The Charlotte Checkers and the Providence Bruins had many tight battles in the regular season and if the first two games of their round one playoff series is any indication, buckle up. Seven of the eight games between the two teams this season were decided by one goal and now the series heads back to Charlotte tied up at one game apiece.
The Checkers eked out a 5-4 victory in Game 1 thanks in part to goal scoring from all facets of their lineup. Charlotte burst out to an early 2-0 lead thanks to a pair of goals from Morgan Geekie, the first two goals of his playoff career. Providence, much like a seesaw, leaned the other way and rambled off three goals of their own in rapid succession.
In the second period, Charlotte regained its footing and received some additional help from Julien Gauthier and Tomas Jurco to pull ahead 4-3. Providence bounced backed and scored early in the third to tie the game again. Finally, at the 7:06 mark of the third period, the Checkers received playoff heroics from — uh, Bobby Sanguinetti? You bet. Nicolas Roy finished with a pair of assists and Andrew Poturalski also had two helpers. Alex Nedeljkovic finished with 23 saves on the night.
In Game 2, the Checkers weren’t fortunate enough to get the bounces they got in Game 1. Providence struck just minutes into the game to give the Bruins an early 1-0 lead. In the waning minutes of the first, Providence would strike again to carry a two-goal lead into the first intermission.
Charlotte came out with a vengeance in the second and tied the game up. Andrew Poturalski scored his first of the series and Dan Renouf also added a goal with less than a minute to go in the period.
The Checkers defensive structure didn’t hold up in the third period and Providence would score halfway through the period and never relinquish the lead. The Bruins peppered the Checkers with 12 shots compared to just 7 for Charlotte. Nedeljkovic stopped 28 of 31 shots in the loss.
The Checkers’ road to the second round will not be easy. Charlotte heads home for the remaining three games of the series that will wrap up on Saturday. Tonight’s Game 3 may be Charlotte’s most important game of the season as the team has mostly played meaningless hockey over the last two months of the season after being so far ahead since the All-Star break. If the team overcomes their demons against the Bruins and uses the Bojangles Coliseum home crowd to fuel a Game 3 victory, Game 4 and 5 become a lot easier. If they don’t, then the Checkers may be hanging their heads by the weekend and facing a long off-season similar to the Tampa Bay Lightning and Calgary Flames.