Hurricanes Preseason Game 1: Blue Jackets defeat Carolina 5-4

Hear that squeaking? That’s my writing rust breaking free after a summer away from the rink. Thank goodness for preseason… maybe I’ll remember how to do this again after a game or two!

Last night in Raleigh, the Hurricanes participated in their first preseason game against the Columbus Blue Jackets. The Jackets had a couple of other games this week – on Sunday at home, and followed by a split squad game where half the team played at home, and the other half was in Minnesota, so the rust seemed to be a bit less apparent in the first period, though their lineup was not nearly as stacked as that of the Hurricanes, who’s lineup was nearly completely composed of Hurricanes regulars, and a few guys on the cusp of making the team this year (specifically, Brett Bellemore, Chris Terry, Nicolas Blanchard, Brett Sutter and Michal Jordan).

I could recap the game goal by goal, but really it was a preseason game, at times a bit hard to follow because of a lineup that consisted of about 50% Canes regulars, and 50% Canes hopefuls .  The bottom line is due, I’d say, to sloppy play and still developing chemistry (or a lack thereof), and the Hurricanes lost 5-4 to the Columbus Blue Jackets.

A few relatively disjointed thoughts:

  • Michal Jordan netted his first and second NHL points with assists on goals by Alexander Semin and Jeremy Welsh.
  • Chris Terry, the Checkers alternate captain last season, also had an assist on the Welsh goal, and drew the Nikita Nikitin penalty which led to the Checkers first power play goal.  Terry spent time on both the power play and penalty kill.  As has been mentioned and written about by many others, including the great Paul Branecky, Terry is having an incredible camp, and his on-ice performance last night was quite notable.
  • Former Checker Drayson Bowman had five hits, which was second on the team to Tim Gleason’s seven.  Does anyone need a refresher on what Mr. Bowman looks like? Don’t get me wrong, he’s a phenomenal athlete, but he’s not exactly the type I’d expect to be on the giving end of huge hits, and with sizable men like Mike Komisarek and Kevin Westgarth on the ice for Carolina, I was a bit perplexed why they weren’t the ones dishing it out, and young Bowman was
  • Columbus’ goaltender Mike McKenna, who came into the game in the second in relief of Curtis McElhinney after he allowed three goals in five minutes, was perfect.  McKenna allowed zero goals on 12 shots.  He’s is a prolific tweeter (follow him, it’s worth it!) and is set to be the Springfield Falcons goalie this year.
  • At the end of two periods, shots on goal were in favor of the Hurricanes 26-15.  The third period had the Blue Jackets outshooting the Hurricanes 16-8. The third period was just sloppy all the way around, but again, it’s a preseason game, and the first one that, and I have confidence it will get better.  But still, yikes.
  • Six hours in the car and about 350 miles round trip makes for a long day, but it’s totally worth it! I need to get to more games in Raleigh. It’s great to see the NHL perspective i comparison with the AHL which I admittedly follow much more closely. I may have to check my calendar to see what other games I can attend this year!

Checkers training camp notes:

Earlier in the day, the Hurricanes announced that they had reduced their training camp roster to 35.  Sent back to the OHL was Brock McGinn, who spent time with the Checkers last year.  Assigned to Charlotte were Mike Murphy, Brody Sutter, Danny Biega, Victor Rask, Keegan Lowe, Austin Levi, Brendan Woods, Rasmus Rissanen, Beau Schmitz, Justin Shugg and new to the organization Mark Flood.  They will all be at Charlotte Checkers training camp which begins on Monday.

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Charlotte Checkers by the numbers – just a few reasons to support this team!

There’s a lot of talk around the interwebs about why the AHL is going to be so much fun to watch this year, and I have to say that while it is nice to have the extra attention while the NHL squabbles about percentages and CBA’s, it’s really business as usual for the Charlotte Checkers and the other 29 teams in the AHL.  The American league is consistently overflowing with top-notch talent, and while it’s exciting to see a few extra NHL names on the AHL rosters, it’s the organization’s commitment to winning that makes the Checkers such a team to watch.

But in case you still aren’t convinced we have something special in Charlotte, here’s  a few more reasons!

0 – The number of time front office staff such as Nathan Beasley will have to fill in on the ice because the Checkers roster is STACKED with talent!

