The Charlotte Checkers stumbled to the finish line in 2017, finishing their most recent stretch of games 1-2 after the holidays. With the new year (and more games) here, the Checkers sit firmly at 21-12-0-1 and 2nd in the league in goal scoring.
Prior to Christmas, the Checkers split a pair of games with the Hershey Bears despite outscoring the Bears 10-6 over the two games. In the first, the Checkers went down 5-0 just 14 minutes into the game before a furious comeback fell just one goal short. But the momentum carried into the next day, where Aleksi Saarela’s first AHL hat trick powered the Checkers to a 6-0 walk on Carolina Football Night, featuring jerseys designed by Panthers quarterback Cam Newton.
Charlotte began the week after Christmas suffering a big 6-2 loss at the hands of the Binghamton Devils. Valentin Zykov responded with a goal after the Devils took a 2-0 lead in the first period. The Devils then responded with four straight goals to thwart any chance of a Charlotte comeback. Andrew Miller assisted on both Checkers goals. Starter Alex Nedeljkovic couldn’t find his footing, only making 13 saves on 19 shots.
The Checkers followed the 6-2 loss with a 3-1 loss against the Lehigh Valley Phantoms. Jeremy Smith played a solid game for Charlotte, stopping 25 of 28 shots. The high-powered Charlotte offense could not mount a comeback after the Phantoms scored three straight goals. Warren Foegele scored the lone goal for Charlotte.
Finally, Charlotte finished 2017 on a positive note with a 5-2 win over Lehigh Valley. The well balanced Checkers offense had five different scorers help out in the win. Nedeljkovic stopped 26 of 28 shots and Foegele scored in his second straight game and also added an assist.
Thought of the Week
It’s nice to see Lucas Wallmark finally get called up this season. He’s been an exceptional playmaker at the AHL level and I think he’s ready to be a full time NHLer on the third or fourth line. If he’s OK after taking a skate to the groin last night, I’d roll with Wallmark even after Marcus Kruger comes back.
I think it’s time to send Phil Di Giuseppe back to Charlotte. The experiment was fun but nothing #34 brings to the table is enticing enough to keep him in the NHL. Wallmark brings more upside with his play and deserves a longer sample size to prove he belongs.
Player of the Week
This week’s player of the week is a familiar one: Warren Foegele. The young forward is having an outstanding rookie year and it didn’t stop this past week. He has registered 17 goals and 10 assists in 32 games and has an impressive 24.3 shooting percentage. He’s 6th among rookies in scoring but sits 20th overall in the league.
The Checkers are 6-4 in their last ten, which has seen them fall a bit to third in the division, three points out of the top spot. They will head up to Hershey, PA to take on the Bears for a back to back series on Saturday and Sunday. Next week, they’ll begin a six-game homestand that will last until January 21st.