Week in Review
Last weeks' record3-1-0
Last 10 games6-3-1
Checkers 6, Hartford 0The Checkers made easy work of the Hartford Wolf Pack in their first visit to Charlotte of the season. After picking up a pair of goals through the first two frames while outshooting their opponent 28-6, the Checkers’ offense blew up in the third. After Jake Chelios got things going midway through the frame with a seeing-eye point shot, Janne Kuokkanen and Valentin Zykov combined to give Charlotte three goals in the final six minutes of regulation to widen the final margin to 6-0 in favor of the home squad. Alex Nedeljkovic didn’t see a ton of action come his way, but he turned aside all 15 of Hartford’s shots on goal to pick up his second consecutive shutout. Full recap
Checkers 3, Hartford 2The next night’s rematch was a different kind of affair. The Checkers jumped out to an early 2-0 lead in the first period, but Hartford was finally able to break through Nedeljkovic late in the second. Warren Foegele cancelled out that strike with a tally of his own just seconds later to give the Checkers another two-goal lead heading into the locker room. That would prove to be enough for Charlotte, as the Wolf Pack notched one more late in the third but couldn’t complete their rally, handing Charlotte another home victory. Full recap
Checkers 2, Syracuse 0With another new opponent coming to town for the first time, the Checkers locked in another low-scoring battle with the Syracuse Crunch. Neither side could break through the deadlock until Trevor Carrick pinched in and finished off a Marcus Kruger feed early in the second period. That would be enough for Nedeljkovic, who made 23 stops and picked up his third shutout in four games. Jake Chelios would ice things with a full-length empty netter in the waning minutes of regulation and the Checkers’ winning streak would roll on. Full recap
Syracuse 3, Checkers 1The Checkers finally met their match at the end of a grueling stretch of games, falling to the Crunch in the Sunday rematch. Once again it took until the second period for either side to find the back of the net, and once again it was the Checkers who broke the ice. Brenden Kichton’s quick wrister marked his second tally of the season but would be all the Charlotte offense could muster. Syracuse broke through rookie netminder Callum Booth, who was making his first AHL start between the pipes, halfway through the third to bring the score back even, then jumped ahead in the final four minutes of regulation with another strike. The Crunch would pad their lead not even 30 seconds later, and that would hold strong, as the Checkers saw their winning streak come to a halt. Full recap
Three Stars Of The Week
Trevor Carrick1g, 3a
Janne Kuokkanen2g, 2a
Alex Nedeljkovic3-0-0, 0.67 GAA, .970 SV%
HOME SWEET HOMEThe Checkers rattled off a strong 5-1-0 record during their most recent home stand, setting a season best with six consecutive victories on home ice along the way. The pushes Charlotte’s home record to 18-9-0-1 this season, with those 18 wins just one off of Wilkes-Barre/Scranton’s league lead.
Playing at Bojangles’ Coliseum has brought out the best of the Checkers in a few different areas. Most notably has been the power-play, which ranks fourth in the AHL overall at 20.6 percent but runs nearly five percentage points higher on home ice, ranking them second in that category. By comparison, the Checkers’ power play on the road has produced at a 15.7 percent clip, good for 19th in the league. Additionally, the Checkers’ offense overall has performed better at home this season. The Checkers are averaging 3.44 goals-per game this season, the third-highest mark in the AHL, but have a staggering 3.71 goals-per-game at Bojangles’ Coliseum compared to a 3.15 mark on the road.
BRICK WALL NEDAlex Nedeljkovic has been on a tear as of late. The netminder, who has played in 12 of the team’s last 13 games and 22 of the last 26, leads the league with 23 wins this season and is 9-2-1 over his last 12 appearances. He has allowed two or fewer goals in each of his last four games and nine of the last 11, but most impressively has earned three shutouts in his last four outings. That gives the second-year pro five on the season, a total that ties him for the league lead.
Nedeljkovic’s 23 wins are already the second-most in the single season by a Checkers goalie, with John Muse holding the franchise record with 27 in 2013-14. The five shutouts are the most in a single season since Muse picked up five of his own in the 2013-14, with Nedeljkovic needing just one more to tie Justin Peters’ 2012-13 effort for the franchise record.
KEEPING THINGS POSITIVELast season Haydn Fleury joined Justin Kruger and Zac Dalpe in the franchise record book by finishing the season with a +16 rating, but this season could see several players eclipse that record. Philip Samuelsson and Roland McKeown have been paired on the blue line together for much of this season and have emerged as one of the league’s most dominant duos. Samuelsson is a +32, the second-highest rating of any AHL skater, while McKeown ranks third at +30. Not to be outdone, rookie forward Warren Foegele is an impressive +21, while team captain Patrick Brown currently sits at +16.