Charlotte Checkers players celebrate following a win against the Rockford IceHogs in April last year. The majority of the team from 2011-12 will return to Charlotte this year. (Photo – J. Propst)

2 – The number of players who have NHL head coaches as fathers.  Brett Sutter’s dad Darryl is in Los Angeles, while Justin Krueger’s dad Ralph is the head coach of the Edmonton Oilers.

3 – The number of seasons Charlotte has had an AHL team, and the number of different divisions the team has played in during that time.  This year, following a year where the Checkers played in the Midwest division of Milwaukee, Chicago, Peoria and Rockford, the Checkers move to the South division of Texas, Houston, San Antonio and Oklahoma City.

5 – The number of players named Justin who played for Charlotte last season, and are all eligible to play once again this year.  Goaltender Justin Peters, Defensemen Justin Krueger and Justin Faulk, and Forwards Justin Shugg and Justin Soryal should all see ice time with the Checkers.  So when in doubt, say Justin is your favorite player… you really can’t go wrong!

6 – The number of Sutter brothers who played in the NHL.  Two is the number of second-generation Sutters who could dress as Checkers this season.  Cousins Brett and Brody come from hockey royalty.  Brett’s dad is Darryl Sutter, who recently won the Stanley Cup as coach of the Los Angeles Kings.  Brody’s dad is Duane Sutter, who in his first four seasons as a player in the NHL, won four Stanley Cups.  Winning is in the Sutter’s blood, and they will certainly bring this legacy to Charlotte.

10 – The number of Checkers players who spent time in NCAA programs honing their hockey skills.  As a freshman, Justin Faulk won the NCAA championship at University of Minnesota – Duluth.  Riley Nash and Justin Krueger were teammates at Cornell.  Tim Wallace never missed a game during his four years at Notre Dame. Jeremy Welsh helped his team at Union College make it to the Frozen Four for the first time in the school’s history.  As the starting goaltender, John Muse won two NCAA championships at Boston College. At the University of Wisconsin, Sean Dolan played in the NCAA title game as a junior, losing to Muse’s BC team, and served as the captain of his Badger team as a senior.  Zac Dalpe spent two years at Ohio State University where he was the team MVP.  Rob Madore, a University of Vermont alum, was second in save percentage only to Tim Thomas in his entire school’s history.  Joe Sova (of the rap fame) spent three years at the University of Alaska – Fairbanks where he was named his team’s “Rookie of the Year” and as a defenseman in his final year, led the team in assists.

17 – The number Quebec native Jerome Samson wears in Charlotte.  Samson is beginning his fifth season as a member of the Hurricanes AHL affiliate.  He’s a two-time All Star and consistently leads the team in goals.

25 – The number Checkers player Chris Terry wears.  Terry was a 2012 AHL All-star, and leads the team in games played (154) and has led the team in points in 2011-12 with 59, and in goals in 2010-11 with 34.  His play on the ice is Terryiffic!

29 – The number that defenseman Michal Jordan wears.  Not to be mistaken as the Michael Jordan who owns the Charlotte Bobcats, the Checkers MJ is a native of the Czech Republic and provides comic relief to teammates and fans alike through his Twitter, as well as outstanding defensive performance on the ice.

68 – The approximate number of Jeff Skinner jerseys that will be sold during his first home game if he suits up in a Checkers uniform (this is purely a guess, and I’m probably way off!)

164 – The number of penalty minutes that Checkers forward Justin Soryal racked up in the 2011-12 season.  A shoulder injury sidelined him for the final month of the season, so that number can certainly be higher this year!

380 – The low low price of season tickets to see each of the Checkers home games this year.  I’m not sure there’s a better value in professional sports.

6768 – The 2011-12 average attendance Charlotte had during their second season of play in the AHL.  They were eighth in the league, up from 10th during their inaugural season.

Gameday: Giddyup cowboys and cowgirls – Texas at Charlotte

Texas Stars (8-11-0-1) at Charlotte Checkers (14-6-1-1)

  • Currently at five games, the Checkers are in the midst of their franchise-longest win streak.
  • Tonight marks the second of four match ups against the Texas Stars.
  • The Checkers are in third place in a very competitive Western Conference.  (They currently are fourth in the AHL, St. John’s is the only team in the East with an equal record to Charlotte, but is one game back.)
  • The Stars are currently tied for the second worst team in the AHL with 17 points.
  • Despite the Checkers winning 3-2 against the Stars on Wednesday, at times Texas outplayed and outsmarted the Charlotte.
  • By going with the rotation theory, Justin Peters should get the start in net tonight.  Peters is the reigning AHL Goaltender of the Month.
  • Chris Terry is on an eight-game point streak.  In 20 games, he has 18 points (4G, 14A), 11 of which have come during this streak. Now that’s Terryiffic!
  • Tonight is the first of a three-in-three for the Checkers.  They face Lake Erie tomorrow and Monday at TWCA.
  • Game write-ups from Wednesday night’s game:  Charlotte Checkers, Chasing Checkers, Cardiac Cane, Hundred Degree Hockey

