Thursday’s Canes and Coffee is taking on a “future is bright” theme. Check out also Cory Fogg’s update on Hurricanes prospects completely tearing it up in the Canadian juniors playoffs.
The Charlotte Checkers made sure there would be playoff hockey in the state of North Carolina this year. The Checkers played the Central Division’s top two teams in the Grand Rapids Griffins and the Chicago Wolves, and while they didn’t win one of their last two games, they got the points they needed. The Checkers’ would lose to the Grand Rapids Griffins 3-2 in overtime on Friday (Apr. 14). They would then enter a do or die scenario, needing at least one point during their final game with Chicago to clinch a playoff spot. Although the Wolves would end up winning 4-3 on Friday (Apr. 15), the Checkers forced overtime and hung on to the fourth and final playoff spot in the Central Division.
Charlotte Checkers three stars of the week
Third star: Not enough credit has been given to Philip Samuelsson since he was acquired by the Checkers in late February. The son of Checkers head coach, Ulf Samuelsson, contributed an assist during the team’s game on Friday night. Since being traded to Charlotte he’s done a tremendous job playing on a defensive pairing with Hurricanes first round draft pick Haydn Fleury. Before being traded to Charlotte, Samuelsson played 40 games with the St. Johns Ice Caps and put up a total of 5 points. Since being traded to the Checkers, he has played in 25 games and has a drastically different 14 points. He also went from being a -2 with St. Johns, to being +9 playing with Charlotte. Samuelsson has been a great veteran presence and a calming force for the Checkers on the blue line, making the smart and simple plays on offense and defense. Expect more of the same going forward from him as the Checkers head into the post-season.
Second star: Also stepping up when it counted the most, Jake Chelios saved one of his best games for last. He tallied his first power play goal of the season, during the Checkers playoff clinching game on Saturday. Chelios did a terrific job of getting pucks to the net whenever he had a chance against the Wolves and it led to him accumulating five shots in the last game. He also was smart in picking and choosing when to leave his defensive position and jump into the offensive rush for an odd man opportunity heading up ice. And when he did leave his defensive position to jump in a rush, he made sure to hustle hard back to his original assignment every time he stepped in the rush. Come game one against Chicago the Checkers will need that same type of all-out effort from Chelios each time he steps out onto the ice.
First star: Giving everything he had, Phil Di Giuseppe shall finally be seeing the post-season for the first time in three seasons with the Checkers. The former second-round draft pick scored a goal and tallied three assists in the Checkers game on Saturday night. Put simply, it was clear to see Di Giuseppe wanted this playoff berth. Now that is not saying all the other Checkers did not want it just as bad, Di Giuseppe just showed it the most in his play. He was all over the ice the whole night, throwing pucks at the net, finding the open man, and making smart plays to interrupt the Wolves on offense. His goal was the Checkers’ third goal during their Saturday night game with the Wolves, which ended up being the goal that clinched the playoffs this season for Charlotte. Without the play of Di Giuseppe in the final game there is no post-season for the Checkers this year.
Keeping up his solid late season play, Patrick Dwyer did not disappoint in the Checkers final game. The former Hurricane scored the Checkers first goal of the game against the Wolves less than two minutes into the contest. Dwyer’s goal was the perfect stress reliever for the Checkers and it let them loosen up at an early point in the game which was crucial to the start. He did an excellent job of getting pucks deep into the offensive zone and then fore-checking hard to gain possession of the puck after it had been dumped. With some of the Checkers key offensive players out due to injury in the team’s last game, Dwyer stepped up in a huge way on offense for Charlotte. Continuing to improve and mature as the season goes on, Haydn Fleury stepped up once again for the Checkers. He scored the game-tying goal in the third period on a power play to force the match into overtime on Friday night. When the team needed a goal the most, Fleury calmly stepped in and ripped a shot from the point that deflected off two Griffins players and found its way to the back of the net. He was also just one of two Checkers defensemen to finish as a positive in +/- on Saturday night.
With the Checkers big second half of the year push into the post-season, I think this week deserves to be left blank. In the final 2-3 games of the season, the Checkers were missing key contributors Lucas Wallmark, Aleksi Saarela and Danny Kristo all to injury. But the team did not let those misfortunes hinder its goal of the post-season, and now that they are in, anything can happen. This group deserves a lot of credit for not giving up on the year and giving Hurricanes and Checkers fans alike something to get excited about.
Charlotte Checkers injuries and roster notes
Lucas Wallmark, Aleksi Saarela, Danny Kristo, Kyle Hagel, Erik Karlsson, Jake Bean and Michael Leighton all missed games due to injury. Kris Newbury and Tyler Ganly were healthy scratches.
Forward lines as of now
- First line: Phil Di Giuseppe-Andrej Nestrasil-Patrick Dwyer
- Second line: Valentin Zykov-Andrew Poturalski- Andrew Miller
- Third line: Connor Brickley-Patrick Brown-Sergey Tolchinsky
- Fourth line: Levko Koper-Brendan Woods-Clark Bishop
Defensive pairings as of now
- First pairing: Trevor Carrick-Jake Chelios
- Second pairing: Dennis Robertson-Roland McKeown
- Third pairing: Haydn Fleury-Philip Samuelsson