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.


The one about Lets Go Checkers, and rallying together

So, I was beginning to feel as neurotic as a goalie, freaking out about superstitions, to the point that for a hot second, I actually worried that by not drinking North Carolina beer prior to the game last night, I hurt my team’s chances.  (I know, there is NO WAY that North Carolina beer makes a difference, although it is good beer…. I’d had Craggie’s Antebellum Ale prior to games three and four, but none until AFTER the game yesterday).  Anyway.  So I’m changing my outlook, and starting fresh.  I am not wearing the same things I wore to the three games this week, though I will don my Chris Terry jersey before puck drop because it only seems right to cheer for my team wearing one of my favorite player’s name and number.

From here on out, it’s not about superstitions and rituals.  It’s about what feels right, and what makes me feel good, but first and foremost, what is the most positive, and exudes the most positive energy.  No voo-doo dolls, or goalie sucks chants (because, I’ve said it a million times, Brad Thiessen doesn’t suck, as much as I wish he did!!!!).  No taunting fans of the other team who are only being trolls and begging for attention.  Only positive feelings from here on out!

The bottom line is, I believe in my head and my heart that the Checkers are the better team.  I believe they have everything it takes to win.  Obviously, the Penguins are a strong team.  They have one of the best netminders in the league, and some great, NHL caliber guys on their roster.  It’s going to be a fight to the finish, and with every ounce of my being, I want the Checkers to come out victorious, and I believe they can and they will.

So tonight, I’m watching the game with some of my favorite people and fellow Checkers fans.  We’re going to cheer for our team, and applaud them until the final buzzer.  If our voices could carry 600 miles, I’m sure Mike Murphy would be able to hear us chanting his name all the way in Wilkes-Barre.

This team means the world to me… more than I dreamed they would when I bought my season tickets a little over a year ago, shortly after it was announced Charlotte was getting an AHL franchise.  I believe in the Charlotte Checkers, and I believe they are going to win tonight.

Lets Go Checkers

The one about losing in game 5… and going back to WBS

Mike Murphy makes another save in the third period. Photo 1/3. Photo Credit: Jenni Propst

As I write this, both the Wilkes-Barre Scranton Penguins and the Charlotte Checkers are preparing to travel for game six, which has a scheduled puck drop of 7:05 pm tomorrow (today?  I guess it is after midnight…). The teams are flying to Pennsylvania, and one team is celebrating a win, but still on the brink of elimination, and the other team regrouping after a disappointing loss.

I think I lost more than a few brain cells during the game thanks to the cowbells, and I know I probably lost some hearing. I believe Mike McKenzie said it best on twitter with the following statement, “As a player these are the games you don’t wasn’t to be scratched for: Cow bell giveaway night.”  I swear, my head is still fuzzy and the game ended hours ago!

Is there a ringing in my ears?  What did you say?  I can’t hear anything… My ears are ringing.

The fans were amazing for the most part.  Over 6800 turned out tonight, including more than 1000 who bought their tickets TODAY.  They were so loud (even without the cowbells!).   I must put a negative shout out to those who abused their cowbells, and the mom in my section who thrust her rather unnaturally perky rack against the glass for the last two periods while banging on it non stop, especially at inappropriate moments.   I HATE GLASS BANGERS!  I was going to take a picture of her, but I’m here to lift up the team and it’s fans, not to break them down.

Mike Murphy makes another save in the third period. Photo 2/3. Photo Credit: Jenni Propst

Wait… What is that ringing sound?

I’m not sure where to begin when actually talking about the game. I guess I should start by mentioning the fact that the Checkers missed about a million empty net chances, and until the third period, were unable to control the puck enough to keep it in the offensive end.

I’m sorry, did you say something?  I can’t hear you… all I can hear is cowbell… what?  Type louder?  OK, I’ll try… right… actual game content!

