The Charlotte Checkers just finished off one of their rockiest weeks of the season. They started off losing twice to the Grand Rapids Griffins, 6-1 on Saturday (Dec. 17) and 3-1 on Sunday (Dec. 18). The Checkers then went on the road and lost to the Cleveland Monsters 4-2 on Tuesday (Dec. 20).
Three stars of the week
Sergey Tolchinsky was one of the brighter spots of the past week for the slumping Checkers. Unfortunately, his only point was a beautiful assist to Valentin Zykov who was waiting by the left face-off dot to snap a shot past Griffins’ goalie Jared Coreau. Tolchinsky did a solid job of getting the puck off his stick quickly to another teammate before getting caught over stickhandling in the offensive zone. The play showed development progress as it avoided reverting to his old habit of sometimes trying to do too much and turning the puck over to the opposing team. It is important for him to continue getting the puck to his teammates quickly on offense to avoid potentially costly turnovers and allow for more pressure in the offensive zone. Lucas Wallmark continued his stretch as one of the top performing Checkers this season. In what was a magnificent individual effort on the penalty kill, he stole the puck from two Cleveland defenders and scored on a breakaway which at the time tied the game for Charlotte. Wallmark seems to step up the most in big situations when the team is looking for an equalizer or a go-ahead goal. That is an encouraging sign for Hurricanes’ fans to see a player who is not afraid to step up in high pressure moments. No one on the team looks to be playing with as much energy and momentum as Levko Koper. The Edmonton, Alberta native now has 6 points in 12 games with Charlotte, and on Tuesday night was rewarded with his impressive play by being placed on the Checkers’ first line. He had a beautiful goal Sunday night when he used his strength to beat a defender one on one and then roofed the puck over the goalie’s right shoulder. With his intensity and offensive output look for him to stay put on either of the team’s top two lines.
Haydn Fleury added to his point total again this past week. He tallied an assist on the Checkers’ lone goal during Saturday night’s contest. He is continuing to build on the confidence he gained after netting his first goal of the season a few weeks ago. He is more assertive in finding his shot, and it resulted in him tying Phil Di Giuseppe for most shots by a Checkers player Saturday night. Valentin Zykov was great this week at moving without the puck on the offensive end of the ice. He scored his only goal by moving into an open area of the ice as Sergey Tolchinsky was looking for a teammate to pass to along the boards. The goal was his team leading 8th of the year.
The Checkers offense has fallen on hard times. This team cannot take the ice and win games by only scoring one to two goals each night, not with a rookie goalie like Alex Nedeljkovic and second-year man Daniel Altshuller. They may win from time to time with Michael Leighton, but he’s a veteran goaltender with Stanley Cup Finals experience. The Checkers cannot ask two young goaltenders to win games by themselves when they are still developing. If they want to work themselves out of their slump, the team will have to learn how to finish games, and the top two lines will need to step up and bring more offense.
Injuries and roster notes
Andrew Miller, Brendan Woods, Kris Newbury, and Trevor Carrick missed all games due to injury. Mitchell Heard and Kevin Raine were healthy extras. The Hurricanes recalled Klas Dahlbeck on Saturday (Dec. 18). The Checkers recalled Josh Wesley from the Florida Everblades on Saturday (Dec. 18).
Forward lines as of now
- First line: Levko Koper-Andrew Poturalski-Phil Di Giuseppe
- Second line: Sergey Tolchinsky-Lucas Wallmark-Valentin Zykov
- Third line: Connor Brickley-Clark Bishop-Patrick Brown
- Fourth line: Erik Karlsson-Patrick Dwyer-Kyle Hagel
Defensive pairings as of now
- First pairing: Jake Chelios-Roland Mckeown
- Second pairing: Haydn Fleury-Keegan Lowe
- Third pairing: Dennis Robertson-Kevin Raine