The Charlotte Checkers are holding on to a playoff spot by the skin of their teeth with a very important goal in mind: close out the next three games. Charlotte currently holds the fourth and final playoff spot in the Central Division over the fifth place Cleveland Monsters. The Monsters have a one point advantage over the Checkers but Charlotte holds the lead by points percentage, the AHL’s tiebreaker, as they have one game in hand. The Checkers’ magic number is five to wrap up a spot, but at this point the math is simple: win out and the Checkers are in.
Charlotte had a successful week as they wrapped up their home schedule. They said goodbye to Bojangles Coliseum for the regular season in style as they rambled off four straight wins to keep their playoff aspirations alive.
Charlotte began the week with back to back wins against the San Antonio Rampage on Tuesday and Wednesday. In the first game, the Checkers topped the Rampage with a 3-1 win. Aleksi Saarela continued his hot start to his North American career with a goal, his fifth in as many games with the Checkers. On Wednesday, the Checkers’ offense came alive with a 5-2 thrashing of the Rampage. Former Hurricane Patrick Dwyer led the way for the Checkers as he registered a hat trick, his first in the AHL since 2009.
The Checkers welcomed their next opponent, the Texas Stars, to town with a 9-3 beat down. The Checkers’ nine goals were scored by eight different players, Dennis Robertson the only player to score a pair. The nine-goal outburst was their season high and was one goal shy of tying the franchise record. In their final regular season home game, Charlotte finished off the Stars with a solid 3-1 win. Checkers goalie Tom McCollum once again proved to be a reliable option as he stopped 25 of 26 shots that came his way.
The Checkers wrap up their regular season with three road games this week. The team will travel to Grand Rapids where they will play a pair of games against the second-place Griffins tomorrow and Friday. They then round out the season with a matchup against the division-leading Chicago Wolves on Saturday.
Cleveland, meanwhile, has a pair of home games Thursday and Friday against seventh-place Manitoba. The Checkers will know by the end of their game on Friday what they will need on Saturday in Chicago to clinch a playoff spot. The Checkers need to ideally win at least two of the three games remaining in order to secure a spot or risk not playing meaningful games in April like their parent team.