Gametime: 7:00 p.m. EST

Charlotte Radio: None

 

Charlotte TV: TWCA 520

 

Charlotte Twitter: @CheckersHockey@PaulBranecky,

 

Texas Twitter: @TexasStars@100degreehockey
Texas Blog: 100 Degree Hockey

 

Officials
Referee: Jason Rollins (#37)
Linesmen: Frank Murphy (#29), Mark Hamlett (#81)

Quick Hits – More realignment news, Canes signings and Checkers losses, and a plea for Terry for Captain!

A few thoughts a day after the big realignment announcement was made:

  • I did some quick hypothetical plane ticket buying research.  The average price of a flight to Chicago is only $238.  Average price of a roundtrip flight to Harrisburg, PA (for a Hershey/WBS/Binghamton roadtrip) was $348.
  • You’d drive 488 miles between Chicago and the other Midwest cities in a big loop from Chicago, to Milwaukee, Rockford, Peoria, then back to Chicago.
  • You’d drive 602 miles from Harrisburg/Hershey to Wilkes-Barre, Binghamton, Albany and back to Harrisburg.  (Putting Norfolk in the mix made the trip closer to 1000 miles)
  • If you were to drive to Chicago and hit every city in a Midwest division roadtrip, you’d drive 1864 miles.  An East division roadtrip (to Norfolk, Hershey, Binghamton, and Wilkes-Barre) is nearly 1473 miles, and lots of back roads.  Chicago is interstate the whole way!
  • I found another midwest division blog last night for the Peoria Rivermen.  Check it out!  http://rivermenblog.wordpress.com/  Three of the five teams in our division have fan run blogs, which I think is pretty great.  I plan to do a quick review of our new division rivals soon, and will post it here at Chasing Checkers.
Checkers Quick HIts:
  • The Charlotte Observer did a piece on the move west, highlighting the travel situation and how it won’t change much for the Checkers.  It will even be shorter flights for the team by flying to Chicago or Milwaukee on direct flights.  (I’m sure Bobby Goepfert will be happy to hear that!  Less puddle jumper planelets and non-direct flights!)
  • The Hurricanes made a big trade yesterday, sending Joe Corvo to the reigning Stanley Cup champion Boston Bruins in exchange for a fourth round pick.  I must admit, I didn’t follow the deal too closely, but a fourth round pick seems like a pretty unequal swap, unless the Hurricanes were desperate to dump some salary.  They also signed UFA Defenseman Tomas Kaberle to a three-year deal.  We’ll see how it pans out for the Canes… they have veteran Defensemen now in Raleigh, I’m just not sold they are the right veterans for the job.  But this is why I am a Checkers fan first, and only follow the Hurricanes from a very outside perspective!
  • Former Checkers captain Bryan Rodney signed a one-year deal with Anaheim.  I will miss his veteran leadership.  He was a great inaugural captain, and spent time in Raleigh during parts of the past three seasons.  His experience will be missed, and he leaves a huge void on the blue line as far as veteran leadership is concerned.  Sometimes I wonder if Corey Perry, 2011 Hart Trophy winner and Rocket Richard winner has an influence on his team signing his former teammates from the London Knights.  Last summer, Danny Syvret, the Captain of the Knights when Perry, Rodney and Syvret won the Memorial Cup in 2005, signed a deal with Anaheim as well.
  •  I can’t decide if signs, posters, a letter-writing campaign or a written petition are my best bet to begin the “Chris Terry for 2011 Captain” campaign.  He’s a former winner for his leadership in Plymouth, where he was team captain and the inaugural winner of the Mickey Renaud Trophy for the Captain of the Year in the OHL.

The one about the worst hockey movie ever made… so bad I watched it twice

Farley Gordon or Jeff Skinner.... the resemblance is AMAZING!

