The Charlotte Checkers continue to roll as they extended their winning streak to three games with a pair of wins this weekend which expanded their league lead to five points. Charlotte will turn their attention to three home games this week, with two against a division opponent. The Checkers now has a +21 goal differential and their power play ranks 12th in the league, with their penalty kill even better at 8th at 84%.
So truly, how good is this team?
The Checkers continued their winning ways with a 7-4 win over the Hartford Wolf Pack on Friday. Hartford struck often and early and broke out to a 3-1 lead. Forward Janne Kuokkanen scored a pair of goals just twenty seconds apart late in the first period to tie the game and tilt the ice in the direction of the Checkers.
Charlotte’s high-powered offense then went to work and fired off another three unanswered goals. Martin Necas led the way with four helpers and Nicolas Roy had a strong game with one goal and three assists. Scott Darling wasn’t a star in the match-up but made timely saves and stopped 20 out of 24 shots in the game en route to the win.
Charlotte followed up a very strong performance with what turned out to be one of the most miraculous games since their inception. The Checkers were down 4-2 in the third period before staging an unbelievable comeback. Jake Bean fired a shot from the point with 55 seconds remaining to cut the Springfield Thunderbirds’ lead to one. Charlotte wasn’t done there, as they forced the puck back into the offensive zone and Andrew Poturalski fired a quick wrist shot from between the circles that found its way into the back of the net and forced the game to go to overtime.
To finish it off, Trevor Carrick became the hero as he scored the overtime winner after Necas set him up on the play.
We were down by two with a minute left and we— Charlotte Checkers (@CheckersHockey) December 9, 2018
WON. THE. GAME. pic.twitter.com/aFy8mseyFQ
Player of the Week
Well, who other than Martin Necas? He earned actual AHL player of the week honors with seven assists in two games. His play-making abilities were on display this weekend in Charlotte’s pair of wins.
This play sums up how good of a weekend he really had:
UNREAL. The Checkers were down 4-2 in the final minute of the third period, and here's the game-winner in overtime. Martin Necas forces the turnover and delivered a sweet pass to Trevor Carrick for the win. Wow. pic.twitter.com/Ro7WxHVfxr— Brett Finger (@brett_finger) December 9, 2018
Head coach Mike Vellucci has said previously all Necas needed to do was...well, less and the good things would come and it seems to be paying off for the young forward. He now has 20 points in his last 18 games and shows no signs of slowing down. Whether he sees time in the NHL this season will be up to how the forwards at the NHL level play or if they’ll need to throw a life raft and receive a helping hand from Necas.
Thought of the Week
What was once hope and optimism seems to have transitioned into certainty. There is simply no part of the Checkers that is under-performing at this point of the season. The defense is especially clicking despite a few blunders here and there.
Jake Bean’s development is especially promising and should come as a relief to the front office in Raleigh. The prospect of Bean projecting as a bottom-4 defenseman in the NHL should give the Hurricanes flexibility as they look to improve their current roster this season.
TSN recently reported the Hurricanes are searching for a top-6 forward. The holiday trade freeze will come into effect on Dec. 19th at 11:59 p.m. If the Hurricanes make a move, it’s inevitable they will deal from a position of strength and trade a defenseman. Having a budding prospect in Bean, a solid depth defenseman in Roland McKeown and a stop gap in Trevor Carrick should provide enough comfort for the Hurricanes front office to continue to be aggressive.
Charlotte finally returns home for the first time in five games. The Checkers will kick off a six-game homestand with three games this week. Charlotte will face off against a familiar face in Hartford on Thursday followed by a second meeting on Saturday. The Checkers will wrap up the weekend with a Sunday matinee against the Utica Comets.