  • Mike Murphy was phenomenal in net once again, stopping all but one of the 33 shots that were sent his way.
  • The Penguins have figured out the only way to score is to crash the net time and time again, nearly slicing Murphy’s hands off with their skates and sticks, and eventually, a puck will go in (as it did tonight, finally).
  • The Checkers have GOT to figure out how to keep the Penguins out of our crease, and away from our goaltender.  I swear, I feared for Murph’s safety on a few plays, especially the one that left him helmet-less, sprawled out and protecting the goal.
  • For all three of our home games, the Checkers had the same pair of linesmen, MikeSheehan and Alex Stagnone .  I question this decision by the AHL schedulers.  Calls were made from opposite ends of the ice, which to me is ALWAYS questionable, because if you are on the opposite blue line, how can you blow the whistle for a play going on behind the net, with two officials only a few feet away from the action?  This happened more than once, and it’s frustrating.  I also think that there can be a tendency for officials to have a hard time separating one game from the next, and it proves to be an unequal playing field when we have the same guys for three games straight making the calls.
  • Best sign of the night!

    We only had six in the first, and THREE shots on goal in the second period.  THREE.  Some of this, I credit to Wilkes-Barre’s amazing ability to block shots (something we clearly lack) but I also blame the fact that we were unable to control the play, and spend ANY time in the offensive zone.

  • Why couldn’t the Checkers play in the first two periods the way they did in the last ten minutes of the game????  I was SO WORRIED about false confidence, and I think that was a huge thing tonight.
  • Nicolas Blanchard impressed me a great deal tonight with his speed and aggressiveness!
  • After the Penguins finally got a goal in the third period, the game changed.  The Checkers became frantic, and FINALLY found a way to equal the shots on goal.  But nothing was good enough.  We missed a lot of nearly empty net opportunities and rebounds, and hit the post a number of times (though honestly, that noise reminds me of cowbells, and it was hard to differentiate…).
  • Mike Murphy was pulled with a little more than a minute to go in the third to allow for an extra attacker.  Unfortunately, the Checkers really had no chance to take advantage of a sixth attacker, because they had to become goaltenders and guard the empty net since the Penguins kept trying to make breakaways.
  • Michal Jordan continues to be my favorite defensively responsible defenseman.  While I know he was a -1 tonight, he is consistently one of our best guys out there, and I don’t get so nervous when he’s on the ice.
Mike Murphy makes another save in the third period. Photo 3/3. Photo Credit: Jenni Propst
So… that’s it.  I’m exhausted, and a bit brain dead, and I have some great pictures I could add to this post, but I’m too sleepy to upload them, so I’m signing off for now.  Game six is at 7 p.m., and available on AHL live.  We’re having a watching party here in Charlotte with a few friends of Chasing Checkers, so it should be a good night.
Lets Go Checkers!

Canes game in Charlotte, and Playoff Gameday Quick Hits

FIRST OF ALL, the Hurricanes are coming to CHARLOTTE to play the Atlanta Thrashers on September 25.  It’s a preseason game, and the building swap will also include a Bobcats preseason game in Raleigh at the RBC Center.   This is exciting news to see the big club play on Checkers home ice!  I’ve been wanting this to happen all season, so I’m glad it has come to fruition.  I’ll post more information as I have it!

Checkers Pre-game skate notes:

  • All Checkers except for Jon Matsumoto were accounted for at the skate this morning, including Matt Pistilli and Zack FitzGerald, who both spent extra time with the coaching staff after the rest of the skaters were finished.
  • There was a very different energy at practice this morning.  While they were still very focused, and participated in organized drills, they were much more vocal and chirpy.
  • Fitzgerald spent a great deal of time doing skating and shooting drills following the pre-game skate.  While he definitely appears to be in game shape, I don’t anticipate him playing in this series with the level of play our other six defensemen are putting up.
Penguins Pre-game skate notes:
  • All three of the Penguins goalies skated again.  Of course, there is no way they will start anyone but Thiessen.
  • It appears to me that a number of the Penguins have shaved.  As in… playoff beards no more.  By no means do I think the Pens were as hairy as our Checkers to begin with, some that did have noticeable playoff beards on Wednesday are mostly clean shaven today, as if following the game on Wednesday and their loss, they took a razor to the beards to change their luck.  If this is a sign that the Checkers have gotten into their heads, I’ll take it.
  • The Penguins skate, like the Checkers skate, had a very different vibe today vs. Wednesday.  They were much faster, with a much more edgy aggression to their drills and skating.  At times, their practice was bordering on a level of frantic that felt uncontrolled.
  • There was nothing at all about the Pens skate that made me feel like they felt it was their last one of the season.  This team has a lot of fight, and are going to battle tonight.
General thoughts as we head into tonight:
  • I think the first thing the Checkers need to do is CONTROL the energy and control the game.  The Checkers are a fast, young aggressive team with all kinds of depth, especially at forward, but they have to prevent the game from getting frantic.
  •  The Checkers are 6-0 in the Playoffs when outshot by their opponents.  So while drilling a lot of pucks at Thiessen is always nice, if we keep getting good chances and rebounds, we CAN and will score.
  • The Checkers are perfect on the PK at home, but by no means is this the perfect safety net should we have to kill more penalties tonight!
  • POSITIVE ENERGY.  I can’t say this enough.  I hope we can rally together in the stands behind OUR team.  100% support, no negativity, and ONLY positive energy.
  • It’s not too late to buy tickets to the game!  I bought spares to give away to friends, because tonight is something I want everyone in Charlotte to be a part of.  This is OUR team, let’s support them!
  • I’d like to hear the MURPHY chants start before puckdrop, and carry the team through the game.  So after the anthem, let’s do it.  MURPHY MURPHY MURPHY!
Let’s do this, Charlotte.  Support our team!  Tonight is the night!

The one about fan observations from last night

Mike Murphy guards the net in game 4. Photo Credit: Jenni Propst

Nobody ever said there was a rule against posting more than once in a day, right?  I have more thoughts, of the fan observation variety and just had to share them.

  • The night started off with a Penguins fan riding our zamboni.  Excuse me?  This is the CHECKERS HOUSE and we can’t have the enemy on our zamboni!
  • During the second intermission (I think?) Miss Sprint Cup rode the zamboni.  Although I do not condone the use of women as trophy figures (checkmates), I think Miss Sprint cup is an appropriate rider on the zamboni of a team named after a racing term!
  • I know Penguins fans disagree about the no-goal call in the first period, but I was sitting about 20 feet from the goal crease, and saw Murphy’s hand clearly covering the puck.  While the whistle did seem to take awhile to blow, it was under his glove and the ref was moving his hand towards his mouth when Pens players continued to swat, jab and poke at his glove with their hands and skates.  From the beginning of the game, Penguins were continuously crashing the net, swiping at his hands with their sticks, and just being big nuisances, when he’d clearly stopped the puck and frozen it beneath his glove.  Regardless of my opinion, Jonathan Bombulie has an interesting take on it all, with a lot more information.
  • My mom and dad LOVED the game.  I’m so glad I got to bring my parents to see my favorite team, in one of the most exciting games of the season.
  • Photo Credit: Jenni Propst

    Mom, who is not a fan of the Checkmates after seeing them three times this season,  was trying to be nice and told me she was VERY impressed that the Checkmates knew how to ice skate, and one of them was especially skilled while skating to pick up chuck-a-pucks.  Then another friend chimed in, not wanting to be outdone on the “lets say nice things about the cheerleaders” and said she was very happy the Checkmates didn’t dance during the second intermission.