One of Chasing Checkers best friends gave me an epicly awesome birthday present this year…. a video ordered all the way from the exotic website Amazon.CA… SCORE, A Hockey Musical.  I’m not sure why any movie studio thought combining singing, hockey and a really bad plot was worthy of producing, but I am SO GLAD they took a risk.

 

The main guy in the movie is a kid named Farley.  He’s a home-schooled kid who’s parents are artistic hippies and don’t let him play organized sports, a self proclaimed weirdo who doesn’t fit in.  There’s a Jeff Skinner like quality about Farley…. his smile, his innocence, the faint blush on his cheeks… if only the REAL Jeff Skinner would burst into song, or could play the accordion like Farley can.  THEN we’d have a real superhero hockey player in Raleigh!

 

It only takes a few horribly scripted songs to discover that Farley, who I think I’ll refer to as Jeff Skinner from here on out, is the son of none other than OLIVIA NEWTON-JOHN, of Grease fame.  (Of course, Newton-John is Australian…. not sure how she was cast in a Canadian hockey musical…)  Her most memorable line was, “Dear, don’t go outside, it’s as cold as Venus, you’ll get frostbite on your….” (Don’t worry, she didn’t finish the phrase!)

 

So Jeff Skinner is recruited to play for the Brampton Blades, who’s logo isn’t a skate blade as you might expect, but is instead a circular saw blade, and quite scary looking!  Jeff Skinner had a rather moving solo in the dressing room of the Brampton Blades when the coach was trying to convince him to quit the team.  I thought I’d share some of the riveting lyrics with you:

Oh, Jeff Skinner, you are so adorable!

“Just because I still have my front teeth

Doesn’t mean I can’t compete.

I might not come with a hockey pedigree,

Why can’t I still dream of being the next Crosby

 

 

Another memorable line:  Hockey without fighting is like Kraft Dinner without Cheese

 

During the fight scene that reminds one of the Charleston Chiefs in Slapshot, there’s a very choreographed dance of sorts between the opposing players.  All I’m saying is it gives a whole new meaning to the term, “Fight Choreography.”  Until this moment, I hoped the hockey player actors were actual junior hockey players in Canada, but after seeing them dance, I take those thoughts back, because NOBODY needs to be humiliated like that, and have it captured on film.  I can’t imagine the hazing those kids would go through later in life when clips of the movie show up in their professional dressing rooms.
As we were watching the movie, I realized I was pretty sure one of the Charlotte Checkers was from Brampton…. so I looked at our roster, and discovered none other than Chris Terry is a Brampton native.  I wish I could ask Mr. Terryiffic if he was around town when this cinematic gem was filmed.  I am also curious if he knows anyone that was an extra in the movie, and if so, could he get my DVD autographed.  Heck, maybe I should just ask Chris to sign my copy since he’s an actual resident of the famed town of Brampton.

 

If I was going to make it to Canada this summer, I can assure you I would make a pilgrimage to Brampton just to see the sites the movie was filmed in.  I thought it was awesome going to Salzburg, Austria a few summers ago to visit places the Sound of Music was filmed, but I don’t think that can compare to setting foot inside the barn the mythical Brampton Blades played in.

 

Later into the movie, I was very disturbed by another song and dance routine the team did in the dressing room in various stages of undress.  The dancing had a kind of Backstreet Boys feel… and it was all about being “Real Men”, but I was bothered by a number of things.  First of all, real men do NOT dance around in their underwear in choreographed routines.  Secondly, a real man hockey player would NEVER dance on top of the team’s crest on the floor of the room.  They defaced the Brampton Blades with their singing and dancing!  If someone did that to the Checkers logo (not that there is one on the floor of the Checkers dressing room) I would be horrified and offended.  Come on, Score, a Jeff Skinner Musical writers.  I can’t believe you let the boys dance on the logo like that!  It’s COMPLETELY unrealistic!

 

So, anyway, if you haven’t seen Score, the Jeff Skinner Musical go out and rent it RIGHT AWAY!  Of course, I doubt you’ll find it at Redbox, and maybe not on Netflix and it’s so bad I don’t even think they’d show it on the Lifetime movie channel, but if you are a trustworthy friend of mine, I MIGHT let you borrow it, if you put down a MAJOR security deposit.  (We’re talking about your name signed in blood, or an autographed Sidney Crosby jersey as collateral!)

