After a rough stretch where they went 0-for-California in six games out west, the Charlotte Checkers couldn’t have been more excited to return to home cooking as they began a four game homestand against the Manitoba Moose and Grand Rapids Griffins last week.
The two-week visit to the Golden State saw the Checkers play the Stockton Heat, Bakersfield Condors and Ontario Reign twice apiece. The Checkers lost all six games, gaining a single point when they took Bakersfield to overtime in a game where Michael Leighton, making a cameo appearance to get playing time while the Hurricanes were also in California, stopped a potential go-ahead Bakersfield penalty shot with 23 seconds remaining.
The road woes quickly became a thing of the past when the Checkers returned to Bojangles’ Coliseum, where they are 8-4 this season, on Tuesday and registered a 4-2 win against the Moose. Haydn Fleury led the way with two goals and six shots on goal. Sergey Tolchinsky added a pair of helpers in the effort and Daniel Altshuller stopped 23 of 25 shots in the win. The Checkers pestered former Winnipeg Jets goalie Ondrej Pavelec with 31 shots and controlled the pace of the game.
On Wednesday, the Checkers recorded another win against the Moose, this time in overtime. Phil Di Giuseppe scored the overtime winner with a wrister from the right circle that beat Moose goalie Eric Comrie. Andrew Poturalski tallied a goal and an assist to continue his strong rookie season. Leighton, who was sent down from Carolina for another cup of coffee appearance, stopped 33 of 35 shots.
After a few off days, the Checkers resumed play, this time taking on the Grand Rapids Griffins on Saturday. It was “Teddy Bear Toss” night and the Checkers were tossed around the ice as they lost 6-1. Daniel Altshuller got the start in net and was beat for three goals, giving way to Alex Nedeljkovic who also gave up three in relief.
Valentin Zykov scored the lone goal of the game for the Checkers in the first period, which was enough to trigger the stuffed animal invasion that benefited the Novant Health Hemby Children’s Hospital in Charlotte.
The Force was not strong with the Checkers on Sunday afternoon for Star Wars night as the lost again to the Griffins, this time by a score of 3-1. Nedeljkovic, who started in net for the Checkers, had a strong game stopping 23 of 25 shots but ultimately fell short.
The offensively starved Checkers will look to get back on track this week with two match-ups against the Cleveland Monsters on the road on Tuesday and Thursday. This week begins an eight game road trip that will conclude when the team returns home on January 13th. By that point, the Checkers will have played 24 games on the road versus just 12 at home, a schedule imbalance that will be rectified with an eight-game homestand in January and a stretch of 12 of 14 at home in February and March.
Since Last We Met:
- December 7: Stockton 3, Checkers 1
- December 9: Bakersfield 3, Checkers 2 (OT)
- December 10: Ontario 5, Checkers 2
- December 13: Checkers 4, Manitoba 2
- December 14: Checkers 3, Manitoba 2
- December 17: Grand Rapids 6, Checkers 1
- December 18: Grand Rapids 3, Checkers 1
Next for the Checkers (11-15-2-0, 24 points, 7th Central Div):
- December 20 and 22: at Cleveland
- December 30 and January 1: at Manitoba