The Checkers continued to struggle as they lost to the Stockton Heat 4-2 on Wednesday (Nov. 30). They would then fall short to the Bakersfield Condors 3-0 on Friday (Dec. 2) and lose in the final minute of regulation on Saturday (Dec. 3) to the Ontario Reign by a score of 3-2.
Three stars of the week
With the mix of injuries and call ups plaguing the teams blue line, Josh Wesley is getting a chance to impress the Checkers coaches and show them what he’s got. The rookie defensemen showed some promise as he scored the first goal of his professional career during Wednesday night’s game. He showed that he’s not afraid to join the rush for an offensive chance if he has the opportunity and he displayed solid strength when battling offensive players in front of the net for position. Wesley will need to improve his speed and continue to build on the offensive aspects of his game to really start moving up on the Checkers defensive depth chart. The more he plays, the more confidence Erik Karlsson seems to be gaining. He put up two assists in three games and was the only Checker to tally more than one point this past week. Last season, it seemed like every time the puck touched Karlsson’s stick he got rid of it right away like it had some type of disease. Karlsson is doing an excellent job this year of using his speed to carry the puck into the offensive zone, and on at least a couple of occasions, he has been able to use his stick handling skills to create scoring chances for his teammates. Lucas Wallmark was a bright spot during the Checkers struggles this past week. He potted the team’s first goal against the Stockton Heat, and he also registered a team high five shots on goal. Wallmark is doing a fantastic job of making sure that he’s always moving when he is on the ice, and it lead to multiple quality scoring chances for him over the past week. Even though he did not pick up an assist in the last three games, with Wallmark’s vision and ability to find an open teammate in the offensive zone, look for him possibly to finish as the team’s leader in that category.
Levko Koper was another Checker who tallied the first AHL goal of his career during this last week of play. In the one game Koper played, he did a terrific job playing on the fourth line and helping to provide pressure in the offensive zone when the team’s top two lines were struggling to find any offense at all. Koper is embracing his role on the team as a physical, grind it out type of fourth liner, and if he keeps up the solid play, he could find himself a permanent spot in the Checkers’ lineup. Patrick Brown continues to be a pest for his opponents. He had the primary assist on Lucas Wallmark’s goal with a beautiful behind the net pass. But, most importantly, Brown is continuing to be a problem for other teams on the penalty kill, and with how big Hurricanes Assistant Coach Steve Smith is on penalty killing, that could give Brown an opportunity to play in the NHL at some point this year.
The Checkers first line of offense had a rough week of play. The first line now consists of forwards Valentin Zykov, Andrew Poturalski, and Andrew Miller, which is much different than the Zykov, Derek Ryan, and Brock McGinn forward line that started the season. With Ryan and McGinn gone to the NHL, the Checkers’ once most consistent offensive line has fallen on hard times. Most recently, the first line did not register a single point in the previous three games, and it looked totally out of sync when trying to start a break out or formulate any type of sustainable offense. A professional hockey team rarely will be successful without their top line being able to find back of the net. Look for the first line to come out sharper and firing on all cylinders after their offensive slump over the past few games.
Injuries and roster notes
Connor Brickley, Patrick Dwyer, Brendan Woods, Trevor Carrick, and Haydn Fleury missed all games this past week due to injury. Kevin Raine, Josh Wesley, Cason Hohmann, and Levko Koper all were scratched at least one game. The Hurricanes called up Ryan Murphy on Monday (Dec. 5).
Forward lines as of now
- First line: Valentin Zykov-Andrew Poturalski-Andrew Miller
- Second line: Sergey Tolchinsky-Lucas Wallmark-Patrick Brown
- Third line: Kris Newbury-Erik Karlsson-Levko Koper
- Fourth line: Clark Bishop-Mitchell Heard-Kyle Hagel
Defensive pairings as of now
- First pairing: Dennis Robertson-Trevor Carrick
- Second pairing: Jake Chelios-Roland McKeown
- Third pairing: Keegan Lowe-Josh Wesley