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Charlotte Checkers Corner: Counting Down the Games

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The Checkers win streak is snapped but they immediately bounced back in a series split with Lehigh Valley.

Scott Kinser/Charlotte Checkers

The Charlotte Checkers’ four-game win streak was snapped Friday as the Atlantic Division leading Checkers split their weekend series against the Lehigh Valley Phantoms. Charlotte holds a four-point lead over the rest of the American Hockey League. They now rank 5th best in goals allowed and 7th in goals for.

Weekend Recap

The Checkers win streak was snapped with a 3-2 loss to the Phantoms on Friday. Both teams were scoreless through the first period and then the Phantoms struck three times to take a commanding 3-0 lead. Aleksi Saarela was able to find the back of the net twice for his 19th and 20th goals but it wasn’t enough to mount a complete Checkers comeback. Alex Nedeljkovic stopped 22 of 25 shots for the Checkers.

Alex Nedeljkovic led the way for the Checkers in Saturday’s game with a 4-0 shutout win, stopping all 22 shots he faced. His third shutout ranks him 9th among goalies in shutouts. Tomas Jurco and Nicolas Roy each scored and Morgan Geekie added a pair of assists. Nick Schilkey had a multi-goal game. Nedeljkovic faced just three shots from the Phantoms in the third period.

Player of the Week

Aleksi Saarela is this week’s player of the week. He posted three points (two goals, one assist) in two games this weekend and has now reached the 20-goal plateau. Saarela ranks second on the team with 41 points. He has four goals in his last five games. It’s the second time in his three-season AHL career that he’s met the 20-goal plateau.

Thought of the Week

A personal life update in this week’s column: I will no longer be able to provide recaps and live coverage of Checkers games. I am moving out of Charlotte for a job opportunity in New York with CNBC. What does that mean for me with Canes Country? Well, not too much change. Fortunately, our great site editor Brian LeBlanc is keeping me on. I’ll still have the weekly podcast with Brett Finger but you may see more long form pieces from me along with Checkers Corner. I will be keeping tabs on the Checkers from afar now but will work my hardest to keep as keen an eye on them as possible. Thanks for reading along.

Looking Ahead

Charlotte hosts the first two games in their six-game homestand on Friday and Saturday. They’ll take on the Rochester Americans in both games who currently rank at the top of the North Division and just sit a few points away from Charlotte. Rochester will come in having played already this week, with a match-up against Utica on Wednesday.