The Charlotte Checkers dominated the Stockton Heat over the past weekend. They won 3-1 on Friday (Feb. 10) and 3-0 the next day on Saturday (Feb. 11).
Three stars of the week
Connor Brickley had one of the most solid weekend performances of any Checker who suited up to play. He played on the team’s third line, which was buzzing and impressive to watch during the weekend. He would tally the Checkers’ first goal on Saturday night off a nice deflection from a Jake Chelios’ shot from the blue line. Brickley also contributed an assist during the team’s game Friday night, and he did a terrific job on the forecheck along with his linemates. He helped force multiple turnovers by the Stockton defense while they were trying to get the puck out of their own zone, and it led to quality chances for the Checkers’ offense. Next, Phil Di Giuseppe played one of his best games of the season during Friday night’s contest. He scorched the back of the net for the game-winning goal in the final minute of the second period. Even though that was the only point he had for the night, Di Giuseppe was all over the ice and was successful in creating his own offense out of plays where he had no help or when it looked like there was no room for him to operate with the puck. Di Giuseppe is looking more and more ready to play at the NHL level and not just be an energy guy on the third or fourth line. He figures to be a player who will be looked to contribute more on offense as well. Finally, Michael Leighton played fantastic for the Checkers in net. The all-time great AHL goaltender produced two more terrific wins in his illustrious hockey career and did it with style. Leighton had multiple highlight reel glove saves on which he robbed sure goals from a few Stockton forwards. He looked steady almost the entire time while in net. He only displayed shakiness a couple of times when playing the puck behind the net where he almost turned it over to opposing forecheckers. In all, Leighton stopped 49 out of 50 shots for a .980 save percentage and a 0.50 GAA.
Trevor Carrick is continuing his climb to get back to the player he was last season. The past couple of games were positive signs that he is reaching his goal. Carrick contributed a big blast from the point that found its way to the back of the net for his second goal of the year. He also fired a total of six shots in the 2-game weekend set which is another positive sign that he is continuing to stick to his game and get shots at the net to create chances for the Checkers’ forwards. Watch for Carrick to see if he can stay consistent on both ends of the ice for Charlotte. While I have been a little hard on Dennis Robertson the past few weeks, he came through with some solid play from the blue line this past weekend and deserves to be mentioned. He tallied the Checkers’ first goal of the game Friday night and was great about picking and choosing when to pinch up and join the offense. This resulted in multiple quality chances for the Checkers on offense.
Erik Karlsson did not get many minutes this week playing the fourth line. When he did, he failed to be aggressive with the puck. When he is on the ice, Karlsson too often fails to go after the puck and sometimes will shy away from the action. He had one play where he was on a small breakaway, but instead of shooting the puck, he opted to slow down and try to pass it to a trailing teammate. In doing so, he turned the puck over. Karlsson just needs to be more aggressive when he is on the ice, and if he does that, then I think he could see some pucks start to hit the back of the net.
Injuries and roster notes
Sergey Tolchinsky, Brendan Woods, and Kyle Hagel missed both games due to injury. Mitchell Heard, Kris Newbury, and Kevin Raine were all healthy scratches.
Forward lines as of now
- First line: Andrej Nestrasil-Andrew Poturalski-Patrick Dwyer
- Second line: Phil Di Giuseppe-Lucas Wallmark-Valentin Zykov
- Third line: Connor Brickley-Patrick Brown-Andrew Miller
- Fourth line: Mitchell Heard-Erik Karlsson-Levko Koper
Defensive pairings as of now
- First pairing: Hadyn Fleury-Jake Chelios
- Second pairing: Trevor Carrick-Roland McKeown
- Third pairing: Dennis Robertson-Keegan Lowe