The Checkers came out strong at home again on Wednesday (Nov. 2) as they trounced the Rockford Icehogs by a score of 4-0. They would follow that game with another solid performance on Thursday (Nov. 3) and defeat the Icehogs again 2-1.
Three Stars of the week
Lucas Wallmark had his scrappiness on display during the Checkers two victories. He tallied an empty net goal and had an assist during the team’s game on Wednesday night. But the most impressive thing he did came on Thursday night when Wallmark back-checked hard on a Rockford defenseman while coming out of the offensive zone and actually stole the puck, which lead to an Andrew Miller breakaway goal. Brock McGinn is now consistently finding his groove at the offensive end of the ice. He potted one goal in both games the Checkers played last week to give him a total of four on the season. McGinn also did a tremendous job last week of always moving even without the puck to find open areas of the ice in the offensive where he could receive a pass from his teammates and get a quality scoring chance near the net. Michael Leighton had his second shutout of the season on Wednesday night. He would also get the win on Thursday night letting in only one goal. He is tied for 1st among AHL goalies in total shutouts with two, 4th in goals against average with a 1.41, and 6th in save percentage with a 0.938. If Eddie Lack continues to struggle and Leighton continues to excel it is certainly possible for the veteran Leighton to get another chance with the Hurricanes.
Sergey Tolchinsky stepped up as a key offensive contributor this past week, to no one’s surprise. He accounted for a goal and an assist during the Checkers 4-0 victory on Saturday night. Tolchinsky has done an excellent job up to this point in the season of not forcing anything in the offensive end of the ice, whether it is a pass to the middle that leads to a turnover or he, himself, trying to dangle through multiple people to get a scoring opportunity. He has cut down significantly on those types of turnovers which gave him problems during the first half of last year’s season. Valentin Zykov continued his solid play this week. He had two assists in the Checkers’ two games, which now gives him four on the season, which is good enough to be tied for second on the team. Zykov illustrated exceptional awareness during the Checkers’ second game, when he threw a fast moving on ice shot at the Rockford net that was almost immediately knocked in by Brock McGinn, who was coming down to crash the net after the shot.
I do not feel inclined to put anybody here because of the Checkers’ outstanding play the last four games. The team seems to be finding their stride early in the season, which is a tremendous thing to see with all the young prospects that Hurricanes have on their. This year’s group already feels different than the one from last year because no one has been called up yet, which happened almost immediately last season. The team looks more comfortable playing with each other early in the season compared to last year, and the goaltending situation feels much more stable this year with AHL all-star goalie Michael Leighton in net.
Injuries and roster notes
Brendan Woods missed both games due to injury. Mitchell Heard and Kyle Hagel were scratched both games. Dennis Roberston and Haydn Fleury were both scratched one game each. Matt Tennyson will be suspended for the Checkers upcoming game on Thursday (Nov. 9) for a hit he had on Rockford player Spencer Abbot that sent him head first into the boards.
Forward lines as of now
- First line: Brock McGinn-Derek Ryan-Valentin Zykov
- Second line: Connor Brickley-Andrew Poturalksi-Patrick Brown
- Third line: Sergey Tolchinsky-Lucas Wallmark-Andrew Miller
- Fourth line: Erik Karlsson-Patrick Dwyer-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