Charlotte Checkers vs. Toronto Marlies
The Eastern Conference Finals kicked off with a tightly contested battle between Charlotte and Toronto, with the Marlies narrowly edging out the home squad for a 2-1 victory.

After the two sides exchanged chances unsuccessfully back and forth in the opening frame, the Marlies broke the ice early in the second after being awarded a two-man advantage. Their league-leading power play converted shortly after, and that lead would hold until Haydn Fleury – recently added to the roster from the NHL – evened the score with a slick toe drag and laser shot around the Toronto defender.

The deadlock was broken within the first minute of the third, however, courtesy of a quick redirection by the Marlies. The Checkers would push back from there – including applying extended pressure with an extra attacker – but couldn’t spark a rally, and time expired on their comeback attempt.

Both netminders stood tall in their respective creases, with Alex Nedeljkovic and Kasimir Kaskisuo each recording 26 saves on the night.

QUOTES

Coach Mike Vellucci on the game
They got a five-on-three goal and then the rest of the game was pretty even. We score five-on-five and they score five-on-five. Kudos to them to score on the five-on-three because I thought we killed it pretty good early on, but it was a big goal for them. At five-on-five I thought we were really good and had a lot of chances early on but maybe not in the second period when we were on our heels a little bit. We had the chances pretty even.

Vellucci on the start of the game
I think we were uptight to start the game, to be honest with you, and that our young guys were maybe feeling it a little bit. They hadn’t been on the ice in a while (for a game), but neither team had so that’s not an excuse. I just think our guys were a little tight and we were trying to loosen them up, and once we got loosened up we got some scoring chances. We overpassed it quite a few times when we had chances. We had two three-on-ones and I don’t think we got shots on either of them. We’ve just got to loosen up, have fun and play the game the way we’re capable of playing it.

Vellucci on Haydn Fleury’s game
I think it’s confidence. Our job down here is to build their confidence and make them ready to go when it’s time to get called up and hopefully he plays the same way. When he’s here he feels good and I thought he played a great game.

Vellucci on getting Fleury, Jake Bean and Patrick Brown back in the lineup
It was a little different in the beginning because guys have been grinding through with us all playoffs and now they’re out and that kind of stinks for them, but the three guys came in the lineup and played well. It’s just the nature of the beast in the American League is that things happen like that. I just thought we started off a little tentative.

Haydn Fleury on the game
They had that power-play goal and you’re chasing the game right from the start. We get one back and go in the third and kind of give them one early and we’re chasing for the rest of the game. We had the chances, we just couldn’t tie it up.

Fleury on coming back to the Checkers
I just wanted to play. I’m tired of watching hockey, so it’s nice to play.

Fleury on adjusting to the team again
I’ve been with these guys for almost 30 games this year so I’m very familiar with the guys and their tendencies and all that so it didn’t take long. I really like playing with Bobby (Sanguinetti), so it was good to get back out there with him and help contribute.

Fleury on adjustments for tomorrow
We’ll build off the positives and maybe take care of the puck a little bit better. There were times when we were in the offensive zone and really dominated down low and they really struggled to break our cycle. I think if we can get more of that, limit the turnovers, get pucks in deep and play behind them, that will lead to more offense.

NOTES

The Marlies improved to 8-0 in the playoffs, while the Checkers fell to 7-2. The Checkers’ franchise record six-game win streak in the playoffs came to an end … This was Fleury’s first AHL game since March 30. He has points in each of his last five AHL games (1g, 5a) and three goals in 14 career AHL playoff games … The Checkers had scored more than one goal in 14 straight games prior to tonight … The Marlies are now 40 percent on the power play during the playoffs (10-for-25) … The Marlies’ Kasimir Kasiskuo (1.49) and the Checkers’ Alex Nedeljkovic (2.01) are both in the AHL’s top five for goals-against average … Trevor Carrick extended his assist/point streak to five games (5a) … Morgan Geekie and Andrew Poturalski did not record a point for the first time in the playoffs … Fleury, Jake Bean and Patrick Brown all played after coming back from Carolina earlier in the day … Forwards Scott Davidson, Steven Lorentz, Stelio Mattheos, Jacob Pritchard and Zack Stortini, and defensemen Dennis Robertson, Jesper Sellgren and Eric Williams were healthy extras.

UP NEXT

Game 2 is Saturday at 6 p.m.
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.