  • We have our own version of Vancouver’s Green men!  The Red and Black men made their appearance last night, and I LOVED seeing it!  I was sad when security took them away from the penalty box, but am glad they came out to a game, and will be back on Friday.  I think anything and everything our fans can do to rally more support for the Checkers is a good thing!
  • Last night, I made another Honey Badger sign.  This is the second I’ve created, and both times, the team has won.  Do I need to make a third sign for tomorrow?
  • Each game, I get a little more superstitious.  I’m going to attend the pre-game skates again tomorrow morning, take some notes, blog about practice, and probably eat the same breakfast, and of course wear the same jersey at the game (which isn’t even a Checkers jersey, just a Checkers PLAYER, but I can’t mess with what works!).  Logically, I KNOW it doesn’t matter, as I am just a fan and crazy blogger, but I can’t risk it!  So… rituals and superstitions it is!
And 25 hours and counting until puck drops tomorrow….
Lets Go Checkers

The one about the phenomenal Michael Murphy and his SHUTOUT in game four

Mike Murphy, first star! Photo Credit: Jenni Propst

You know that feeling you get sometimes where you wake up and you just know it’s going to be a good day? That is how I felt yesterday morning. After a night of horrible thunder storms, I awoke to birds chirping and a Carolina blue sky. I KNEW it was going to be a good day. My parents were coming to Charlotte to see the game, their first Checkers game together since 1965, when they were in high school and paid 75 cents each for a ticket.

I knew it was going to be a good night.

We got to the arena, and even before warmups, I just had that feeling. Adrenaline was pumping, my heart was beating just a little too fast, and I just knew it was going to be a good night.

The crowd was electric from the very beginning. We heard the first MURPHY chant midway through the second period after he killed a five-on-three. Hearing his name, chanted by thousands, was so phenomenal, and I think it just fueled him further. The Penguins continued to attack, but nothing they could do would get through the crease. Mike Murphy was ON tonight. His team was behind him and there was nothing that could stop the Checkers from winning.

The Penguins fought hard. They had 44 shots on goal, and Murphy stopped every one of them. The Checkers had 32 shots on goal, but only the one by Chris Terry early on in the third counted. It only takes one, and Terryiffic provided it when we needed it.

I actually wrote everything up until now last night at the bar after the game… but then people started buying shots, and the beer kept flowing (and they had Smithwicks on tap!  Yum!) and I had to put the iPad away, for fear of spilling beer on it, or letting the beer spill into my brain and make the typing fuzzy.  So now that I’m awake, and a bit more clear headed, I can refer back to the few notes I took on the game, and the few observations:

  • Another scrum between the Checkers and Penguins. Photo Credit: Jenni Propst

    As I mentioned, Mike Murphy was phenomenal.  Stopping all 44 of the Pens shots was a feat few goaltenders could have accomplished.  He was driven into the net time and time again, with Penguins attacking, sometimes after the whistle blew.

  • There were many moments in the game both teams got frantic, and I just wanted them to settle down and make plays.  Frantic hockey often leads to mistakes, in my opinion!
  • Too many penalties!  Both teams had a too many men penalty, which I believe was a result of the aforementioned frantic play.  There were 18 minors called last night, and the lone goal scored was on the power play.
  • Jacob Micflikier was constantly in the thick of battles for the puck.  That guy can be an aggressive beast (much like a honey badger!) and I love it.
  • Erik Cole was was sitting behind me for much of the game.  I hope he enjoyed himself as much as I did!  I love Hockey in the springtime!
  • We are running out of room in the “press box” for our black aces.  Bobby Goepfert was sporting the exact same suit, tie and shirt last night as Monday.  And you know what?  As someone who wore the same jersey/shoes/clothes to the game last night as Monday, I can TOTALLY get behind that kind of superstition.
  • I didn’t hear any “Thiessen Sucks” chants last night (cause he doesn’t!).  I did however hear (and join in!) on MURPHY chants.  I would much rather support our netminder than mock the other one.  Let’s do this, Charlotte!  I want to hear a MURPHY chant after the anthem on Friday, and keep it going.  Seriously.  MURPHY.
  • My head is a little throbby from doing a celebratory shot after the game, but how can you turn down a baby Guinness???
So… it’s all about tomorrow.  Tomorrow is a huge game.  We all know what it means, and what can happen if we win.  But beating the Pens for a third straight game could be a huge feat.  They have one of the best goaltenders in the AHL (of course, so do we!), and a team that knows how to win, and wants it as badly as we do.  Last night was an amazing game… tomorrow has just as much potential, if the team can control the Penguins as they did last night.
I’m still flying from that win… THIS is Checkers Hockey!
Lets Go Checkers!