 

Seriously, you need to see this movie….. the GREAT ONE’S DAD is in it!  OK, Wayne isn’t, but WALTER IS!  And so is Theo Fleury, AND HE SINGS!  He’s like… a singing hockey angel.  So for as awful as this movie is, it somehow gets street cred with the cameos by a Fleury and a Gretzky!
Walk… no RUN…. to Amazon.ca and get your own copy of this movie.  It will change your life, it changed mine!

 

 

The One Where the Checkers Stole My Heart (aka The Miracle at Mohegan)

Editor’s Note:  I’m here to bring you another special guest blog, this time from Renee, and Raleigh Checkers fan and friend of Chasing Checkers who was lucky enough to be in Wilkes-Barre on Saturday night.  I asked her to do a quick write-up about her experience, and this is way more awesome than I expected, except that she didn’t refer to Chris Terry as Terryiffic as I would have.  Thanks, Renee, for your insight!

The One Where the Checkers Stole My Heart (aka The Miracle at Mohegan)

Hell, who am I fooling? Anyone who knows me knows that the Checkers had a place in my heart the moment they became affiliated with my beloved Carolina Hurricanes.

But when did the giddy schoolgirl crush turn from carefree flirting into a full blown love affair?

Saturday morning, all decked out in Checkers gear, my sister-in-law Abi and I hit the road from Raleigh to Binghamton with a scheduled pitstop in Wilkes-Barre, PA for Game 6 between the Checkers and Penguins. Perfect timing. I could watch my boys finish off this series and then continue on to enjoy a week’s vacation at Mom’s.

We entered the arena excited and a bit nervous. During warmups we talked with a couple of nice Hershey fans that drove up to the game to cheer for the Checkers. (I know some of you may be shocked that there is such a thing after experiences in Hershey this year!) Though I was a little disappointed in the turnout for a Saturday night playoff game – especially when it could have been the Pens’ last of the year – I must say that the fans were very friendly and a lot of fun (noted exception being the lady who felt the need to drop f-bombs at us every time we cheered). Playful chirping started before the drop of the puck, with the guy behind me yelling that he hoped Murph could count to 7. I, of course, promptly made him aware that Murph only needed to know up to 6.
***Shout out to WBS fan, Matt, whose taunts kept me pumped up even after the Checkers fell behind. Matt, a word of advice, though…you really should be a little more creative than throwing the word “sucks” in there every other chirp. Work on that in the off-season and you’ll be gold for ’11-’12.***

The back and forth continued through the first period and got worse as the Pens took a 2-0 lead into the second intermission. Superstition set in so Abi and I decided that we needed to shake up the hockey mojo and swapped seats for the start of the third. Vitale’s shorty early in the period hit hard. I’ll admit, I was starting to hate the fact that I would have to drive back down to Wilkes-Barre on Monday for Game 7, yet as the Pens fans kept telling me they’d see me Monday, I continued to respond that the game was not over. I brought up Game 5 against Hershey and stated that the Checkers now had the Pens right where they wanted them.

Enter Chris Terry and begin the final capture of my heart.

Now of course, the first of Chris Terry’s third period goals just started my fall. It was the total team effort that night that completely pulled me under…

It was Murph keeping the boys in the game through the first 2+ periods until they could find a way to solve Thiessen and bust the scoring wide open.

It was Bryan Rodney coming out of the penalty box to feed Sutter for the score and keep the momentum in favour of the Checkers.

It was Michal Jordan firing the wrister that was tipped by Terry to tie the game just 30 seconds later.

It was Zac Dalpe playing the role of hero and giving the Checkers the lead with just 3:18 remaining in the third.

It was the life being sucked out of the building after Dalpe’s goal; Abi and I starting and sustaining a “Let’s Go Checkers” chant that we were told could be heard on the AHL Live tv and radio feeds.

It was the relentless pressure after Dalpe’s goal that kept the Pens hemmed in their zone and would not allow Thiessen off the ice for the extra attacker until there were less than 30 seconds left in the game.

It was the exhilarating feeling that overcame me when that final horn sounded. It was screaming so loud as I watched the Checkers surround Murph in celebration that I had no voice left. It was Fitzy skating across the ice and launching himself in jubilation into the glass right in front of us.

It was the adrenaline rush that kept me going after only 2 hours of sleep followed by a 9 hour drive from Raleigh.

It was realizing that the Binghamton Senators had just become the enemy;
that the city I grew up in, the city that introduced me to hockey was now hostile territory…

It was realizing that I had fallen head over heels in love and that the Charlotte Checkers had just stolen my heart.