Local Hockey Check In: NC State Takes Home ACCHL Title

Local Hockey Check In: NC State Takes Home ACCHL Title

Last weekend in Winston-Salem, the top eight teams in the Atlantic Coast Collegiate Hockey League did battle looking to hoist the Admiral Cup as conference champions. The NC State Icepack, the top seed with a 22-0-0 record (9-0 in conference play), were looking to cap off the best season in program history with the title. With a lethal forward group, deep defense, stellar special teams play, and rock-solid goaltending, the Pack looked like the odds-on favorite coming in. But as with any one-and-done tournament in the game of hockey (or any sport, really), strange things can happen. To open the tourney, the Icepack easily dispatched eighth-seeded St. Joseph’s on Friday afternoon by a score of 11-1. Up next, the Pack drew fourth-seeded Wake Forest, one of the hottest teams in the conference who were playing a de facto home game. Just one week prior the Deacs nearly ended State’s undefeated season, carrying the lead into the third period before two goals in the last 6 minutes gave NCSU a 3-2 victory. This game was similarly tightly-contested, but, as they’ve done countless times this year, the Pack would pull away in the third. Almost immediately after the Demon Deacons had cut the score to 3-2 early in the frame, assistant captain Ryan Kinney wired a perfect shot just under the crossbar to re-instate the two-goal lead. Then, just two minutes later, captain and league MVP Sam Banasiewicz would add an insurance marker, banging in a rebound to make it 5-2. From there, sturdy defense and rock-solid goaltending from Josh Cannon took the Pack to a Sunday afternoon date with the...
Checking In by Brandon Stanley: Checkers Struggles Continue Post-All-Star Break — 1/28 – 2/10

Checking In by Brandon Stanley: Checkers Struggles Continue Post-All-Star Break — 1/28 – 2/10

After getting back in the win column following its first three-game losing streak of the 2018-19 season heading into the short All-star break, the Checkers had a rough six game stretch over the last two weeks. Luckily for me, that makes for a bit less content that needs to be covered, and I can make up for getting behind on this series 😀 – Apologies for this, by the way, but my own hockey season is wrapping up in the next couple weeks (we just finished off a 21-0-0 regular season, 22-0 if you count Clemson’s forfeit last weekend, and we have the #1 seed in the ACCHL conference tournament this weekend in Winston-Salem. If anyone is looking for a little more local hockey to check out, it should be a lot of fun. First game is 3:00 on Friday. Go Wolfpack!) and at that point I’ll have a lot less on my plate and can get back into a deep dive into what’s happening in the system. But I’ll get you all caught up here on the last two weeks, just hitting the major points for longevity’s sake. Instead of giving takeaways from each game individually, we’ll start with a few overall takeaways and then get into recaps of the games.   Alex Nedeljkovic Even through the team’s recent struggles, the young goalie continues to play at as high of a level as he has since turning pro. He was named the AHL’s goalie of the month for January, going 6-0-0 with a 1.78 goals-against average and save percentage of .937. Add in a rock-solid NHL debut in...
Checking In by Brandon Stanley: Charlotte Checkers finally stumble a bit — 1/21 – 1/27

Checking In by Brandon Stanley: Charlotte Checkers finally stumble a bit — 1/21 – 1/27

With the first half coming to an end, Charlotte looked to put an exclamation point on their stellar first half. They closed with two division rivals on the road, visiting Providence and Hartford for a weekend back-to-back. These games felt a bit big, as the team looked to get back on track after back-to-back losses and a rough showing in their most recent game. At the bottom, I will also cover the AHL skills competition, as Andrew Poturalski, Trevor Carrick, and head coach Mike Vellucci all headed to Springfield to take part in the event.   Game 1 – Providence Bruins (Boston affiliate) After jumping out to a 2-0 lead less than six minutes into the game, the Checkers yielded four consecutive goals and eventually fell by a score of 5-3. With Ned just having returned from his first NHL win, Callum Booth got the start and struggled (although all the goals he allowed would have been quite tough to stop, for any goalie) giving up three goals on 10 shots before being pulled early in the second. Scott Darling faced the same amount of shots, and made one more save. On a night the defense was stern, allowing just 20 total shots on goal, and the team managed three goals (Bill Peters’ joke here, anyone?), they just couldn’t get the save or two they needed to pull off the W. There were a few notable performances nonetheless…   Jake Bean – The young blueliner registered his first AHL multi-goal game, and continues to look excellent on a pretty consistent basis. Just 1:16 in, he picked a great spot...
Checking In by Brandon Stanley: Charlotte Checkers still the best 1/14 – 1/20

Checking In by Brandon Stanley: Charlotte Checkers still the best 1/14 – 1/20

11 points clear of the rest of the league and showing no signs of slowing down, the Checkers navigated a busy four-game week. To start, they played two early-week games against the closest team to them in the standings (at the time), the Bridgeport Sound Tigers. They then wrapped it up with a weekend back-to-back against a surging Marlies squad, winners of 5 of 7 coming in. These games, the last four of a six-game homestand, represented a tough test but still an opportunity to get even further clear of the rest of the league. Also, since I’m still very new at doing this and finding my way a bit, I think I’m going to change this up. Four games are a lot to cover, and I’m not sure anyone wants to spend 20+ minutes reading detailed reports on each game. Therefore, I’m going to go with a bit more of a “spark notes” approach this week. If you’ve followed along with these articles, please feel free to let me know in the comments what you think, which format is better, or even any other ways in which you feel I could make this more enjoyable.   Game 1 – Bridgeport Sound Tigers (NY Islanders affiliate) These two games were about as polar opposite from each other as could be. This first game saw the teams stray from identity a bit. Both of these teams score a lot of goals and give up a more than a few as well, with the Checkers ranking 14th in goals allowed while the Sound Tigers come in at 24th. Tuesday evening, though,...
Checking In by Brandon Stanley: Charlotte Checkers New Year’s edition 1/7 – 1/13

Checking In by Brandon Stanley: Charlotte Checkers New Year’s edition 1/7 – 1/13

In case you missed it yesterday and want to catch up, part 1 of 2 which you can find HERE had recaps of the Charlotte Checkers games from the first week of January.   In a year that had seen more downs than ups (until recently) for the Hurricanes, it was a little hard to get too excited about what’s happening in Charlotte. Sure, they’ve been utterly dominant at the highest level of hockey in North America outside of the NHL, but at times it felt a bit hollow with little improvement being visible with the parent team. But there’s a reason we pretty regularly hear and see quotes saying something along the lines of “they’re building something in Carolina”. When guys like Greg McKegg and Saku Maenalanen come up and show off the depth within the organization, adding some grit and jump to a struggling team, and a 7-in-8 streak gets ripped off, it starts to really feel like that quote is coming true. And they’re not even the prized prospects everyone is waiting on, lest we forget. Now, I am starting to get excited. It’s really getting easy to believe the Canes are well on their way. The next couple years the team is only going to strengthen with the incoming graduations, as guys like Saarela, Roy, Gauthier, Bean, and others continue to show incremental growth down on the farm. Not to mention the growth in store for Svechnikov, Wallmark, Foegele, and even the yep-he’s-still-only-21 Sebastian Aho. Oh, and in the pipeline, we’ve still got Mattheos, Fox, Geekie, Luostarinen, and so on. I don’t mean to pander....