The Worcester Sharks were holding on to hope that they may slip into the playoffs. After their loss last week opened the door for the Checkers to clinch, the final two games in Charlotte meant a lot to the Sharks. Worcester desperately needed all four points against the homestanding Checkers, but after being pushed around on Monday night by the rival Norfolk Admirals, the Checkers knocked the Sharks out of contention, and solidified their playoff fate- a first round date with the Hershey Bears. Justin Pogge saw lots of rubber, and a little goaltender played a big man's game this week- it was a wild one with a lot of fun happenings in Time Warner Cable Arena. Details as usual after the jump.
The final three games of the season were on the slate for Charlotte this week. As they closed out their schedule, all three games were in Charlotte. The Norfolk Admirals came calling first, hoping to pick up points to avoid Wilkes-Barre/Scranton in the first round. The Worcester Shark's season came down to the final two games in Charlotte, and the Checkers spoiled the post season hopes of the Junior Sharks. Big shout-out to the fans here in Charlotte, enough money was raised to give little Zach Bennett and his family a permanent home here in the city so he can follow his favorite team and players. A special ceremony was conducted before Friday's game. Fan favorite Zack Fitzgerald personally thanked the fans for their continued support on Friday night, and made another victory speech after Saturday's win. As he held Zach Bennett, his biggest fan, he told the fans that it was "All about them." That their continued support was the reason the playoff surge was coming to Charlotte. A truly classy move for "Fitzy."
Mon. April 4th vs. Norfolk L 2-5 4,796
Fri. April 8th vs. Worcester W 2-1 9,813
Sat. April 9th vs. Worcester W 6-2 11,121
Monday Night, vs. Norfolk Admirals
The Admirals and Checkers were feeling each other out in the first period. The two teams traded powerplay goals in the first period as Mattias Ritola scored for the Admirals, and was answered by Chris Terry's man advantage tally, his 33rd goal of the season.
Bobby Sanguinetti would score on the powerplay in the second period, but the two Charlotte goals were not enough to match the two goal performances of Mattias Ritola and Blair Jones. Justin Pogge fought the puck a bit this night, but many of the goals he allowed were the result of great passing and cross crease set-ups. Either way, Pogge was pulled midway through the third period. Florida call-up, Bobby Goepfert, came in and played 12:20, stopping 10 of 10 Admiral's shots to hold them where they were. The loss was a frustrating one, but the Checkers would rebound later in the week.
Checkers Three Stars:
1. Bobby Sanguinetti (1 g, 1 a, 3 shots)
Sanguinetti's return from injury has been very fortunate for Charlotte. The puck moving skills of Bobby have helped the powerplay, and even strength defensive scoring efforts. Sanguinetti's two points both came on the powerplay, assisting on Terry's first period tally, and scoring a goal of his own in the second, his third of the season.
2. Jon Matsumoto ( 0 g, 2 a)
Matsumoto picked up two penalties, but his two powerplay assists helped him make up for it. Matsumoto has continued to be a consistent offensive force, and will be expected to continue his production in the playoffs.
3. Bobby Goepfert ( 10 shots, 10 saves, 12:20 ice time)
Since being recalled from the Everblades, Goepfert hadn't had any in game experience with Charlotte. He got it on Monday night, and showed that he was capable of making stops, as he shut down the Admirals as they searched to extend their lead in the third. Coming in cold off the bench is never easy, but Goepfert did it right this night.
Post game interviews: Chris Terry, Bobby Sanguinetti, Jeff Daniels
Friday night, vs. Worcester Sharks:
The home team jumped out on the desperate Sharks in the second period, gaining a lead that they would hold for the rest of the night. Jacob Micflikier and Cedric McNicoll scored in the second period. Micflikier's goal was his 29th of the season, and McNicoll's powerplay goal was his sixth of the year. Pogge was in net to get the win in front of nearly 10 thousand in Time Warner Cable Arena.
Checker's Three Stars:
1. Jacob Micflikier (1 g, 0a 4 shots)
Micflikier inched ever closer to the 30 goal plateau on Friday night, his second period goal got things going for the Checkers.