PLAYOFF PUSHAs the month of February nears its end, the push for the Calder Cup playoffs is heating up. After momentarily dropping out of the playoff picture earlier this month, Charlotte’s recent hot streak at home has helped propel the team back into the frame. The Checkers currently sit in the fourth and final Atlantic Division playoff spot with 63 points in 54 games. They’ve put some space between them and the two teams chasing them – Hartford trails the Checkers by six points and have played one more game than Charlotte, while Bridgeport trails by seven points but have played two fewer games.
The Checkers are within striking distance of the teams immediately in front of them, trailing both Providence and Wilkes-Barre/Scranton by two points, though those teams have played two and four fewer games than Charlotte, respectively. Lehigh Valley holds the division lead with 73 points in 54 games.
The next two months will prove to be key for the Checkers. Of the 22 games remaining on the schedule, 16 of them pit Charlotte against an Atlantic Division rival. The good news for the Checkers is that 14 of their final 22 games come against teams that are currently on the outside of the playoff picture.
- Valentin Zykov leads the lead in goals (25), power-play goals (14) and shooting percentage (27.2), is tied for fourth in the AHL in game-winning goals (5) and tied for 13th in scoring (41)
- Andrew Miller is tied for the league lead in points (51) and is tied for third in the league in assists (36)
- Warren Foegele leads AHL rookies and is tied for second overall in goals (23), leads the league in shorthanded points (6), is tied for the league lead in shorthanded goals (4), is tied for second in the AHL in game-winning goals, is tied for fifth among league rookies in scoring (37), ranks third among rookies in shooting percentage (19.8) and is tied for third among rookies in plus-minus (+21)
- Clark Bishop is tied for the league lead in shorthanded assists (3) and is tied for second in shorthanded points (5)
- Trevor Carrick is tied for third in the AHL in power-play assists, is tied for fifth among blue liners in assists (23) and ranks 10th among league defensemen in scoring (28)
- Philip Samuelsson ranks second in the AHL in plus-minus (+32)
- Roland McKeown ranks third in the AHL in plus-minus (+30)
- Alex Nedeljkovic leads the league in wins (23), is tied for the league lead in shutouts (5), ranks fourth in minutes (2038) and ranks 12th in goals-against average
- Aleksi Saarela is tied for fourth among league rookies in goals (19) and is tied for second among rookies in power-play goals (8)
- Nicolas Roy is tied for third among rookies in shorthanded goals (2)
- Sergey Tolchinsky missed 19 games from 12/30 to 2/17
- Andrew Miller missed one game starting 2/18
- Feb. 19: (C) Lucas Wallmark assigned to Charlotte (AHL)
- Feb. 17: (C) Patrick Brown assigned to Charlotte (AHL)
- Feb. 9: (LW) Josh Jooris assigned to Charlotte (AHL)
- Feb. 9: (C) Marcus Kruger assigned to Charlotte (AHL)
- Feb. 19: (F) Spencer Smallman assigned to Florida (ECHL)
- Feb. 19: (G) Callum Booth assigned to Florida (ECHL)
By the Numbers
|CATEGORY||RECORD||AHL RANK||LAST WEEK|
|Goals per game||3.44||3rd||3rd|
|Shots per game||29.65||21st||19th|
|Goals allowed per game||2.91||15th||t-18th|
|Shots allowed per game||26.91||3rd||3rd|
|Penalty minutes per game||12.63||10th||11th|
|Points||Andrew Miller (51), Valentin Zykov (41), Warren Foegele (37)|
|Goals||Valentin Zykov (25), Warren Foegele (23), Aleksi Saarela (19)|
|Assists||Andrew Miller (36), Trevor Carrick (23), Janne Kuokkanen (20)|
|Power play goals||Valentin Zykov (14), Aleksi Saarela (8), Andrew Poturalski (5)|
|Shorthanded goals||Warren Foegele (4), Nicolas Roy, Clark Bishop (2)|
|Game-winning goals||Warren Foegele (6), Valentin Zykov, Andrew Poturalski (5)|
|Shots on goal||Warren Foegele (116), Aleksi Saarela, Trevor Carrick (109)|
|Penalty minutes||Trevor Carrick (75), Josiah Didier (56), Zack Stortini (55)|
|Plus/minus||Philip Samuelsson (+32), Roland McKeown (+30), Warren Foegele (+21)|
|Wins||Alex Nedeljkovic (23)|
|Goals-against average||Alex Nedeljkovic (2.44)|
|Save percentage||Alex Nedeljkovic (.905)|