The Charlotte Checkers got the monkey off their back and won their first game of the season on Friday (Oct. 21) against the Iowa Wild by a score of 8-3. Unfortunately, they could not carry the momentum into Saturday night’s game (Oct. 22) and they would lose to the Wild in a low scoring 2-1 game.
Three stars of the week
Brock McGinn is beginning to pick up where he left off last season. Despite not scoring this past weekend, he had seven shots on goal, two assists, and showed tremendous anticipation in breaking up a play at the Wild blue line that led to a shorthanded breakaway goal. He currently has 18 shots on goal for the season which is good enough for 5th in the AHL. Look for McGinn to score his first goal of the season in the Checkers’ upcoming games this weekend. Derek Ryan had a productive past week, scoring two goals and tallying two assists. He had a beautiful individual effort on Friday night, where he deked out two Wild players and then scored top left corner on the goaltender Alex Stalock to give the Checkers their only power play goal of the night. Ryan has also displayed terrific vision early in the season, as he has multiple no look passing plays to his line mates open in front of the net for prime time scoring chances. The only word to describe how Andrew Poturalski is playing so far this season is “beast.” The rookie doubled his point total from last week with two goals and two assists in the Checkers 8-3 victory Friday night. The 22-year-old illustrated he could could be just as deadly shooting the puck on his backhand than he is with his forehand, as he had a wicked backhand shot reach the top right corner of the net for his second goal on Friday. Poturalski also demonstrated a noticeable improvement with his stick handling from the 16 games he played last season with the Checkers. He has been able to stick handle himself out of tight situations multiple times along the boards and in the corners to prolong an offensive possession, which is something that he did not look as comfortable doing last year. He is currently tied for 1st among all rookies in AHL scoring and he is tied for 7th among all skaters in AHL scoring.
Keegan Lowe tallied his first points of the season on Friday night with a goal and an assist. He displayed outstanding awareness to pinch up in the offensive zone and blast in a huge rebound shot right outside one of the face-off circles. On the breakout Lowe illustrated valuable patience while waiting for his teammates to set up and not forcing anything that could lead to a turnover. The Checkers’ penalty kill deserves a nice shout-out for what it has accomplished so far this season. The team is one of only 14 teams to currently have a short-handed goal in the AHL and one of 3 teams who have multiple short-handed goals. The penalty kill has done a great job so far this season in pestering teams before they even get across the blue line to set up their offense and making it difficult for opponents to get their power play going at all.
It truly pains me to put Alex Nedeljkovic here for two weeks in a row. The highly-touted rookie out of the OHL did not make the start for the Checkers 8-3 victory on Friday. He did start Saturday night in the team’s 2-1 loss, but he played much better then he had the previous weekend. He denied 27 of the 29 shots that were taken against him and he looked noticeably more comfortable in net then he did just last week. The only thing that really stood out against him on Saturday is that he is still having some trouble of corralling the rebounds of shots taken from the point. He will need to eventually take care of that part of his game or it could start becoming a bigger problem later into the season for him and the Checkers.
Injuries and roster notes
Erik Karlsson, Kyle Hagel, Josh Wesley, and Dennis Robertson were all healthy extras.
Forward lines as of now
- First line: Brock McGinn-Derek Ryan-Valentin Zykov
- Second line: Connor Brickley-Andrew Poturalski-Patrick Brown
- Third line: Sergey Tolchinsky-Lucas Wallmark-Patrick Dwyer
- Fourth line: Brendan Woods-Mitchell Heard-Clark Bishop
Defensive pairings as of now
- First pairing: Trevor Carrick-Matt Tennyson
- Second pairing Jake Chelios-Roland McKeown
- Third pairing: Haydn Fleury-Keegan Lowe