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.