twitter: @Houston_Aeros@3rdIntermission
Houston Blog:  The Third Intermission
Referee: Francis Charron (#46)
Linesmen: Joe DeMizio (#0), Jean Menard (#12)
Since I missed the game last night, I did what I could to bring the Checkers to the theater…. I designed the lights for a Charlotte Symphony performance, and call this my “Charlotte Checkers look” with a vibrant, Checkers-red cylorama, and of course, Wilson featured in the foreground!  Let’s Go Checkers!

Gameday: Houston at Charlotte

Tonight’s matchup against Houston should be a great contest of two evenly-matched teams.  Both Houston and Charlotte have one big thing in common…. they were each swept during the Calder Cup Playoffs by the Binghamton Senators, which is not a stat either team is particularly proud of.
This weekend marks the first and only appearance by Houston in Charlotte this season.
Charlotte Notes:
  • Justin Faulk will make his debut with the Checkers tonight having been returned from the Hurricanes on Wednesday.  According to Faulk, it may just be the weekend that he spends in Charlotte, but every Checkers fan I know hopes he stays longer.  The Hurricanes wanted Faulk to get some ice time, and a three game stretch in Charlotte is the perfect opportunity for that.  Faulk was paired with Bobby Sanguinetti and spent time on the Power Play during practice Thursday.
  • Tonight’s game marks the first of eight “3 in 3” weekends of games.  Charlotte faces the Houston Aeros in the first two contests of the weekend, and the Norfolk Admirals on Sunday.
  • With Brett Sutter still on-duty with the Hurricanes, Jared Staal is expected to make his first start of the season.  At practice, he was on a line with Cedric McNicoll and Justin Soryal.
  • This evening also marks the first time the Checkers black third jersey’s make an appearance.  Let’s hope they have a better winning record than last year!
Houston Notes:
  • The Aeros won their first two games of the year, then lost in an 11-round shootout last weekend to San Antonio, and then lost again on Tuesday in Oklahoma City.  They have a record of 2-1-0-1, and like Charlotte, five points in the standings.
  • Center Carson McMillan will not be playing for the Aeros this weekend.  He was “awarded” a four-game suspension by the AHL for an illegal hit to the head of a member of the San Antonio Rampage.  In his first four games with the Aeros, he had three points (0G, 3A).
  • Casey Wellman leads the Aeros with four goals, and leads the team with two Game winning goals.
  • Goaltender Matt Hackett has three starts this season.  He’s a second-year professional in the Minnesota organization. Hackett spent two and a half seasons with the OHL Plymouth Whalers where he was a teammate of Checkers Michal Jordan, Brett Bellemore and Chris Terry.

Gametime:  7:00 p.m. EST
Charlotte Radio:  WFNZ 610

Charlotte Twitter: @CheckersHockey@PaulBranecky,
Houston Twitter: @Houston_Aeros@3rdIntermission
Houston Blog:  The Third Intermission
Referee: Steve Patafie (#85)
Linesmen: Joe DeMizio (#0), Jean Menard (#12)