The Charlotte Checkers entered the week, locked into a tight playoff race with the Cleveland Monsters. The Checkers would beat the Texas Stars 9-3 on Saturday (Apr. 8) and 3-1 on Sunday (Apr. 9). They would slip up in as shootout to the Grand Rapids Griffins on Wednesday (Apr. 12) by a score of 2-1.
With the shootout loss on Wednesday, the Checkers are now in a dead heat with the Cleveland Monsters for the final playoff spot in the AHL’s Western Conference but with the tiebreaker in hand. With 2 games remaining, the Checkers need to match the Monsters in terms of points in their final 2 games which probably means the Checkers need to win twice on the road this weekend to make the playoffs. Yesterday’s “playoff day” article had more details about the Checkers and the playoff chase.
Charlotte Checkers three stars of the week
Tom McCollum played outstanding in net once again, proving he is worth every bit that he is being paid for. The former Grand Rapids Griffin played in every game the Checkers had this past week, stopping 82 out of 87 total shots for a .942 save percentage. He stopped a whopping 42 of 43 shots that he faced Wednesday night against the Griffins, doing everything that he possibly could to keep the Checkers in the game and keep their post-season hopes alive. McCollum has done an excellent job of keeping a low conscious and not getting discouraged when he allows a goal during a big moment of the game, which has been one of the big knocks on him for his career. Keeping up his excellence, Aleksi Saarela continues to be a big factor for the Checkers every time he steps onto the ice. The former third round draft pick tallied a goal and two assists during the team’s slaughtering of the Texas Stars on Saturday night. Saarela displayed tremendous skill on his only goal when he received a pass in his skates right in front of the net and quickly kicked the puck to the blade of his stick for a laser shot into the back of the goal. Unfortunately for the Checkers, Saarela suffered an injury during the second period of their game against the Grand Rapids Griffins and he did not return for the rest of the night. The Checkers will need him for their last two games to have their greatest chance of winning and getting into the post-season. Andrew Poturalski stepped up when it counted the most for the Checkers. He recorded two big goals and added an assist to go along with it for one of his most solid performances of the season. Poturalski scored the Checkers only goal Wednesday night and he illustrated beautiful patience, deking out multiple Griffins players before wrapping around the net for a shot. He also put up five shots during the Checkers game on Wednesday night, throwing everything that he could at the net to keep the team’s playoff hopes alive. Through everything that has happened this season, Poturalski is still the Checkers top scorer and they will need him and his line to play well if they expect to win their last two games.
Dennis Robertson had one of his best weeks of the season at the right time. The big defensemen tallied two goals and an assist during the Checkers victory on Saturday night. He did a great job of getting pucks to the net and not holding onto the puck for too long, which could have led to a turnover in the offensive zone and an odd man rush going the other way. While he does not need to be a focal point for the Checkers to win their last two games, Robertson does need to make sure to cut down on his mistakes and get pucks to the net like he has been doing. Patrick Dwyer continues to finish the season strong for the Checkers. The veteran forward recorded two goals and an assist, turning out a strong performance when his team needed it. Dwyer did an excellent job of getting pucks deep in the offensive zone, which allowed Charlotte to set up their offense for multiple quality scoring chances when he was on the ice. If he could find his way onto the score sheet for one of the Checkers last two games, it would be a big boost for team’s hopes of getting into the playoffs.
Trevor Carrick did not tally a single point in any of the three games that the Checkers played. The third-year defenseman formally from the Mississauga Steelheads of the OHL, has just not had the season that he or anyone else probably had hoped for heading into the year. He is not necessarily playing bad; he is just not contributing in the way that the Checkers need him to. In 55 games, he has scored 4 goals and added 12 assists, by the Checkers 17th game last season he already had 11 points. So, while injuries have played a big part in his season, he is still not playing at the level he was at last year. With two games left in Carrick has one more chance to redeem and rid himself of the injury-riddled season that he has had. I fully expect him to have a big performance, because he is due for one.
Carolina Checkers roster and injury notes
Lucas Wallmark, Danny Kristo, Erik Karlsson, Jake Bean, Kyle Hagel and Michael Leighton all missed games due to injury. Hudson Elynuik, Brendan Woods, Kris Newbury, Sergey Tolchinsky, and Tyler Ganly were all healthy extras at least one game.
Offensive lines as of now
- First line: Phil Di Giuseppe-Andrew Poturalski-Patrick Dwyer
- Second line: Valentin Zykov-Aleksi Saarela-Andrew Miller
- Third line: Levko Koper-Andrej Nestrasil-Kris Newbury
- Fourth line: Connor Brickley-Patrick Brown-Clark Bishop
Defensive pairings as of now
- First pairing: Trevor Carrick-Jake Chelios
- Second pairing: Dennis Robertson-Roland McKeown
- Third pairing: Hadyn Fleury-Philip Samuelsson