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Checkers Try to Keep Momentum after Surprisingly Long Break

Charlotte Checkers
Having watched the parent Carolina Hurricanes waste a few road trips this month, this week was Charlotte’s turn.

Immediately upon arriving in Norfolk on Monday evening, players and coaches first started to hear about the approaching winter storm.

“When I got to the hotel, they were talking about school closings the next day and that kind of stuff,” said coach Jeff Daniels. “We got to the rink and the rumblings had started already.”

Those rumblings referred to the postponement of Tuesday night’s game against the Admirals, which became official around noon that day. The result was a total of approximately 10 hours spent in the bus, all for naught, as the Norfolk area prepared for and received around 10 inches of snow starting around the time the game was scheduled to be played.

“It’s more of a safety thing with the city shutting down, and at that point the building’s got to shut down too,” said Daniels.

A small consolation for Daniels and the rest of the Checkers is that it was the first time something like that had happened to them this season. The same can’t be said for forwards Zach Boychuk and Brett Sutter, who were with the Hurricanes when their Jan. 7 game in Buffalo was postponed earlier that day.

“It’s the first time I’ve seen a game canceled without a snowflake on the ground when we left,” said Sutter, contrasting this week’s postponement to the blizzard conditions in Buffalo. “We just can’t let that disappointment get to us.”

In addition to the game in Buffalo, defenseman Ryan Murphy, who only joined the Checkers last week, had the unique privilege of also experiencing the postponement of Carolina’s Jan. 21 game in Philadelphia, giving him a personal hat trick of sorts.

“It’s been weird,” said Murphy. “There have been two games postponed in the NHL this year and I’ve been a part of both, and now I’m here for this.

“This was my third one in a couple of weeks, so it was no shock to me. I guess I’m a little bit of bad luck.”

The postponement affected the rest of the week’s schedule, with the Checkers receiving a long skate on Wednesday’s planned off day. They then took their planned skate Thursday morning before departing to Cleveland to face the Lake Erie Monsters for the first leg of a four-game trip that will also take them to Abbotsford.

Heading into that trip, the Checkers have had a little more time off than they expected. The revised schedule means six full days between their invigorating 9-3 victory over the Oklahoma City Barons on Friday that marked their fourth consecutive victory, tying their longest streak of the season. It may be a little more difficult to tap into that momentum now.

“We had a good week of practice and a lot of reasons to feel good about ourselves,” said Sutter. “We’ve just got to bring that same mindset as last week.”

The other side of the equation as that they could be less likely to fall into the trap of thinking the offense will come as easily as it did in their last outing.

“That’s part of any season,” said coach Jeff Daniels of managing both the highs and the lows. “You want to be steady and constant, enjoy the wins, and with the losses, realize what you’ve got to do to get back on the horse.”

The good news is that, while snow is expected over the next few days in Cleveland, it’s not exactly the same cause for alarm as it is in the Checkers’ home region. The last time the Checkers were in Abbotsford last February, a snow storm had knocked out the power at their hotel, but their games against the Heat were not affected.

Murphy, who has still only played one game for the Checkers this season, can take some comfort in those forecasts. Even though his long hours in the bus this week were a hair different than the chartered flights of the NHL, it sounds as though this week’s postponement wasn’t Murphy’s least-favorite.

“In Philly I knew I wasn’t playing anyway, so that was brutal,” he said.
Paul Branecky
Author: Paul BraneckyEmail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
The Checkers' vice president of communications, Paul Branecky has been covering hockey in North Carolina since 2006, including five seasons with the Carolina Hurricanes.