The Checkers’ longest winless streak of the season came to an end with a 5-2 victory over the Hartford Wolf Pack on Saturday.
Aleksi Saarela led the way with two goals while Andrew Poturalski, Jake Bean and Haydn Fleury also found the back of the net for the Checkers, who ended an 0-2-1 skid in their final contest before the All-Star break. After missing three games while on NHL recall with Carolina, Alex Nedeljkovic made 18 saves for his league-best 21st victory of the season.
As was the case in the previous night’s loss in Providence, the Checkers got an early goal, this time off the stick of All-Star forward Poturalski just 5:58 into the contest. Unlike the previous game when Providence went on to score four unanswered goals to overcome an early Checkers onslaught, Charlotte held control, scoring three unanswered goals of their own after Hartford quickly answered Poturalski’s effort in the first.
Charlotte, which will be represented by Poturalski, defenseman Trevor Carrick and head coach Mike Vellucci at the upcoming All-Star festivities, heads into the All-Star break with a 31-11-4 record.
Nedeljkovic is now 21-5-2 on the season. He has recorded each of the Checkers’ last five wins dating back to Jan. 6 (5-0-0), with other goaltenders posting a combined 0-3-1 record during that time … Bean scored his fourth goal in his last four games. He continues to lead all AHL rookie defensemen in points (29) and is just three away from tying Trevor Carrick’s franchise record in that category … Poturalski recorded three points (1g, 2a) and will go in to his first career All-Star appearance ranked third in league scoring with 46 points … Fleury’s goal was his first of the season at any level (12 NHL games, 13 AHL) … The Checkers improved to 5-1-0 against Hartford this season and to 11-2-1 in the last two seasons … Forward Janne Kuokkanen missed the game due to injury … Carrick served the final game of a two-game suspension … Forwards Cliff Pu and Zack Stortini and goaltender Callum Booth were healthy extras
Poturalski, Carrick and coach Mike Vellucci head to Springfield to represent the Checkers at the AHL All-Star Classic on Sunday (skills competition) and Monday (tournament). They will reconvene with the rest of the Checkers in Charlotte later in the week to prepare for a four-game home stand that begins Friday against Providence.
The Checkers' vice president of communications, Paul Branecky has been covering hockey in North Carolina since 2006, including five seasons with the Carolina Hurricanes.