The Charlotte Checkers played a solid week of hockey and picked up four out of a possible four points against the Tucson Roadrunners. Their first win came on Saturday (Jan. 21) where they would win 3-1. Their second game on Sunday (Jan. 22) was a hard fought 2-1 victory in overtime.
Three Stars of the week
Andrew Poturalski was a big contributor to the Checkers’ undefeated week. The rookie from Williamsville, New York tallied an assist in both of the team’s games. He did a tremendous job of keeping his head up and finding his teammates in the offensive zone for quality chances around the net. Since scoring four goals in the first three games of the season, Poturalski has only found the back of the net four more times. Look for him to get hot again in the goal scoring category in the next 5-10 games as he gets great scoring chances on offense. Trevor Carrick continues to gain momentum since coming back from an injury that caused him to miss 18 straight games. He potted his first goal of the season off a deadly accurate wrister from the point during the team’s game Saturday night. Carrick’s return to the line-up has been a huge boost to the Checkers’ defense and it has obviously relieved some of the pressure from the guys on the back line. Because the defensive play is free flowing since Carrick came back, it is leading to high scoring chances when the team is breaking into the offensive zone or on a rush. Finally, recurring star, Lucas Wallmark, is proving he belongs in the conversation of possible players to be called up by the Hurricanes this season. He scored the Checkers’ overtime goal on Sunday night with 4.4 seconds left before the game went to a shootout. Wallmark has been doing an exceptional job of staying patient with the puck on his stick and not trying to force any pass or shot that is not available, which could lead to turning over possession of the puck. With his outstanding play so far this year, do not be surprised if he finishes the year as the top point producer on the Checkers’.
Alex Nedeljkovic played a fantastic game during the Checkers’ 3-1 victory on Saturday night. The rookie goalie out the OHL stopped 26 out of 27 shots sent his way for a stellar .963 save percentage. Nedeljkovic is playing with more poise and confidence lately, in contrast to his lackluster performance in the first couple of months of the season. He is doing a better job of controlling his rebounds and it has lead to less opportunities for the opposing team. Expect Nedeljkovic to continue to build on the confidence he has gained as of late. Despite not registering a point this week, Phil Di Giuseppe continues to be the number one force on offense for the Checkers. He fired seven total shots on goal on net in the team’s two games and he was instrumental at carrying the puck into the offensive zone. Once carrying the puck into the offensive zone, he was patient enough to make the right pass to get the cycle going on offense. Do not expect Di Giuseppe to have many more weeks, if any at all, of not tallying at least one point.
While he did not have a particularly bad week, Dennis Robertson did not have the most ideal week. He failed to register a single point and he looked shaky at times on defense. There was one play in particular where an opposing player on the rush was able to deke out Robertson cleanly and get an excellent one on one scoring opportunity with the goalie. Defensive breakdowns like that just cannot happen, especially in one on one situations where he is the only thing between the opposing player and the goalie. Thankfully, that play did not have any effect on the game and the Checkers were still able to pull out the victory.
Injuries and roster notes
Brendan Woods, Andrew Miller, and Roland McKeown missed both games due to injury. Erik Karlsson and Kyle Hagel were healthy scratches for both games.
Forward lines as of now
- First line: Andrej Nestrasil-Andrew Poturalski-Patrick Dwyer
- Second line: Phil Di Giuseppe-Lucas Wallmark-Valentin Zykov
- Third line: Connor Brickley-Patrick Brown-Sergey Tolchinsky
- Fourth line: Kris Newbury-Mitchell Heard-Levko Koper
Defensive pairings as of now
- First pairing: Haydn Fleury-Jake Chelios
- Second pairing: Trevor Carrick-Dennis Robertson
- Third pairing: Keegan Lowe-Kevin Raine