The Charlotte Checkers came back to defeat the Springfield Thunderbirds on a late goal by Aleksi Saarela
After falling into a 3-1 hole, the Checkers were able to rally back in Sunday’s rematch with the Springfield Thunderbirds and pick up a weekend sweep.

Trailing by a pair of goals midway through the second, Patrick Brown and the Charlotte power play cut into the lead with a quick wrister through traffic. The Checkers would then pull even less than five minutes later thanks to Julien Gauthier’s third goal of the year, sending the teams to the locker room knotted at three.

Battling through a stalemate third, Charlotte’s power play struck again in the final six minutes of regulation when Aleksi Saarela ripped a one-timer from the slot that blew by Springfield goalie Harri Sateri. Alex Nedeljkovic buckled down for the Thunderbirds’ final push, which was aided by a late power play, and the Checkers’ comeback was complete.


Coach Mike Vellucci on the game
I thought we started out good in the first five minutes and then they just out-worked us and pushed us hard and we didn’t respond. I didn’t like the first period at all. After that we started to battle a little bit more.

Vellucci on the comeback
It’s great that we can come back, but it’s getting awfully tiring to have to come back all the time. You’ve got to push hard right form the get go and make your job a lot easier by competing early on.

Vellucci on Saarela
He’s always had the shot, but for me what I like is that he’s skating more and he’s getting involved. We watched video from his last two games and made a couple of adjustments to make him move his feet more with the puck. He moved his feet well tonight.

Aleksi Saarela on the comeback
It was huge for us. We didn’t start that good. We played a really bad first period, but we didn’t give up and we fought back and I think we deserved the win.

Saarela on working with Vellucci
It’s hard to look at videos by myself to see what I should do better, but watching with Mike, we both agreed that I’m skating pretty well but not all the time and have a couple of off shifts. I try to compete every shift on the ice, and it’s much easier that way to create scoring chances.

Patrick Brown on the comeback
We started off slow and told ourselves that our first period wasn’t good enough. We responded well, the power play had a couple of big ones, Ned played great and we were able to get a win.

Brown on his line with Saarela and Janne Kuokkanen
I’m just trying to get them the puck because they’re both goal scorers. It’s been a blast playing with them.


The Checkers have points in each of their last four games (3-0-1), tying their longest point streak of the season … The Checkers went 2-for-5 on the power play, marking their seventh game with multiple power-play goals this season … Wallmark has points in consecutive games since returning from injury, extending a point streak that started on Nov. 8 to three games (2g, 2a) … Andrew Miller assisted on Wallmark’s goal, giving him five points (2g, 3a) in his last five … Clark Bishop has four assists in his last two games … Alex Nedeljkovic earned his fourth consecutive victory, improving to 11-2-0 on the season … Charlotte is 2-2-0 against Springfield, with the home team winning every game … Defenseman Jake Chelios missed the game due to injury … Forwards Mike Ferrantino, Nick Schilkey and Zack Stortini and defenseman Josh Wesley were healthy extras.


With their home stand wrapped up, the Checkers will hit the road next weekend, starting with a Friday matchup in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton.
Nicholas Niedzielski
Author: Nicholas NiedzielskiEmail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Director of Communications Nicholas Niedzielski joined the Checkers in the summer of 2014. A Texas native, he previously worked for the AHL's Texas Stars.