The good news: the Charlotte Checkers remain atop the AHL with an eight point above the second place team. The bad: Charlotte is just 2-4-4 in their last ten games. The Checkers have built themselves a comfortable enough lead that two wins in ten games is completely fine.
Over the ten game stretch, the Checkers have scored one or fewer goals five times. They’ve allowed four or more goals four times in the stretch.
Charlotte took on the Hershey Bears on Saturday and fell just short in the shootout. Both goalies battled it out in overtime and the shootout but Nathan Walker broke the ice for Hershey in the fifth round and Janne Kuokkanen was stopped to give the Bears the win. Jake Bean tallied a goal in the third period to give Charlotte the lead but Riley Barber scored late to tie the game and force overtime. Barber ranks in the top 15 in goal scorers this season. Alex Nedeljkovic stopped 22 of 24 shots in the game.
The two teams faced off again on Sunday with Charlotte dropping a close decision again. Ilya Samsonov had an impressive game for Hershey, stopping 29 of 30 shots. Barber once again proved himself the hero for the Bears, scoring the deciding goal in the third period. Nicolas Roy scored the lone Checkers goal in the 2-1 loss for his 14th of the season.
Thought of the Week
A lot went down in Checkers land with the recall of Patrick Brown, the announcement of Scott Darling’s leave of absence and Cliff Pu’s demotion. Darling’s situation has been addressed before and our site wishes him the best on his way to finding peace in his personal life.
What deserves more discussion is Cliff Pu’s demotion to the ECHL. After 86 points with the London Knights in 2016-17 and a combined 84 points with the Knights and Kingston Frontenacs the following season, Pu’s professional career couldn’t have gotten off to a worse start. He had just six points in 42 games and found himself frequently on the fourth line. His 0.14 points per game ranks last on the team among skaters with at least 30 games played.
While Don Waddell has made smart moves like the Nino Niederreiter trade, the return he got for Jeff Skinner was woefully insufficient. Pu was given the benefit of the doubt being on the wrong side of a bad trade but hasn’t proven it yet. With more players within the organization expecting to join the Checkers with just a few possibly graduating (Martin Necas, Jake Bean), the ranks seem to be too full for Pu to find a prominent role in the lineup.
Player of the Week
There was not a prominent player this weekend and hasn’t been over this ten game stretch. However, it should be said that Jake Bean has shown flashes on the surface lately of why he was selected 13th overall in 2016. He ranks fourth on the team and first among defensemen with 31 points in 51 games. Bean is the points leader among rookie defensemen and ranks tied for 10th among all rookie skaters.
The Checkers remain on the road with the NBA All-Star Game rolling into Charlotte for the weekend. While the main event will be held at Spectrum Center, Bojangles Coliseum is being transformed for the Celebrity All-Star Game.
Charlotte will take on Springfield on Friday before playing Providence on Saturday and Bridgeport on Sunday.