The one about winning in OT! Checkers lead series 2-1

My evening at the arena started off with a very nice lady asking me about my Plymouth Whalers jersey and if I was from Michigan.  I assured her I was not, and just a fan of the team and former players, and that Terry had been a favorite of mine all season long, at which point she finally told me she was Chris’ mom.  I wish I’d had more time to talk to her, because if I had I would have told her how much I’d enjoyed watching him play this year, and that he went from just another player in the lineup, to the one I most look forward to skating, and that we gave him the nickname Terryiffic (what can I say, I like making up nicknames!).  I would have loved to tell her how genuine he was on the few occasions I’ve spoken to him, and how much he means to this team, both on and off the ice.  I can count on my hands the number of times I’ve spoken to Terry, and that’s three, and each time he impressed me with his sincerity and charisma, which is why I went to the trouble of getting a Plymouth Whalers jersey complete with his name, number and Captain’s C.  I think mom’s need to hear stuff like that about their children, and Mrs. Terry should have the privilege of hearing from the fans in Charlotte how much her son means to us!

So onto the game… I’ve decided that I am a horrible blogger when it comes to recounting specific details of a game.  I watched it with all kinds of enthusiasm, but I’m terrible at minute details, especially when it comes to remembering them.  I tried to jot down notes at intermission, but too much was running through my head.  So, a few random thoughts:

