It didn’t come easy, but the Checkers did what they had to do in Chicago to book a trip to the postseason.
With their fate resting once again on the final day of the season, the Checkers needed at least one point against the Wolves to clinch the final Central Division playoff spot. Patrick Dwyer and Jake Chelios gave them a boost out of the gate, with the former finishing a nifty individual effort off just 90 seconds in followed shortly by a power-play blast from the latter. That score wouldn’t escape the first, however, as the AHL’s top goal scorer Wade Megan broke the ice for the home team late in the frame to cut the Charlotte lead in half.
After a scoreless second that saw the Checkers dominate long stretches of play, Phil Di Giuseppe converted off of a Chicago turnover to give the Checkers their two-goal cushion back early on in the third. That score would hold until with final six minutes of regulation, when the Wolves roared back with consecutive goals two minutes apart to even the score and put the Checkers’ postseason hopes on the brink.
The Wolves continued their push down to the final buzzer, but the Checkers held strong, banking the necessary point to clinch a playoff berth as the game headed to overtime, which the Wolves would take thanks to an Andrew Agozzino power-play tally.
The Checkers clinched their third playoff appearance in franchise history and first since 2013 … With the win, Chicago clinched the Central Division title over Grand Rapids and secured their spot as the Checkers’ first-round opponent … Since sitting in last place in the division on Jan. 10, the Checkers have gone 26-9-6 … The Checkers finished the regular season on a seven-game point streak, their second-longest this season … Phil Di Giuseppe set a season-high with three points on the night … Aleksi Saarela, Lucas Wallmark, Jake Bean, Danny Kristo, Erik Karlsson, Michael Leighton and Kyle Hagel all missed the game due to injury … Kris Newbury and Tyler Ganly were healthy extras
The Checkers open their first-round series with Chicago at home on Thursday with a 7 p.m. puck drop.
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.