The Charlotte Checkers topped the Bridgeport Sound Tigers 3-2 on Saturday night at Bojangles’ Coliseum, improving to 3-1-0 on the season. Alex Nedeljkovic made 28 saves, earning his second win of the season.
Early in the first period, Nedeljkovic played a puck out of his net and left a wide open net for the Sound Tigers to shoot on, but was able to get a piece of it to keep the game scoreless. After the early mishap, things remained mellow until a huge hit by Checkers forward Zack Stortini that then resulted in a fight between Jake Chelios and Ross Johnston on the other end. Chelios received a four minute major for roughing and Scott Eansor fired a puck home for his fourth goal of the season with just seconds remaining in the penalty kill to put the Sound Tigers up 1-0. Eansor potted two goals in the Checkers home opener on Friday to secure a 5-3 win for Bridgeport.
With a few seconds remaining in a early second period power play, Lucas Wallmark kept a clearing attempt in the zone for an extra few chances. Wallmark slid a pass to Valentin Zykov who fired a low wrist shot glove side to beat Chris Gibson for the tying goal.
Wallmark generated another goal after a 2 on 1 breakaway with around ten minutes to go. Gibson made the initial stop but couldn’t freeze the puck, allowing Phillip Samuelsson to creep in from the blue line and clean up the rebound to put the Checkers up 2-1. Nedeljkovic would quiet an impressive Bridgeport power play late in the period to hold the lead for the Checkers.
In the third period, Bridgeport’s Ross Johnston went to the box for hooking. Jake Chelios released a shot from the point on the power play that was tipped by Nick Schilkey for his first professional goal. After the face-off, Nedeljkovic made a highlight reel save to keep the score at 3-1, but Devon Toews would fire a shot just seconds later for his first of the season to bring the Sound Tigers within one. Nedeljkovic held the fort late as the Checkers secure their third win of the season.
The Checkers were without defenseman Trevor Carrick who was recalled to the Hurricanes earlier on Saturday. He was a healthy scratch for the ‘Canes on the road in Winnipeg. Charlotte will hit the road to take on the Rochester Americans (Buffalo Sabres affiliate) on Friday and will not return home until October 28th when they will play back to back games against the Utica Comets (Vancouver Canucks affiliate).
Checkers head coach Mike Vellucci on Lucas Wallmark (who assisted on all three goals) and the importance of his success to the team’s success:
He’s a guy that’s a step or inch from being a full time NHLer so when you can have those types of guys on your team leading you...you know we put the “A” on him today because he deserves it. He’s been leading us for the last couple weeks.
On his team’s 3-1-0 start to the season and the gameplan heading into Rochester:
I think if anything we have to learn from this weekend. We can’t have too many highs and too many lows. We had too many highs going into that first game so you’ve got to have an even keel. It’s a long season. You can’t get ahead of yourself and we’ve might of got a bit ahead of ourselves so hopefully we can learn from that and be ready to play Friday in Rochester.