The Charlotte Checkers are fresh off a eight game home stand in which they posted a 5-2-1 record and inched closer to the playoff conversation. The Checkers are 6-3-1 in their past ten games.
Charlotte still has plenty of work to do to get into the playoff picture but this home stand has brought hope to the team. The team has slowly crawled out of the league basement and now sits 24th in the league with 41 points in 44 games.
The series of home games was largely successful despite a two-game sweep midway through at the hands of the Milwaukee Admirals (Nashville Predators affiliate). In the first game, a record crowd of over 8,400 saw the Checkers blanked 3-0 by Admirals goalie Marek Mazanec, who stopped all 23 shots he saw.
The next night, the Checkers earned a point, coming back from a two-goal deficit with three minutes to go, but their 46 shots weren’t enough as Kevin Fiala gave Milwaukee the win with a goal 90 seconds into overtime to give the Admirals a 4-3 win.
The Pacific Division-leading Tucson Roadrunners (Arizona Coyotes affiliate) came to Charlotte for the first time and the Checkers welcomed them with Southern hospitality, sweeping the Roadrunners with wins on consecutive nights. Prior to the Roadrunners coming to town, the Checkers had been winless against the Pacific this season, but two straight wins including a game-winner by Lucas Wallmark with five seconds to go in overtime of the second game put an end to that streak.
Eddie Lack made a cameo in a conditioning stint this past weekend as the Manitoba Moose (Winnipeg Jets affiliate) visited the Checkers. The teams split their two games, the Checkers winning the opener 4-1 and the Moose returning the favor on Saturday in a 2-1 win.
The Checkers’ offensive improved incrementally during the home stand as the team potted 2.62 goals per game over the stretch which is a small increase from their season average of 2.43 goals per game. The Checkers allowed two goals or less in five of the eight games during the stretch.
However, an issue that remains persistent is the Checkers power play which ranks last in the American Hockey League at a measly 10.5%. The team went 0-5 in the home stand finale against the Manitoba Moose, including not converting on a 5 on 3 power play in the second period. Structurally, the team focuses too much on shots from the point and one-timers. A net-front presence with the man advantage could bring wonders to the team and open up more shooting lanes. Checkers head coach Ulf Samuelsson has to switch up his special teams game plan because it is simply not working.
Looking ahead, the Checkers split their 10 games in the month of February evenly with five on the road and five at home. The team needs a strong showing in those 10 games to keep them afloat as they are currently treading water in the Central Division. A bad showing in February could sink the team and diminish any playoff hopes.
Since Last We Met:
- January 17: Milwaukee 3, Charlotte 0
- January 18: Milwaukee 4, Charlotte 3 (OT)
- January 21: Checkers 3, Tucson 1
- January 22: Checkers 2, Tucson 1 (OT)
- January 27: Checkers 4, Manitoba 1
- January 28: Manitoba 2, Checkers 1
Next Up for the Checkers: (19-22-3-0, 41 points, 7th Central Div.)
- February 3 and 4: at Tucson
- February 10 and 11: home vs. Stockton