  • I have been wondering how the NHL tracks Time On Ice.  Do they have special stopwatches?  A guy who just times each and every player?  Can I borrow one of these special contraptions from an NHL team?  Can I sign up to learn how to be a stop watch runner?  I was the scorekeeper for my middle school volleyball team… I’m sure I could learn.  Do the Hurricanes have the necessary equipment in Raleigh?  Can I borrow it since they don’t need it till next year?  I REALLY wish we could see how much time the Checkers D-men spend on the ice, because wow, was it unbalanced (once again).  The majority of minutes were taken up by Jordan and Bellemore (as usual) with a close second to Rodney and Faulk (wow, that kid can SKATE!  We’ve nicknamed him Wheels, until something better comes along!).  Borer seemed to take more shifts than Sanguinetti, but still not close to the time the top two pairs got.  Sanguinetti was put into the lineup in place of Zack Fitzgerald, who was a healthy scratch.  I really hope that Sanguinetti gets his magic back…
  • I thought Michal Jordan was going to drop the gloves only minutes into the first period.  Jordan is the kind of player you want on your side… especially when Mike Murphy is in net.  Jordan is very defensively minded, loyal, and rarely takes stupid penalties, and he is ALWAYS there when his goaltender needs him.  He had an outstanding game tonight, and finished the evening with a +2.
  • It was pretty great for a Monday night in Charlotte to have a crowd of 3700 fill the stands.  While the numbers were much less than the 12K + we had at some weekend games during the season, they were into it, cheering and backing the team.  I love a loud, enthusiastic crowd.  What I REALLY want to see is these numbers increase this week!  I bought my parents tickets to the game on Wednesday, and they are driving in from Boone, NC to take in their first playoff game, and are super excited.  So I would encourage each and every one of you reading this to bring a friend (OR MORE!) to the games this week.  Our team needs our support!
  • Seriously?  Checkmates danced at all three intermissions?  That is three times too many, in my opinion!  Uggh.  In the words of Ralph from The Simpsons, their bad dancing made my feet hurt.
  • I kind of hate the “*insert goalie name here* Sucks” chants.  I don’t believe the are effective at all, and would much prefer a good LETS GO CHECKERS chant to be echoing through the arena.  I’m a Checkers fan, down to the bone, but the Thiessen sucks chants bugged me tonight, because it doesn’t matter how much I love my team, that kid is REALLY FREAKING GOOD.  He made saves most goalies never would be able to make, and played an incredible game.
  •  The OT Game Winner by Brett Sutter was a shot no goalie could have EVER stopped (though high blocker side does seem to be Thiessen’s weakness, from what I’ve seen.  So take note of that, Checkers, and shoot high, blocker side!)
  • Mike Murphy was just… AMAZING tonight.  He made some incredible saves, time and time again.  Watching him develop and grow this season, even just in the past four months, has been amazing.  I noticed a drastic period of growth with him that began in late December/Early January, and now, in May, he’s a different goaltender.  He’s brimming with confidence, and knows he can make the plays and stop pucks in ways he didn’t before.  He’s definitely a superstar in my book!
  • Despite the fact that the font is TOTALLY incorrect and a blatant jersey (tshirt) foul, I was excited to see NEW name and number tees on sale at the merch booth!  I bought a Murphy one, and considered getting a Dalpe one as well, to go along with the other two I already own.  Charlotte Checkers, rocking the merchandise world.  (Next batch though, can you PLEASE use accurate fonts to match the player jerseys?  Pleaseandthankyou!)
  • We missed a number of breakaway attempts…. at least four that I can recall (Terry, Dalpe, Boychuck and someone else I can’t remember).  Somehow, we have to figure out how to score on these.
  • I was glad we stayed out of the box more than last game!  There were some pretty dirty dives by the Penguins, and missed calls on both sides, but that’s hockey I guess.  The special teams on both sides were outstanding.
  • I am too tired to upload pics, but I saw some hilarious and awesome signs in the crowd tonight, and was inspired to maybe make something epic and awesome for Wednesday and Friday.  The best sign of the night I saw was “Murphy makes more saves than Jesus.”   OK, so maybe it’s a bit sacrilegious, and my dad the Pastor wouldn’t approve, but it made me giggle, anyway!
  • Mike Lappan deserves all of the credit for this stat find, but tonight was the WBS Pens FIRST OT loss of the season, and they only lost one in the shootout, in 80 regular season games.  WOW.  One more reason to be proud of our Charlotte Checkers!
I will see y’all on Wednesday at TWCA.  Loud and proud, Charlotte!  That’s what we need to be!
Lets Go Checkers!

The one about game 2 loss

I didn’t listen to much of the game (last night was the final night of the season with the ballet, so I was busy busy!), but for the first couple of periods I was able to kind of follow via twitter, occasional radio updates and constantly refreshing the game sheet.  A few thoughts off the top of my head before I leave for three grueling days of work.

