The weekend didn’t start as expected for the Checkers as they were smacked 8-2 against the Utica Comets on the road. Alex Nedeljkovic was yanked in the first period after making just two saves on five shots. In the three games he’s started this season, Nedeljkovic has allowed 11 goals on 52 shots.
Utica scored four straight until Charlotte finally got on the board early in the third period as Hunter Shinkaruk scored his first as a member of the Checkers. Eetu Luostarinen added another Checker tally but the Comets attack was relentless and Anton Forsberg made 14 saves on 19 shots in relief.
The second game of the weekend swung to the other end of the seesaw, with the Checkers dominating the Syracuse Crunch 7-3. Forsberg stopped 31 of 34 shots for his third win of the season, and Luostarinen continued his hot start with his fourth goal of the season to open up the scoring. Morgan Geekie also added his fourth goal of the season just a few minutes later to extend the Checkers’ lead. Charlotte wouldn’t let up there, with the lead stretching to 5-0 before the Crunch finally got on the board midway through the second period. Julien Gauthier added another goal to his total with an empty-netter late in the third.
With the continued struggles of Alex Nedeljkovic to start the season, it may be in first-year head coach Ryan Warsofsky’s best interest to run with Forsberg in net for the time being. Nedeljkovic was lights out last season but has struggled out of the gate so far. A 5.05 GAA and a troubling .788 save percentage are alarming numbers, but it is still very early in the season. Allowing Nedeljkovic to regain his footing by lightening his workload may be ideal for both the player and the team.
On Tuesday, the Checkers announced that they have signed forward Jamie McGinn to a professional tryout contract. The older brother of Brock has spent 617 games in the NHL with six teams over 11 seasons, and has also played 120 games in the AHL, most recently a four-game stint with Springfield on a conditioning assignment last season.
Swamp Rabbits Recap
The Swamp Rabbits opened their season with a resounding 6-1 win over the Jacksonville Icemen but faltered in a home-and-home against the Atlanta Gladiators. Greenville started strong in the first game against the Gladiators, taking a two goal lead before giving it away and losing the game 6-4. In game two against Atlanta, the two teams exchanged goals before the Gladiators edged ahead and won 4-3. Atlanta and Greenville will face off again at Bon Secours on Friday and Saturday for another weekend series.
With the Checkers signing McGinn to a PTO, they reassigned forward Jacob Pritchard to the Swamp Rabbits. Pritchard was signed by the Hurricanes as a college free agent from UMass last summer, and has played in four games this season for the Checkers.