The Charlotte Checkers are still in the playoff hunt despite losing two out of three games played. They would best the Chicago Wolves 3-2 in a shootout on Saturday (Mar. 25) and lose the next night on Sunday (Mar. 26) by a score of 3-1. The Checkers would then lose to the Cleveland Monsters 3-2 in overtime on Tuesday (Mar. 28).
Charlotte Checkers three stars of the week
Doing all of the little things for the Checkers this past week was Kris Newbury. The veteran forward, who signed a player tryout contract in late November, scored the team’s first goal in their victory on Saturday night. Not only did he score one of the Checkers’ two goals that were tallied in regulation, but he also scored the second and game-winning goal of the shootout to give Charlotte the victory. Newbury has been a solid veteran presence for as long as he has been on the team, and his experience has helped relieve some of the pressure on the younger prospects, who are still developing and learning how to play at the professional level. In the two games that he has played since returning from the Hurricanes, Patrick Brown has looked more confident in his abilities on the ice. Reclaiming the title of captain, Brown tallied an assist in the team’s overtime loss on Tuesday night, and boy was it pretty. While the Checkers were on the penalty kill, he was able to steal the puck from an incoming Monsters player heading into the Charlotte zone. After stealing the puck, Brown proceeded to quickly rush the other way through the neutral zone creating a two on one for him and fellow Checker, Patrick Dwyer, which would eventually lead to a goal. Brown also did something that he has not done much this year – go coast to coast with the puck on his stick, creating a quality scoring opportunity all by himself. His current confidence level could be as high as it has ever been for him in a Checkers uniform. Having a quiet but solid week of play was rookie defenseman Haydn Fleury. The former first round draft pick scored the Checkers only goal during their Saturday night game, and he did a nice job of getting pucks to the net. His potential is really starting to show, and it has to be encouraging for this organization as a whole. Fleury did a great job with moving the puck this past week and trying not to force anything that could lead to a turnover, although he did have one or two turnovers trying to exit the defensive zone. But his ability to cover for his mistakes has been impressive, and he played on the only defensive pairing for the Checkers that did not finish any game as a negative on the plus/minus scale. If Fleury continues to develop at his current rate, I see no reason why he shouldn’t have a spot on the Hurricanes roster next season.
Bryan Bickell scored his first professional goal since coming back from his MS diagnosis in November. He scored during the Checkers’ victory on Saturday night, and he is looking more comfortable every time he steps onto the ice. His skating ability is looking more fluent, and he looks more mobile on the ice, compared to when he originally came back a few weeks ago. He is still able to use his large frame effectively along the boards and scrap out loose pucks to move to his teammates. Making his North American professional debut, Aleksi Saarela did not disappoint. The young prospect from Finland scored the Checkers’ first goal during their game Tuesday night, with a nice tip in from a point shot. At times, he looked a little nervous and was hesitant to be aggressive, but his potential was absolutely visible. He showed flashes of excellent speed and skating ability, and his stick handling skills look like they could be used as a weapon in the future. Watch to see if Saarela is able to make a smooth transition from the European-styled game over to the North American game, which is more physical with a smaller ice surface.
While he did tally one assist during the Checkers’ victory, Trevor Carrick is just not having the season that he did last year, or even the season before that for that matter. Playing in his third full season with Charlotte, Carrick was hampered by injuries earlier in the year that caused him to miss a significant number of games. That injury could still be hindering his play, but even before he sustained it, Carrick was not the factor that he was last year. In 70 games last year, he put up 42 points, which was a 10 point increase from the year prior. Although I wouldn’t expect those numbers this year with him playing in a total of 47 games so far, he only has 13 points, a number that he had almost reached before the 25 game mark last year. Hopefully for Carrick, something will click with him soon, and he will go on one more hot streak before the season is over.
Charlotte Checkers injuries and roster notes
Erik Karlsson, Kyle Hagel, and Michael Leighton all missed games due to injury. Hudson Elynuik, Sergey Tolchinsky, Bryan Bickell, Mitchell Heard, Greger Hansen, Levko Koper, and Tyler Ganly were all healthy extras at least one game. The Hurricanes sent down Patrick Brown on Sunday (Mar. 26). The Hurricanes recalled Lucas Wallmark and released Greger Hansen on Sunday (Mar. 26). The Hurricanes sent down Valentin Zykov and Aleksi Saarela on Monday (Mar. 27).
Forward lines as of now
- First line: Connor Brickley-Andrew Poturalski-Danny Kristo
- Second line: Valentin Zykov-Aleksi Saarela-Andrew Miller
- Third line: Andrej Nestrasil-Patrick Brown-Patrick Dwyer
- Fourth line: Clark Bishop-Brendan Woods-Kris Newbury
Defensive pairings as of now
First pairing: Trevor Carrick-Jake Chelios
Second pairing: Dennis Robertson-Roland McKeown
Third pairing: Haydn Fleury-Philip Samuelsson