Checkers Come Back to win game 1 of playoffs
The Checkers’ 2018 postseason debut didn’t start out the way they wanted, but it ended with a furious rally and an overtime winner to take Game 1 over the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins.

The two squads went toe-to-toe for the first 40 minutes but only the visitors could break through, carrying a 2-0 lead into the second intermission. The Checkers continued to push and finally solved Penguins’ netminder Tristan Jarry thanks to a snipe from Aleksi Saarela early on in the third. Charlotte jumped on the reeling Pens minutes later, taking advantage of their sixth power-play of the game as Valentin Zykov hammered home a rebound out front to even the score.

The contest proceeded beyond regulation and the overtime proved to be all Checkers. After outshooting the visitors 5-0 and dominating possession, Lucas Wallmark redirected a point shot to the back of the net to lift the Checkers and give Charlotte a 1-0 lead in the Atlantic Division Semifinals.


Coach Mike Vellucci on falling behind 2-0
I thought we were fine on the power play but their goalie made a lot of big saves early on – he was stellar. I thought we were a little tight early on and our inexperience showed a little bit, but once we relaxed and talked about having fun we played a much better game.

Vellucci on getting the first goal
We talked about just getting that first one and the next couple would come. That was a big one. He’s got a great shot and he followed it up by almost put us up 3-2 hitting the post. We talked about every shot matters the whole game.

Vellucci on the comeback
It’s exciting when you fight back to tie it up, but if you’ve watched this team all year we never give up. We’ve always fought back no matter what the score was and we’ve won a lot of games that way. The guys don’t give up, they compete and they stayed positive, and that’s the key for me. Every game we talk about being positive and being a good teammate. Things may go back, but it’s how you respond and we responded with a positive today.

Vellucci on the overtime winner
I didn’t see it go in to be honest with you. I saw the play at the point but I haven’t seen how it went in. You have to score those kinds of goals.

Vellucci on getting the win
In a five-game series, every game is very important. No matter if we win that game today or lost, it’s a big game tomorrow. Get the proper rest, make sure you eat right and do the little things, because every little thing adds up to a victory.

Lucas Wallmark on his overtime goal
It was a long shift there with good pressure and a lot of shots with good rotation. I saw Kitch got the puck at the blue line so I just tried to go to the net. It was a good shot and it was a lot of fun to see it go in there. It’s always fun to score goals, and that was a big goal for us and a big win. It’s always good to start to with a win, especially here at home. We haven’t won anything yet and it’s a new game tomorrow, but it was fun and nice to score that goal.

Wallmark on the comeback
We had a lot of good chances but we couldn’t really get the puck in. It was a big goal, the first one, and after that we got more confidence. We all played well and had a lot of chances.

Aleksi Saarela on the win
It was huge. I think we played a good game from the start and just didn’t get the puck in. That was a huge comeback for us and showed that we can come back from a 2-0 (deficit). I think we played pretty good.

Saarela on Wilkes-Barre playing physical
They tried to play hard, and that’s their way to play hockey. We don’t need start doing that. We’ve got skilled guys and we just have to respond to what they’re doing to us. I think that’s pretty simple.


Charlotte improved to 5-1 all-time in playoff overtime games … The Checkers out-shot the Penguins 5-0 in overtime … Wallmark had a game-high seven shots on goal … The Checkers have won their first game of the playoffs in each of their four appearances (2011, 2013, 2017, 2018) … Including the regular season, the Checkers have won eight consecutive games, with their last defeat coming all the way back on March 18 (11 games) … Alex Nedeljkovic was playing his first game since March 30 after missing the final seven games of the regular season due to injury … Forward Marcus Kruger and defenseman Jake Chelios missed the game due to injury … Forwards Mike Ferrantino, Nick Schilkey, Zack Stortini and Sergey Tolchinsky, and defensemen Matt Finn and Dennis Robertson were healthy extras.


Game 2 will take place tomorrow back at Bojangles’ Coliseum with 6 p.m. puck drop.
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.