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Charlotte Checkers Corner: Scary Good

Charlotte continues to prove why they’re one of the best teams in the league.

Jamie Kellner

The Checkers continue to be spooky good as the calendar turns to Halloween, sitting atop the Atlantic Division and second overall in the league at 8-1 through nine games. The team is more or less where they are supposed to be, with a rock star offense, a booming defense and a steadily improving goaltending prospect.

The team has averaged 3.88 goals per game, good enough for 6th best in the league. Charlotte is allowing 2.22 goals per game, only behind the Bakersfield Condors, San Jose Barracuda and Iowa Wild for fewest in the league. Among players who have played at least seven games, goalie Alex Nedeljkovic ranks tied for first with a .913 save percentage.

The power play unit and penalty kill unit both rank within the top-15 of their respective categories. Everything is smooth in the Queen City.

Week Recap

The Checkers had dominating week, forming a three game-win streak after dispatching of the Utica Comets, Binghamton Devils and Syracuse Crunch in short order.

The Checkers were joined by Hurricanes goaltender Scott Darling in their first game of the week against the Utica Comets on Wednesday after his assignment to the team for a conditioning stint. Darling played strong, allowing only one goal late on a bouncing puck. Greatest name in the AHL Greg McKegg scored his first of the season less than a minute into the game. Charlotte won 3-1 with additional help from Morgan Geekie and Clark Bishop.

Charlotte remained on the road to take on Binghamton on Friday and came away with an overtime 4-3 win. Charlotte beat NHL goaltender Cory Schneider who was in Binghamton on a conditioning stint. The Checkers were perfect on special teams as they went 3-3 on the power play and killed off all five penalties they committed. Julien Gauthier continues to rebound after a poor rookie season and added his third goal of the season. Greg McKegg had three assists on the night and Jake Bean helped secure the victory in overtime with his first AHL goal.

Lastly, the Checkers wrapped up their week with a 6-3 win over the Syracuse Crunch on Saturday. Charlotte started the game on a quick note, a reoccurring trend in their play throughout the early part of the season. Patrick Brown and Jake Bean struck for the Checkers early in the first. Julien Gauthier scored again in the second period to give the Checkers the lead after Syracuse tied the game at two. Aleksi Saarela scored his first of the season and Martin Necas scored the first of his AHL career. The Crunch struck early in the third period but could not mount a comeback against Charlotte’s strong defensive formations.

Thought of the Week

It’s unclear what can really stop this team. It may sound like jumping the gun as we are only nine games into the season but it seems a given already that they will make the Calder Cup Playoffs. As mentioned in Canes Country’s Checkers season preview, this team could be a noteworthy competitor to fill in the Toronto Marlies’ shoes as champions.

All facets of their game are clicking. Their forecheck is especially deadly and can pressure opponents into coughing up the puck. The special teams unit has rebounded after a rough weekend the week before and the defense has become a very strong corps with the addition of puck-moving defenseman Jake Bean.

The only thing that could derail the team is injuries or an unfavorable match-up in the playoffs, but all signs point to a strong showing from this team throughout the rest of the year.

Player of the Week

The Hurricanes’ franchise depth at defense continues to thrive. This week’s player of the week is Jake Bean.

During the previous homestand, Bean recorded his first AHL point by showing great patience on a pass to forward Julien Gauthier. The timing was especially important as it was in the third period of the Checkers’ shootout win over the Hershey Bears.

This week he got on the board with his first goal, which as previously mentioned helped the Checkers win in overtime. Look how quickly he gets up on ice on this play. He wasn’t afraid to take a risk and jump in on the rush here in overtime and ignored the fear of being caught off guard on an odd-man rush the other way. This kind of decision making wins hockey games.

Looking Ahead

After a month in which they played just two games at home, Charlotte will play six of their 13 games in the month of November at Bojangles Coliseum. The Checkers return home for a two-game series against the Providence Bruins . They’ll take on the Bruins on Friday at 7 p.m. and Saturday at 6 p.m. Providence has struggled out of the gate, posting a 3-5-1 record in their first nine games. Charlotte’s only loss of the season was at home. Canes Country will have coverage for both games including post game quotes and reactions.