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Checkers Corner: Charlotte bounces back after a couple shaky weeks

Are the Checkers poised for a dominating December?

Charlotte Checkers

The Charlotte Checkers are 3-0-1 over their last four games and are rolling in to the month of December. With 11 games remaining for Charlotte in 2017, the Checkers have a chance to separate from other teams in the standings and establish control in their division.

The Checkers kicked it off the four-game stretch with a trampling of Providence, topping the Bruins 8-2. Providence started the scoring before the Checkers came storming back, scoring eight unanswered goals. Five Checkers had multi-point nights, led by Sergey Tolchinsky and Warren Foegele who each posted a goal and two assists.

The next day, the Checkers slipped up in a 2-1 shootout loss against the Bruins. Jeremy Smith played a stellar game, turning aside 40 shots. Nicolas Roy was able to get onto the board with his fourth goal of the season, but Charlotte was unable to generate much offense throughout the game, having a hard time gaining entrance to the offensive zone. The Checkers were only able to get off 19 shots against Jordan Binnington, who turned aside 18.

Charlotte continued their homestand last Friday with a 4-1 thrashing of the Springfield Thunderbirds. Foegele, whose rookie season has been nothing short of sensational, led the way with his first career hat trick. Clark Bishop had three assists and Andrew Miller finished with a multi-point night.

Sunday, the Checkers were down 3-1 early to Springfield in the second period. Charlotte came storming back with three unanswered goals to earn a 4-3 win. Aleksi Saarela potted the game winning goal, his eight goal of the season. Alex Nedeljkovic made 24 saves en route to his 11th win of the season, tying him for the league lead in wins.

Thought of the Week

December was a major thorn in the Checkers’ side last season, where they quickly slipped out of contention before goaltender Tom McCollum saved their season. Word of advice: don’t let it happen again, Charlotte. It’s hard to dig yourself out of a hole early in the season, as the Carolina Hurricanes have learned many times.

Alex Nedeljkovic’s play this season has been good enough to rank him among the league leaders in wins. The wins might be there, the goals against average is there but the save percentage is simply meh at .907. He gets into a groove the more shots he faces, but it’s been good defensive play from the skaters in front of him that have left him untested. He’s facing around 24 shots a game and has finally gotten the nod from head coach Mike Vellucci to move forward as the number one goalie. With eight games in 14 days looming on the schedule, Nedeljkovic will be leaned on to keep the wins rolling as they head into the holiday break.

Player of the Week

Earning player of the week accolades for the second time this season is Warren Foegele. He dominated the score sheet, registering four goals and three assists including his first career hat trick. Foegele is flying under the radar but has quietly been a force for Charlotte. He is now tied for second on the team in points and is the top goal scorer for the squad.

Visually, Foegele’s positioning and hockey IQ have allowed him to make a smooth transition to the American Hockey League. He always seems to be in the right place at the right time and has a great to help him bury chances. He’s shooting 29.3% which is eventually going to come back to Earth, but the rookie’s production is comparable to Andrew Poturalski’s from a year ago.

Looking Ahead

Charlotte hits the road for a pair of games this weekend, taking on the Wilkes Barre/Scranton Penguins and the Albany Devils. After this weekend, it’s six straight games at home to help build momentum as the team heads into the holidays.