Checking In by Brandon Stanley: Checkers continue to lead the AHL

Checking In by Brandon Stanley: Checkers continue to lead the AHL

This article is the second of two this week checking in on the Charlotte Checkers. If you missed it, you can find similar recaps and analysis of the four games during Thanksgiving week HERE.   After a successful 3-1 road trip, the Checkers had a much-needed four-day break before hitting the road again for five games. With new arrival Scott Darling in tow, they would play a back-to-back-to-back on the weekend. The first stop was in Providence Friday, then a short trip to Hartford for Saturday night’s bout, followed by the return to Providence for a Sunday afternoon matinee to close out the weekend. This was a big stretch, with the “four-point” divisional games on the line, against two Atlantic Division teams that (along with the rest of the division) are looking up at the Checkers in the standings. It is never a bad thing to pad your lead.   Game 1 – Providence Bruins (Boston affiliate)  In Scott Darling’s return, the Checkers played a close-checking match with the Bruins. Early in the game they looked to be quite rested and energized after a lengthy break. The Checkers had a couple nice chances in the opening frame, including a breakaway from Kuokkanen that Zane McIntyre made a strong pad save on. That chance seemed to give the Checkers a lift, as the next couple shifts the team got in on the forecheck and started to apply a good bit of pressure on Providence. Of note, Morgan Geekie returned to the lineup after being a healthy scratch, and looked to have some jump in his step playing on a line...
Checking In by Brandon Stanley: Recap of busy Thanksgiving week for Checkers

Checking In by Brandon Stanley: Recap of busy Thanksgiving week for Checkers

Welcome back! Hope everybody in the Caniac Nation and beyond had lots of good food and quality family time over the holiday. I am sorry for not getting in a recap of last week, but considering my mother’s birthday is the 23rd and my father’s the 24th in addition to the holiday, Thanksgiving week is always a hectic time for me. So, this week we get a double-edition which will include a recap of the highlights of last week followed very soon by the most recent week’s analysis as well.   Charlotte Checkers week of 11/19 – 11/25 Game 1 – Belleville Senators (Ottawa affiliate) The Checkers’ first game back on home ice after a six-game road trip was not pretty. It started off well enough, with Valentin Zykov banging in a goal on the powerplay from right in front of the net. Bean was atop the umbrella (powerplay formation with a single defenseman/player atop the zone and two flanking forwards in shooting positions near the tops of the circles, a la Ovechkin, Laine, Faulk back when he was scoring on the PP constantly, etc.), and had a nice shot fake to get the defense committing before sliding a pass to his right to Kuokkanen. Kuokkanen one-timed a shot-pass to Zykov, who was able to quickly corral and finish the rebound past Belleville goalie Filip Gustavsson. That was pretty much the last highlight for the rest of the game, as Belleville rolled to five straight goals from that point forward. The Checkers were thoroughly outplayed, and coach Mike Vellucci was adamant after the game that Alex Nedeljkovic (22 saves...
Checking In with Brandon Stanley: Jake Bean player profile plus ‘Odds and Ends’

Checking In with Brandon Stanley: Jake Bean player profile plus ‘Odds and Ends’

In case you missed it yesterday, my detailed recap of the Charlotte 2-0-1 road trip is HERE.   Player spotlight — Jake Bean Last week, Jake Bean had an incredibly strong week on the road. Wednesday night in Lehigh Valley, in particular, he was absolutely phenomenal. Every time the puck was on his stick it seemed like he made something happen. Perhaps more importantly, his defensive game does not look to be lagging so far behind. He maintains solid gaps and although he’s still not as physically mature as he needs to be for the NHL, he gets by because he has a very good stick. Jason Shaya, the play-by-play man of the Checkers, does a weekly “10 Thoughts” segment. It is very insightful regarding the Checkers, the organization in general, and occasionally even the hockey world at-large. In his most recent edition he mentions speaking to an NHL scout who raved about Bean after this game, saying he was probably the best player on the ice Wednesday night. I have to agree. Even aside from the assist, steady defense, slick passing, and constant takeaways, he just seems to already be a calming, poised presence on the back end. He never seems to get sped up; he just processes the play and makes smart decisions at his own pace. When facing forecheckers he’s incredibly shifty, evading checks and getting the puck out quickly. He is not the fastest straight-line skater, but his edge work and agility are fantastic. He moves really well at the blue line as well, making quick little moves to maneuver around opponents trying to pressure...
Checking In with Brandon Stanley: Checkers collect 5 of 6 points on the road

