I’ll be honest. It’s almost getting boring writing these columns every week. The Charlotte Checkers are just that good.
Charlotte secured their sixth straight victory with a strong three-game start to their six-game homestand. It marks their longest win streak of the season so far despite recording two five-game win streaks. This season could go down as one of the best in the team’s history if they sustain this pace.
In the NHL, most successful regular-season teams flame out in the playoffs, exposed by an underlying issue that they were not able to elevate once they got to the postseason. The Checkers, however, are a different breed. Every facet of their game is clicking and they have the ability to roll three goaltenders if needed. All signs, as of now, point to a promising conclusion of the season.
The Checkers kicked off their homestand with a gritty 1-0 win over the Hartford Wolf Pack. Defenseman Dennis Robertson scored a sharp-angle goal in the 2nd period which turned out to be enough to secure the win. Alex Nedeljkovic and Callum Booth combined for a shutout, after head coach Mike Vellucci pulled Nedeljkovic after he got word that he may have played for the Hurricanes the following day. Nedeljkovic stopped 17 shots while Booth stopped 6 shots in the win.
The Checkers topped the Wolf Pack again with a 3-2 victory on Teddy Bear Toss night. The Checkers estimated over 2,000 teddy bears were collected after Martin Necas scored the first goal of the game.
Hartford took a 2-1 lead early in the second period but Saku Maenalanen tied it with his fifth goal of the season. Nicolas Roy pocketed the game-winner on his ninth goal of the season about halfway through the third period. Alex Nedeljkvoic stopped 27 of 29 shots.
The Checkers wrapped up the week with a 2-1 win over the Utica Comets in overtime. After a scoreless first period, the Comets and Checkers exchanged goals. Utica’s Lukas Jasek struck first to give the Comets the lead but Morgan Geekie scored with ten seconds left in the period to tie the game heading into the second intermission. After a scoreless third, Aleksi Saarela found the back of the net 22 seconds into overtime to secure the victory for Charlotte. Callum Booth stopped 28 of 29 shots.
Thought of the Week
I’m surprised Janne Kuokkanen didn’t get a more thorough look in Raleigh. Management sent Kuokkanen down before the holiday trade freeze in the unlikely chance they make a move. Rod Brind’Amour said that Kuokkanen wouldn’t suceed in a fourth line role and instead...gave him the equivalent of third line minutes. I don’t understand what Carolina is doing with middle tier prospects like Kuokkanen, Roy and Gauthier. If you’re not going to give them a chance on a team starved for offense, you can’t expect them to succeed.
Player(s) of the Week
This week’s player(s) of the week go to Alex Nedeljkovic and Callum Booth. Goaltending was a highlight of the weekend and strong when it needed to be in three tight contests. The two provide Charlotte with a solid tandem that can compete with just about any team in the American Hockey League.
Charlotte will wrap up their six-game homestand this week. The Checkers will take on Utica again tonight before the Bridgeport Sound Tigers come to town this weekend for a two-game series on Friday and Saturday. The Checkers have the Christmas break off before embarking on a six-game road trip that lasts until Jan. 6th. Canes Country will have coverage of tonight’s game and Saturday’s game.