The Charlotte Checkers are crawling to the finish line for the month of January, finishing the month 1-2-1. The team is still searching to solidify the goaltender position, as they allowed an average of four goals per game over their most recent four-game stretch.
The Checkers were thwarted 4-1 in the first matchup of the week against the Rochester Americans. Lucas Wallmark scored his 10th goal of the season for he Checkers’ lone tally, assisted by AHL All-Star Valentin Zykov. Jeremy Smith allowed three goals on 24 shots.
Charlotte followed the loss with a 5-4 overtime win over Rochester in a matinee game. All-Stars Zykov and Warren Foegele led the way for the Checkers, each registering multi-point games, with Zykov scoring the overtime winner just a minute into the extra frame. Alex Nedeljkovic got the nod in net and stopped 26 shots en route to the win.
Charlotte couldn’t keep the momentum going, though, and followed it up with a pair of losses to the Hartford Wolf Pack. The Checkers dropped the first match-up in the shootout despite Zykov’s power play goal to tie the game in the third period. Despite playing a great game the day before, Charlotte couldn’t get anything going in game two as they were shutout 4-0. Jeremy Smith started the game but was yanked for Nedeljkovic after allowing three goals on 13 shots. Nedeljkovic stopped all 11 shots he faced in relief. Charlotte managed to put 38 shots on net, but with most coming from low-danger areas.
Thought of the Week
There are a few contributing factors to Charlotte’s goaltending woes. First, head coach Mike Vellucci seems to be rotating them too often. The AHL schedule is demanding and teams may have many games over a short period of time. However, flipping goaltenders every other game gives neither a chance to gain any sort of momentum. It seems either one is too afraid to make a mistake at this point.
Goaltending has been a hot topic on Twitter for the big club but I think I’ve come to a conclusion at the AHL level: Alex Nedeljkovic is not the solution for the franchise in the long run. He’s inconsistent and relies too heavily on team scoring, which is obviously lacking at the NHL level. If this comes back to bite me, so be it. But no signs are evident that Nedeljkovic, with a sub .900 save percentage and a 2.67 goals against average, is the answer in net.
Player of the Week
This week’s player of the week goes to two players, actually. Warren Foegele and Valentin Zykov excelled at the AHL All-Star Classic, recording four assists each. They have been stellar for Charlotte this season and are frequently a driving force of their offense.
Charlotte hits the road for a four-game stretch starting this Friday against the Lehigh Valley Phantoms. The Checkers will not play another home game until Friday, February 9th against the Springfield Thunderbirds.