After a sluggish loss in last night’s home opener, the Checkers righted the ship Saturday and took out the Bridgeport Sound Tigers 3-2.

For the fourth consecutive game the Checkers allowed the first goal of the night, coming off the stick of the red-hot Scott Eansor to give Bridgeport a lead through one period, but things turned in the second. Valentin Zykov’s early power-play snipe knotted things up, followed by a Philip Samuelsson tally that saw the blue liner pinch in to tap home a loose puck through a mad scramble in front.

Not content with letting the Sound Tigers back into the contest, the Checkers buckled down in the third, with rookie Nick Schilkey, making his pro debut, executing a nifty redirection for another power-play strike to build a two-goal advantage. Bridgeport’s star defenseman Devon Toews cut into that lead halfway through the final frame, but there would be no rally for the visitors. Netminder Alex Nedeljkovic, who finished with 28 saves on the night, stood tall down the stretch and kept the Sound Tigers at bay, securing Charlotte’s victory.

QUOTES

Head Coach Mike Vellucci on his team’s response to last night:
“It was much better, obviously. We competed more and we had to match their speed. We didn’t match their intensity the night before, and if you don’t match intensity then it’s going to be a long night. We got down a goal there on the four-minute kill, but we battled back to win the game.”

Vellucci on inserting Zack Stortini and Nick Schilkey into the lineup for the first time:
“We needed emotion. Storts brought us some emotion and some character and he was alive on the bench. He drags people into the game. He had some big hits and was a physical force. Schilks picked up where he left off in exhibition with scoring the goal, but I liked the little things he did on the ice more than just scoring.”

Vellucci on the lineup going into next weekend:
“You get in and you play well, you stay in. That’s going to be the lesson for all these forwards. It could be somebody else the next game. You can’t take anything for granted. Somebody’s dying to get in your spot, so you’d better compete every night.”

Vellucci on his netminder:
“Ned played well. He was a little rambunctious playing the puck, but they’re a fast team and if you have a goalie that can move the puck up then we can catch them and he helped us a lot there.”

Vellucci on his takeaway from this series:
“I think if anything we’ve got to learn from this weekend that you can’t have too many highs or too many lows. We had too many highs going into that first game (on Friday), so you have to keep an even keel. It’s a long season and you can’t get ahead of yourselves.”

Vellucci on the lineup going into next weekend:
“You get in and you play well, you stay in. That’s going to be the lesson for all these forwards. It could be somebody else the next game. You can’t take anything for granted. Somebody’s dying to get in your spot, so you’d better compete every night.”

Alex Nedeljkovic on his play tonight:
“I felt good. I felt confident and big. It’s always fun playing at home, especially being the first weekend. We had a big crowd tonight and that fueled the guys to come out and play harder than we did last night.”

Nedeljkovic on building confidence:
“Whenever you get to feel a couple of shots early on and make some saves, if you make them smooth and make them easy it builds your confidence. It seeps out to the other guys too, because if they know I’m on and they know I’m confident, they can play with some confidence too knowing that if they make a mistake I’ll be there to back them up.”

Nedeljkovic on playing the puck:
“I try to do as much as I can with the puck, and I think a couple of times tonight I did a little too much. Whether you’ve got he same six guys back there or somebody new it doesn’t matter. As long as I can play the puck and I can play it well, it’s always going to be helpful to them and make their jobs easier.”

Nick Schilkey on Vellucci’s message to him about being a healthy scratch:
“He just said to stay positive. We’ve got a really good team in there with a lot of great guys and it’s tough to play in this league. I was excited to get the call and just tried to make the most of it.”

Schilkey on whether he earned a lineup spot going forward tonight:
“I hope so. I tried to go out there and work hard like he said and be positive on the bench. That’s all I can really do, so hopefully.”

NOTES

The Checkers did not score first in any of their four games this season. They came back to at least tie every one, ultimately winning three … Wallmark (2g, 6a) and Andrew Miller (1g, 4a) have at least one point in every game this season. With three assists tonight, Wallmark took sole possession of the AHL scoring lead … The game featured four power-play goals, two for each team … Charlotte now owns an all-time record of 5-1-0 against Bridgeport … Wallmark served as an alternate captain following Trevor Carrick’s recall to Carolina earlier in the day … Schilkey and Zack Stortini each played their first games as a Checker, with Schilkey also making his professional debut … Defenseman Brenden Kichton missed the game due to injury … Forwards Mike Ferrantino, Julien Gauthier and Sergey Tolchinsky were healthy extras.
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.

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