The Charlotte Checkers split games with the Tucson Roadrunners this past weekend. They lost 3-2 on Friday (Feb. 3) but would rebound the next day on Saturday (Feb. 4) winning 4-2.
Three stars of the week
The big forward from Russia, Valentin Zykov, had one of his best weeks in a while. His excellent stick handling skills in the offensive zone during this weekend’s play contributed to his netting the Checkers’ first goal during their game on Friday night. There were multiple occasions where Zykov was able to stick handle himself out of some tight situations where he was then able to find an open teammate for a quality scoring chance on offense. If he continues with this new stick handling confidence, watch for his assist numbers to rise. Zykov is also continuing to position himself well in the offensive zone, opening himself up to receive passes for quality scoring chances. Connor Brickley also played some of his best hockey of the season during the team’s road trip to Arizona. The first-year Checker contributed the game winning goal during the team’s Saturday night game, and he also added an assist the night before. While he may not be a big focal point in the Checkers’ offense, Brickley has played valuable minutes on the penalty kill. He is also even in the plus/minus category, so the team isn’t giving up more goals than they are scoring when he is on the ice, which is another positive take away from his game. Finally, no one gives more effort when he is out on the rink than Checker captain Patrick Brown. He tallied a goal in both games and contributed an assist as well. Brown looks like he is skating a 100 mph every time he touches the ice and is a consistent pest to the opposing team when he is on the forecheck. In almost every game he gets one or two steals leading to excellent scoring chances for the offense. He is also the go to man for the Checkers on the penalty kill and does an exceptional job of leading by example for his younger teammates on a consistent basis.
While he did not have the most impressive week of out any Checker, Lucas Wallmark added to his point total for the season again over the weekend. He had the primary assist on Valentin Zykov’s goal Friday night, giving him a total of 26 points in 46 games. He still trails rookie Andrew Poturalski, who has lead the team for the majority of the year, by three points. With this consistent play, I think it is only a matter of time before he will overtake Poturalski for the team lead. Wallmark continues to do an admirable job of staying patient and letting the game come to him by not forcing any passes or shots that could lead to a turnover to the other team. Patrick Dwyer also hopped into the action during the Checkers’ game Saturday night. He tallied the team’s first goal of the game, and it came on a power-play where Checkers did a great job of keeping the puck in the zone after Tucson made multiple attempts to clear. The veteran forward also fired a whopping six shots on goal the night before, although he had no luck finding the back of the net.
Just like a couple of weeks ago, Dennis Robertson did not have a particularly bad week, but he did not have a good one either. There were multiple stretches over the weekend where Robertson displayed great energy on offense keeping the puck in the zone whatever way he could and trying to get the puck on net. But there were also multiple plays where he would get caught flat footed in transition and an opposing player would get behind him and have almost a one on one chance with the goaltender. Breakdowns like that from the defense should not happen, because one is leaving the goalie in the terrible position of playing undefended. Robertson needs to make sure that he is always aware of when the opposing team is trying to get behind him on a rush or a breakout so he can minimize those plays.
Injuries and roster notes
Sergey Tolchinsky, Brendan Woods, Alex Nedeljkovic, and Kyle Hagel missed both games due to injury. Kevin Raine, Erik Karlsson, and Mitchell Heard were healthy scratches. Lucas Wallmark was named the AHL’s rookie of the month for January.
Forward lines as of now
- First line: Andrej Nestrasil-Andrew Poturalski-Patrick Dwyer
- Second line: Phil Di Giuseppe-Lucas Wallmark-Valetin Zykov
- Third line: Connor Brickley-Patrick Brown-Andrew Miller
- Fourth line: Kris Newbury-Erik Karlsson-Levko Koper
Defensive pairings as of now
- First pairing: Haydn Fleury-Jake Chelios
- Second pairing: Trevor Carrick-Roland McKeown
- Third pairing: Dennis Robertson-Keegan Lowe