Dalpe’s ability at center can serve Vancouver well, and Welsh should be familiar with the area, as Utica is a mere hour away from Schenectady, New York, where he attended college at Union.
Dalpe’s younger brother Ben, a frequent Checkers fan and Charlotte visitor, is currently playing for the Pencticton Vees before starting college at Clarkson next fall. Penticton is in the Okanagan valley, and a short drive from Vancouver, which should serve the brothers well.
Tochkin is a native of Abbotsford, British Columbia. He played five years in the WHL with the Everett Silvertips, Medicine Hat Tigers and Prince Albert Raiders. One and a half of those seasons was spent with Rasmus Rissannen in Everett, who he is expected to join in Charlotte as a member of the Charlotte Checkers. Last year, Tochkin played for the Missouri Mavericks, and was to begin the season with the Utica Comets.
As for the departures from the Hurricanes organization… both personally and professionally, I will miss Zac Dalpe a great deal. He is a character guy on and off the ice. He gave great post-game interviews, and played at 110% each and every night. He was a huge asset to the organization, and will be missed.
I’d anticipate a formal release from the Checkers in the morning. Until then, Let’s Go Checkers.
Checkers training camp here in Charlotte is set to begin at 10am tomorrow at the Extreme Ice Center in Indian Trail, and while I’m looking forward to seeing many familiar faces, there are a number of new additions worth mentioning. So here are a few of the players I am most anxious to see on the ice this year:
Danny Biega – Biega is set to begin his first full professional season, after spending four years at Harvard. He played with both of his brothers while there, and his oldest brother Alex is going to be a member of the Utica Comets this season (who, as we all know, despite being in the same conference, will not face Charlotte). Biega played one regular season game for the Checkers last year, but sustained an upper body injury that took him out for the last 15 games of the season before he returned for the playoffs. Biega is the kind of player who could make a big impact from day one with the Checkers.
Austin Levi – Levi spent five seasons with the Plymouth Whalers, an organization that brought the Checkers guys like Chris Terry, Michal Jordan, Brett Bellemore and Justin Peters. Last season, he served as an alternate captain for the Whalers. Levi is a big, physical defenseman who knows how to shut down the opposition. Levi’s size and work ethic should prove to be valuable assets to the Checkers this year.
Keegan Lowe – Lowe’s family is about as Canadian as they come (his mom was an Alpine skier at the 1988 Calgary Olympics, and his dad is a six time Stanley cup winning defenseman), but since Keegan was born in Connecticut while his dad was playing for the New York Rangers, he’s played for Team USA at international competitions. Keegan grew up in Edmonton where his dad is currently the President of Hockey Operations for the Oilers. Keegan’s Edmonton Oil Kings made it to the Western Hockey League finals last year, a seven game series with Victor Rask’s Calgary Hitmen, who ultimately won the series. Lowe’s still developing, but should add a lot of depth to the developing defense corps in Charlotte.
Brendan Woods – Brendan joins the Checkers after two years at the University of Wisconsin. He was born in Pennsylvania (like Lowe, his dad was playing hockey at the time), but grew up in Saskatchewan. His dad is an ECHL hall of famer and current NHL assistant coach of the Anaheim Ducks. Woods is a big forward who plays center and right wing, and should learn a lot in his first professional season this year.
Aaron Palushaj – A gritty right winger, Palushaj is about to enter his sixth professional season, after spending two years at the University of Michigan. He’s played for the Peoria Rivermen, Hamilton Bulldogs, Montreal Canadiens and Colorado Avalanche before signing a contract with the Carolina Hurricanes this year. Over the summer, he won a bronze medal for Team USA in the World Championships. Assuming he clears waivers (he’s already been claimed once in his career, which is how he ended up in Colorado last year), he’s going to be a lot of fun to watch in Charlotte.
Victor Rask – Victor spent the first month of the season with the Checkers last year before the Hurricanes reassigned him to his junior team, the Calgary Hitman. He had five points in 10 games with Charlotte. Rask is a physical player with phenomenal offensive potential. As a member of Sweden’s World Junior team, he’s won consecutive medals, a gold in 2012 and silver in 2013. Rask played in the WHL for two years, and this will be his third season in North America.
Earlier today, the Hurricanes placed the following players on waivers: Nicolas Blanchard, Michal Jordan, Justin Peters, Zach Boychuk, Aaron Palushaj, and Jared Staal. It is presumed they will be assigned to Charlotte if they clear at noon tomorrow.
Chris Terry, Zac Dalpe, Brett Bellemore, Brett Sutter and Riley Nash, who were all Checkers regulars last year, remain at Hurricanes camp, all with very good chances of making the NHL squad this year. They would require waivers to be sent to Charlotte.
Jeremy Welsh and Ryan Murphy remain at Hurricanes camp and would not require waivers to be assigned.
All Checkers practices this week are open to the public from 10am-noon in Indian Trail. There’s also a preseason game against the Admirals on Friday, September 27, and there’s Norfolking way the Checkers are going to lose! I’ll see you at training camp!
I love the Frozen Four tournament. When all of my friends are talking about “March Madness” my mind instantly goes to the Division I hockey teams hoping to make the post season.
On Thursday (while the Checkers take on the Texas Stars), the semi-finals will be underway in Pittsburgh, with St. Cloud State taking on top-ranked Quinnipiac, and UMass-Lowell will face Yale. The final is on Saturday.
Half of the tournament is over already, and my NCAA team lost in the second round unfortunately, so I’m without a team to cheer for in the Frozen Four this weekend.
