If there’s anything we learned about the Charlotte Checkers this weekend, it’s that they don’t go down without a fight. The team battled back from multi-goal holes, with one game yielding positive results and one not.
While finishing the weekend 1-1-1 isn’t the end of the world, some concerns have arisen lately regarding team defense and goaltending. In five of the Checkers’ last six games, they have allowed four or more goals. Their record over the span? 2-2-2. That’s a trend that can’t continue and should be addressed by head coach Mike Vellucci and his staff before it becomes a habit.
The Checkers lost their first game of the weekend in a 4-2 game against the Laval Rocket on Friday. The holiday hangover was in effect as Laval jumped out to an early 3-0 in the first period and didn’t look back. Charlotte attempted to close the gap with goals from Greg McKegg and Dennis Robertson in the second period but fell short from the desired result when Hunter Shinkaruk struck with a few minutes remaining in the third to give Laval the 4-2 win. Alex Nedeljkovic stopped just 16 of 20 shots in an underwhelming performance.
Charlotte got back on track with a 5-4 overtime win over Laval on Saturday. Andrew Poturalski played the role of hero by scoring his 13th goal of the season to secure the overtime win for the Checkers. Charlotte’s balanced offense combined for a different goal scorer on each goal. Morgan Geekie had one of his best games of the season with a three-point night. Scott Darling stopped 33 of 37 shots in route to the win and stood tall in the third period after the Checkers were outshot 18-2 in the period.
In the New Year’s Day game against the Toronto Marlies, the Checkers fought and battled hard but fell 5-4 in overtime. Nedeljkovic yielded three early goals to the Marlies in the first period and head coach Mike Vellucci decided he had seen enough. Nedeljkovic was replaced for Scott Darling after the third goal. Saku Maenalanen got the Checkers on the board but Michael Carcone scored for the Marlies to give them a 4-1 lead heading into the first intermission. Charlotte battled back in the following periods with help from two goals from Greg McKegg. Darling allowed Chris Mueller’s 16th goal of the season two minutes into overtime to give the Marlies the win.
JESUS. Steve Oleksy and Derek Sheppard with one hell of a heavy-weight fight in the Checkers/Marlies game. pic.twitter.com/Ma6IeDtMN4— Brett Finger (@brett_finger) December 31, 2018
Player of the Week
Morgan Geekie had an outstanding weekend despite mediocre results for the Checkers. His rookie campaign has been exceptional in a limited role. Between swapping time on the third and fourth lines, Geekie has nine goals and seven assists in 32 games. He’s not looked even a little overwhelmed and it will be interesting to see if head coach Mike Vellucci ramps up Geekie’s role in the coming weeks.
Thought of the Week
Ah, Bobby Sanguinetti. You just can’t leave us, can you? The 2006 first round pick didn’t play much in the NHL level for the New York Rangers or Carolina Hurricanes but brings a bit of veteran experience that could be useful for the Checkers. He represented the US at the 2018 Olympics and has AHL and international experience.
While you will not see Sanguinetti in Raleigh, the addition fills a hole left behind by Michal Cajkovsky who bolted just days ago to the KHL. It’s a good veteran add for a team that looks like it will remain a contender for the Calder Cup.
The Checkers will turn their attention to the Belleville Senators as they’ll play a two-game series on Friday and Saturday. The Checkers are 1-1 against the Senators this season after splitting a two-game series in November. Charlotte will then face off against the Toronto Marlies on Sunday.