  • The Checkers lost 0-3.  WBS goaltender Brad Thiessen was a beast with the shutout.  There were some major attacks in the first period by the Checkers, and Thiessen stopped everything that came his way.
  • The Checkers played the same lineup from game one.  The Penguins scratched rookie Nick Peterson (he had a TERRIBLE game one, but I’ve heard he may have needed the night off for a personal family matter).  Ben Street was out and is day-to-day with an injury from game one, and they also benched Jesse Boulerice (who has more PIMs than most in the playoffs.)  New to the lineup since game one were Brian Lerg, Paul Thompson and Carl Sneep (who was a seventh D).
  • I hate this kind of hockey game.  Sounds like bad refs all the way around.  There were 22 minor penalties doled out.  TWENTY TWO.  This is NOT how you win playoff games!  Amazingly enough, even with that much time with both teams in the box, there were no power play goals for either team.
  • I’ve read that the Pens goal was to shake up the Checkers last night, and play “their kind of hockey.”  I get that, but the thing is, the pace they set during the parts of the game I listened to is exactly the way the Checkers like to play.  Fast paced and physical matchups work well for the Charlotte team.
  • On the Charlotte PIM front, two of our guys who end up the box the MOST (Nicolas Blanchard and Brad Herauf) didn’t go there in a game with 22 minors.  So clearly, we have the ability to rough it up in reserve still.
  • My heart stopped for a moment when Pens Ryan Craig his Chris Terry, who left the ice with the trainer, only to return a bit later and get run over by Tim Wallace.  As our leading goal-scorer, I’m not surprised Terry is being targeted.  I’m just glad he was back in the game, and seems ok.
  • From everything I’ve read, Mike Murphy had another fantastic game.  Even the WBS radio guys (who bothered me a bit… I realize, I’m listening as a Checkers fan, but is it really necessary to badmouth players and the opposition?  Sure, I get you are going to be homers, it’s your job, but don’t trash my team!) said that Murphy made some great saves on his back, side, and every position under the sun.
  • So yes, we lost, but it sounds like it was still a relatively evenly matched game.  I’m looking forward to home ice, and a few games in person this week.
  • I could write a lot more, but if I do, I’m going to be late for work, so signing off!
Lets Go Checkers!

Quick hits – Game 2 playoff edition

A few notes and links worth mentioning, from a variety of sources:

  • Playoff superstar Zac Dalpe’s younger brother Ben skated with the team at their practice on Friday.  Ben, 17, is a forward who spent last season with the Brantford Golden Eagles, a team in the Greater Ontario Junior Hockey League.  His season was cut short in March due to a concussion.
  • While searching for info on Ben Dalpe, I found a pretty fun article about Ben and Zac, with pictures of them as young kids.
  • The Penguins did not skate yesterday, but had a team meeting and off-ice workouts.  According to WBS beat writer Jonathan Bombulie, Ben Street (who had skated in all 7 of the Penguins post-season games, but left the ice following the first period on Thursday), is considered to be day-to-day.  With his potential unavailability, it is possible the Pens will have to dress a seventh defenseman or one of their black aces tonight to fill out their roster.  None of these aces (Paul Thompson, Andy Bathgate and Ryan Schnell) have skated in any of the post-season games.
  • Here is an article that lists how the Penguins feel they can beat the Checkers.  Scoring first, limiting big plays, and taking advantage of home ice are the ways Bombulie says the Pens need to take advantage tonight.  It’s worth mentioning that despite an amazing record at home during the regular season, the Penguins are now 1-3 on home ice during the playoffs.
  • I find it mildly ironic that last night, the Charlotte Knights defeated the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees in the world of AAA Baseball.  I also find it amusing that the Yankees have Scranton first in their name, and the Penguins get Wilkes-Barre first.  I guess when two towns share two teams, it’s only fair that each town gets their name first on one of the teams.
  • Chip Alexander wrote a piece in the Charlotte Observer yesterday about some of the Checkers depth players who are excelling in the playoffs.
  • The game starts at 7:05 p.m. tonight, and is being broadcast on WFNZ 610 am here in Charlotte.  (Or online, of course… though unfortunately, iPads are not supported by AHL live!)
  • Buy your tickets for Monday and Wednesday’s games here in Charlotte!  Remember, $5 off at Ticketmaster with the promo code:  FOY
Lets Go Checkers!

The one about winning game one in the second round

Game one of the second round deserves a great write-up, but I fear I don’t have a LOT of stuff to talk about other than the obvious, which is the Charlotte Checkers beat the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins in the first game of the second round of the Calder Cup playoffs.  You see, I was at a world premiere/opening night of the local ballet company, and while I firmly believe that the Charlotte Checkers > ballet, the ballet pays me to be there, and the Checkers don’t.  The good news is opening night was great, the dancing was good, and the CHECKERS upset the Pens on their home ice.