This year, the Frozen Four consists of three teams who’ve never made it to the Frozen Four, and a fourth team who has only made it once. When my team gets eliminated early in the tournament, I like to cheer for the underdog, but that’s a hard choice this year, because none of the teams have a lot of post-season success. I can’t tell you the last time the Frozen Four didn’t include one of the NCAA powerhouses such as Sean Dolan’s Wisconsin or John Muse’s Boston College.
A few fun facts about this year’s Frozen Four:
The mascots of the four teams include pretty regular creatures. Two types of dogs, a cat, and a bird. Unfortunately, there isn’t a Golden Gopher, A Fighting Sioux, or a mythical creature like a Golden Knight or Buckeye. This makes me sad.
Yale and Quinnipiac are located on the same street in Connecticut, only eight miles away.
St. Cloud State University has never been to a Frozen Four before this year, though the state of Minnesota has 20 players in the Frozen Four this year.
University of Massachusetts – Lowell is also making their first-ever Frozen Four appearance. They have the fewest Canadians on their team with three, and are the only team to not have a player from the state of Minnesota.
Quinnipiac has the most Canadians on their team with six. This is their first Frozen Four, and only their second appearance in the post season. In 2002, they lost in the first round to Cornell. Charlotte Checkers forward David Marshall spent four years playing for the Quinnipiac Bobcats Connecticut.
Yale is set to make their second Frozen Four appearance in their history. They last made it to the Frozen Four in 1952. Former Hurricanes player Mike Commodore was recruited by Yale, but they wanted him to re-take the SAT to be accepted. He instead chose to attend the University of North Dakota, where he won the Frozen Four tournament in 2000.
NCAA Alumni on the Charlotte Checkers
John Muse is undoubtedly the most successful member of the Checkers when it comes to his NCAA experience. He won two Frozen Fours in 2008 and 2010, and appeared in the NCAA tournament in 2011 (the year, by the way, former Checker Justin Faulk’s Duluth team won the championship). His record in the NCAA tournament was 13-1.
Checkers center Jeremy Welsh spent three seasons at Union College. Welsh played in two NCAA tournaments in 2011 and 2012. Last year, Welsh was a member of the Union Dutchmen team that made the Division I Frozen Four for the first time in the team’s history.
Justin Krueger and Riley Nash both played college hockey at Cornell. The mascot of Cornell is “Big Red.” Krueger and Nash made two NCAA hockey tournament appearances in 2009 and 2010.
Sean Dolan was the captain of the Wisconsin Badgers during his senior season in 2010-11. He made two NCAA tournament appearances during his college career, in 2008 and 2010. His junior year, in 2010, his team lost to the goaltending of John Muse and Boston College for the championship.
Rob Madore played four seasons at the University of Vermont. He appeared in two NCAA tournaments in 2009 and 2010. His name is on the school’s record books alongside Tim Thomas in pretty much every stat category.
Matt Beca played for the Clarkson University Golden Knights for four seasons. He appeared in two NCAA tournaments in 2007 and 2008.
Danny Biega, Checkers defenseman, played three years at Harvard. The mascot of Harvard is “Crimson” which is VERY different from the “Big Red” of Cornell. Harvard and Cornell are fierce rivals. I hope the Checkers players who skated for different shades of red in College can put aside those rivalries now that they are professionals!
Eric Baier played four years for the Providence Friars. During his time there, they didn’t make the post season.
Zac Dalpe spent two years at Ohio State. During his freshman year, his team appeared in the NCAA tournament.
Bobby Raymond spent four years at the Rochester Institute of Technology. It was a Division III school his freshman year, but joined the Division I ranks his second year. While he didn’t play in an NCAA tournament as a student, his teammates made it the year after he graduated.
Summer has been flying for me between traveling and working on a movie set, but with the 100 degree weather we’ve been having lately, there is nothing I’d like more than to be sitting on the ice at the arena watching the Checkers play! The good news is, we’re down to 56 days until the Hurricanes play the Winnipeg Jets in Charlotte. That’s less than two months!
Also, I know the production assistants on the movie were just trying to be helpful, but isn’t the orange paper sign a bit redundant? These things are all over my work. I was surprised there wasn’t one labeling the restrooms (which are already clearly labeled). My favorite are the big yellow ones that say SET all over the stage… because, you know, it’s easily confused with the restrooms…
Anyway, back to Hockey.
All is quiet on the Checkers contract front. Last year, the first Checkers signing was July 29, a one-year deal to new Washington Capital Jacob Micflikier. The remainder of the AHL contracts (Brad Herauf, Elgin Reid, Ethan Graham, Bobby Goepfert, etc.), came in mid-August and later. I’d expect more signings in the coming weeks to fill AHL roster holes. We saw the first a couple of weeks ago with the signing of John Muse.
Things have been slow on the Checkers news front…. but here are a few things worth noting:
On the goalie front, two of the 2010/11 Goaltenders have signed deals with new teams. Justin Pogge signed a one-year, two-way contract with the Phoenix Coyotes. Since he is the sixth goaltender the Coyotes have under contract, one would assume he was signed for minor-league duty in Portland.
Goepardy expert Bobby Goepfert has signed in Germany with the DEG Metro Stars. It’s a team in Dusseldorf. His sense of humor and intermission commentary on the radio with Shaya will be missed!
Zac Dalpe is participating in a very cool camp as a part of the NHLPA. It’s called the Allstate All-Canadians Camp. Other NHLPA representatives include Hurricanes Jeff Skinner and Tim Brent, plus NHL present and future greats such as Jason Spezza, Steve Staios, Luke and Braden Schenn, and many others. Camp participants are 42 Bantam aged (15 year old) youth who were selected from all across Canada.
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.
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