Checking In with Brandon Stanley: Checkers collect 5 of 6 points on the road

Sorry for the delay in doing so, but good news – we finally have the AHL TV package! After a great start to the season, the Checkers have sputtered ever so slightly of late, dropping two of their last three games. They continued their early road-heavy schedule with three tough games this week. They would face their two playoff opponents from this past spring, visiting Lehigh Valley on Wednesday followed by back to back games at Wilkes Barre-Scranton for the weekend set.   Game One – Lehigh Valley The Checkers started off their week with an entertaining, back-and-forth affair against the Lehigh Valley Phantoms, the AHL affiliate of the Philadelphia Flyers. If you recall, the Phantoms are the team that knocked the Checkers out of the Calder Cup Playoffs this past spring thanks to a Herculean effort from Alex Lyon. He stopped an absurd 94 of 95 shots in a 5-overtime win that gave the Phantoms a commanding 3-1 series lead in the longest game in AHL history. Though not quite to the same level, Wednesday’s game was comparable in the sense that Carter Hart (one of the NHL’s top goaltending prospects) proved very tough to solve. The Checkers’ powerplay started off the season ridiculously hot, and the unit has really felt the law of averages crashing down on them as they have been quite snake-bitten of late. They had three man-advantages in the first period alone, but could not convert on any of them. They were able to beat Hart just once on their sixteen shots in the frame. The Phantoms attempted to clear a puck, but Dennis...
Brandon Stanley: Checking in — Weekend #2

Brandon Stanley: Checking in — Weekend #2

Hot on the heels of a check in after the first weekend if Charlotte Checkers hockey, Brandon Stanley provides another update on the Charlotte Checkers and the Canes prospects in Charlotte.   Charlotte Checkers weekend recap The Checkers continued their red-hot start to the season this past weekend, once again winning both legs of their second consecutive back-to-back set. The 4-0-0 start has them atop the AHL’s Atlantic Division early and off to the best start in franchise history. The first game was in Utica where the Checkers would overcome an early 2-0 deficit to down the Comets by a score of 4-3. Saku Maenalanen scored his first AHL goal with a shorthanded marker to cut the lead in half, then noted offensive wiz (said with much sarcasm) Dennis Robertson would tie the score with his first of two markers on the night. Morgan Geekie would score another to put the Checkers up one, then after conceding that lead Robertson would punch in his second of the game to close out the scoring. Alex Nedeljkovic picked up another win, stopping 22 of 25 shots. The next night in Syracuse, the Checkers came out swinging and never looked back. Julien Gauthier, off to a solid start this season, broke the scoreless tie early in the opening frame to hand the Checkers a lead they would never relinquish. A mixture of great special teams play and an outstanding Nedeljkovic outing (once again starting both games of the weekend) would be more than enough. Janne Kuokkanen would score on the powerplay to double the lead late in the first, then Clark Bishop...
Brandon Stanley: Checking in

Brandon Stanley: Checking in

While Canes fans have been most busy enjoying the great start in Raleigh, the season is off to a great start for the Charlotte Checkers too. This article by Brandon Stanley covers the first weekend (Matt’s fault for the delay getting it posted) of Checkers hockey.   As we saw in training camp and the preseason, this Hurricanes roster is a lot deeper and more talented than we have seen in quite some time. With the strengthened farm system and highly regarded prospects graduating to the professional ranks, this year’s Charlotte Checkers were always going to be a talented, dangerous team. There were multiple players with strong performances that in recent years likely would have made the team, at least on a trial basis, that are starting the year in Charlotte. And boy, it’s been a nice start. I wanted to give a little background on some of the notable players and preview a few who will likely see the big club when injuries and ineffectiveness inevitably strike. So, this is just a quick recap of the first two games of the year, and some insights into some guys you’ve probably heard about plenty of times over the years (and some you may not be as familiar with) as a little refresher course.   Opening Weekend The Checkers open the season with three consecutive Friday-Saturday back-to-backs, and began the year in New York to face the affiliate of the Buffalo Sabres, the Rochester Americans. The Checkers would sweep their opening series, winning by scores of 6-2 and 4-2. It was an impressive start to the year on the road...