2. Justin Pogge ( 22 shots, 21 saves)
A bounce back performance was what the doctor ordered for Pogge, and he delivered. Despite allowing a second period goal, Pogge shut the door on the Sharks, including a 5 on 3 sequence for over a minute, and a late penalty kill to end the game.
3. Cedric McNicoll (1 g, 0 a 1 shot)
McNicoll's powerplay goal ended up being the difference. The Everblade callup made his lone shot the game count.
Post game interviews: Jacob Micflikier, Cedric McNicoll, Justin Pogge, Jeff Daniels
Saturday night vs. Worcester Sharks:
The Checkers saved a great offensive night for the last game of the regular season. In front of over 11,000, Michal Jordan opened up the scoring in the first, to give Charlotte a lead they would never relinquish. Brett Sutter collected two points, and Zac Dalpe did the same. Brad Herauf, Matthew Pistilli, and Chris Terry all scored as well, and Bobby Goepfert got his first win of the season, in his first AHL start of the season, turning away 23 of 25 Shark's shots. Terry's goal was his 34th of the year, which is a team high.
Jamie McGinn and Cory Quirk scored for the Sharks. Rasmus Rissanen made his AHL debut, wearing number 2, and collecting 3 shots while boasting a +1 rating on the night.
Checker's Three Stars:
1. Brett Sutter (1 g, 1 a, +2)
Sutter notched his ninth of the season in the second period, and also assisted on Dalpe's 23rd of the season.
2. Zac Dalpe (1 g, 1a, +2)
Dalpe was up to his usual tricks. Two second period points, and a plus/minus that tied him for the team lead on this night.
3. Casey Borer (0 g, 2 a +1)
Borer hadn't had a multi point night in quite some time. One of his assists came shorthanded, and both of his assists were in the third period to help Charlotte pull away.
No post game interviews conducted.
By the Numbers:
* 97, total points is what the Checkers will finish with.
* 50, percent the Checkers powerplay went this week. (4 for 8)
* 11, penalties killed off this week in 14 chances for Charlotte
* 34, Terry's 34 goals are a team best for the regular season.
* 65, points by Zach Boychuk gives him the team lead for the regular season, edging Chris Terry by one point.
*47, points on the year for Bryan Rodney, tops on the team for defensemen.
* 3, Zac Dalpe is third in the AHL in rookie scoring.
* 13, 14. Zac Dalpe and Chris Terry are 13th and 14th respectively in total scoring in the AHL.
East Division Standings (As of Sunday, April 10th, @ 10:27 P.M.):
y Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins
x Hershey Bears
x Charlotte Checkers
x Norfolk Admirals
x Binghamton Senators
While it is terribly disappointing that our boys in Raleigh couldn't find a way to slip into the post season, the Checkers will be playing on in the Calder Cup playoffs. With Justin Faulk winning the NCAA Championship with his team last night, and Brian Dumoulin already winning his last year, there is talent in the college ranks. Don't overlook the talent in Charlotte either. The Checkers have a serious chance to do some damage in the post-season. While the Hershey Bears are tough, and the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins have to be heavy Cup favorites, the Checkers feature great scoring from Terry, Boychuk, Dalpe, and many others, great leadership from guys like Fitzgerald and Rodney, and a solid goaltending core that has shown great play late in the season. Watch out for the boys from Charlotte, and hope for a deep run, so the prospects can get some playing time in crucial situations. The folks in Charlotte and myself are very excited for the upcoming playoff run, go Checkers!
The Checkers will take on the Hershey Bears in the first round of the Calder Cup playoffs. The Bears have the home ice advantage as the 2 seed. The series will feature a 2-3-2 format, with the first game in the Giant Center on Thursday, April 14 at 7:00. Charlotte and Hershey have not met since February, the Checkers blew into the Giant Center and decimated the Bears 5-0. The two teams split their meetings this season, Charlotte won 4, Hershey won 4 of the 8 head to head meetings this season.
Michael Leighton does hold the Albany record for save percentage and goals against in a single season. (.931 and 2.10)
With the Checker's regular season now over, which Charlotte player is the plus/minus leader for the season? Is it all-star defenseman Bryan Rodney? High scoring forward Chris Terry? Or perhaps it's Jacob Micflikier or Michal Jordan? Take your pick this week in trivia.