The Charlotte Checkers can’t stop winning. Despite dropping a 5-1 decision against Belleville on Tuesday, the Checkers got back on track with three straight wins to round out the week. Charlotte now holds a four-point lead over the second place Milwaukee Admirals and a six-point lead over the second place team in the Atlantic Division.
I spoke to a Checkers staffer while waiting for head coach Mike Vellucci to emerge from the locker room after Sunday’s 3-1 win over the Laval Rocket. I asked what this team’s ceiling was as the Checkers roll into the month of December. “Pretty high,” the staffer replied. I’d say.
In personnel news, rookie defenseman Jake Bean will make his rookie debut tonight in Montreal after being called up from Charlotte on Sunday. Fans will get their their first glimpse at the lanky defenseman drafted 13th overall in the 2016 NHL Draft. Canes Country writer Brett Finger did a great job of breaking down the call-up yesterday. While Brett focuses on much of the positive of Bean, there are some flaws in his game.
Bean is a gifted passer with the ability to make stretch passes to fast Checkers forwards. He shows promise on bringing the puck up the ice and zone breakouts when stuck in his own end.
However, when confronted with a strong forecheck by an opposing team, Bean tends to freeze up and get rattled. Twice this week, Bean went to retrieve a puck dumped into the Checkers defensive zone and was confronted by a forecheck. Both times, Bean was muscled off the puck, turned it over and a chance was granted for the other team.
Of course, this is nothing to condemn him for. He’s young and will need additional seasoning, as well as added weight, before he becomes a full time NHLer. He may just surprise us, much like Besce Pesce and Jaccob Slavin did, and make the conversation of solving the stacked Canes defensemen even tougher.
Week in Recap
Canes Country had coverage of three of the four games during this week’s home-stand. You can view each of them below, complete with post game comments from coaches and players.
Thought of the Week
Charlotte City Council approved an agreement to give Bojangles the naming rights to the Coliseum for another 10 years. Bojangles announced it would be acquired by Durational Capital Management and the Jordan Company earlier this month. Checkers officials told me the naming rights agreement would last until the end of this year.
This time around, Bojangles will have to pay even more for the naming rights. The Charlotte Business Journal reports the fast-food chain will pay $240,000 for the first years and the price will increase $10,000 per year after the first year. No word yet on if the additional revenue will affect the Checkers.
Below is a statement for Charlotte Checkers COO Tera Black:
“The Checkers are supportive of the new naming rights agreement between the CRVA and Bojangles’ for our home facility at Bojangles’ Coliseum. We hope that this new agreement will also lead to a long partnership between the Checkers and Bojangles’ moving forward.”
Player of the Week
Despite only one start and a relief appearance in Charlotte’s 5-1 loss on Tuesday, Callum Booth is the player of the week this week. Booth led the way for the Checkers on Sunday, stopping 26 shots in the victory.
Laval pushed hard in the second period with 11 shots compared to just two for Charlotte. He controlled the period in a calm, precise manner and didn’t get frazzled. He received a little help from defenseman Dennis Robertson who swatted a puck out of mid air on the goal line that squeaked past Booth. The rookie netminder may have known a little bit of what Laval was throwing at him as he said he knew their coach well from his junior days.
Booth is an incredibly quiet, calm-mannered goaltender and may just be the sneaky prospect the Hurricanes need. As of now, Alex Nedeljkovic will get a bulk of the starts. Perhaps the Hurricanes see that the wins Nedeljkovic is racking up is a product of a good team in front of him and not the play of their future goaltender. Further development of Booth, who fits the mold of a future NHL goaltender, may go a long way.
Charlotte will not return home until Dec. 13. On Friday, the Checkers will kick off a five-game road trip, starting with the Providence Bruins. They’ll take on the Hartford Wolf Pack on Saturday before wrapping up the weekend with another matchup against Providence on Sunday.