As excited and proud I am of MY team winning, I know it’s just the first game, and anything and everything can change.  One game does’t win the series, but the team is on a four game winning streak now, which is a nice thing in the Playoffs.  Bottom line is I hope they stay confidence, but keep it in check because this is just the beginning.

I followed online via twitter, and on the radio when I could pop an earbud in to listen to Jason Shaya on the internet feed on my iPad.  So here are my observations about the game itself.

  • This was a TOTALLY different game than any of the first round games vs. Hershey.  We only allowed one power play goal by the Bears (in 26 attempts) and tonight, allowed two Penguins PP goals in eight attempts.  On the flip side, we scored two PP goals in six tries.  Our penalty kill was a huge key to beating the Bears, and I want to see this come back.
  • Speed speed speed!  This was the kind of hockey our guys like to play.  They seemed to find their groove, went with it and excelled.
  • Mike Murphy had a fantastic game.  The first and third periods had him stopping twice as many shots as Brad Thiessen did.  Only in the last few minutes of the second period did the Checkers go on a shooting rampage, bombarding Thiessen with many, many shot attempts.
  • We took way too many penalties overall!  This is NOT how you when playoff games.  I want to see more restraint from our team going forward.
  • Jonathan Matsumoto had two goals, including the game winner.  Of course, right after his second goal, he went to the box for being a hooker which resulted on another Penguins PP goal.
  • I’m glad that Zack Fitzgerald was back in this game.  It sounds like we might need his lovable, enforcer, goon-like skills in this series.
  • There were a few near-misses/potential injuries to Penguins players.  Ben Street didn’t return to the bench for the second period, Brett Sterling left the ice for a bit during the second after a hit behind the net by Fitzgerald.  There was no call on the play, only a roughing call on the ensuing friction between Checkers and Penguins who were each standing up for their teammates.  In the third period, Brad Thiessen took a shot from Chris Terry that dropped him to the ice (it seems to have hit his collar bone) and he was down for a bit afterwards, but finished out the game.  I’ll be interested to see how banged up these guys really are.
Random observations about fans, team spirit, our awesome black aces, etc:
  •  I wanted to throw up in my mouth when I thought I could hear Chelsea Dagger playing in the Mohegan Sun arena.  I hate that song and the fact it’s the dumb Blackhawks goal song.  Did I really hear it, or were my ears playing tricks on me?
  • I loved hearing the fans in WBS.  They were cheering and chanting, and that’s a good thing at any hockey game.  I propose though, Charlotte Checkers fans, that we out-loud them.  Let’s turn it up next week, and make noise and support our team!
  • At my favorite bar, where I went for the end of the game, I talked to about a dozen guys who all asked me about the Checkers since I was the token person there in a Checkers jersey and not an NFL one on their draft day, and many of them said they were going to buy tickets after talking to me.
  • Bobby Goepfert should be the intermission interview at EVERY game.  I was laughing so hard.  He said Mike Murphy had a Justin Bieber-like quality (I mean, they both have nice hair, but it’s nothing at all alike…) and he said he likes spice.  Bobby Goepfert spice… I wonder what kind of spice he is?  Cajun?  Jalapeno?  Something mild like a basil/Italian spice?
  • I don’t know how to type Goepfert’s reaction to Shaya’s question about who drafted him… the Pittsburgh Penguins.  It was a sound of utter disgust, a true BLEH when he said that was who claimed him at the draft.  All I know is I’m glad he’s a part of the Checkers organization now, and would love to see him stick around after the way he’s supported us this year when we needed him.
Game two is Saturday night, and will be broadcast on AM radio here in Charlotte again.  I learned tonight that my iPad is NOT compatible with AHL live, so I was glad to have my radio app installed to listen to the feed that way!  Tune in!
Lets Go Checkers!