Julien Gauthier
The Checkers kicked off their second-round series against Hershey with a bang, trouncing the Bears by a 4-1 score.

The first period was action packed, with Julien Gauthier opening scoring less than two minutes in with a strong power move to the net and Derek Sheppard launching a point shot to double the lead before the four-minute mark. The Checkers notched another pair of rapid-fire goals midway through the frame courtesy of an Aleksi Saarela snipe and a Stelio Mattheos redirect, tilting the game even further Charlotte’s way in front of a raucous crowd.

The Bears would break through late in the first, but that would be all the Hershey offense could muster. The Checkers would stifle the Bears and hold them to just 14 shots through the final two frames, and Dustin Tokarski turned in 25 saves to continue his perfect run in a Charlotte sweater.

The second and third periods were goal-less but featured plenty of physical action after the whistle, including a scrum with three seconds remaining that resulted in 48 total penalty minutes, 30 of which came from three Hershey misconducts.

QUOTES

Coach Mike Vellucci on getting early goals
Obviously we want to get goals early, and that was the key. I thought the Gauthier goal really lifted us. We might have had four goals on eight shots, and we were fortunate on some of them but we also earned them with the low-to-high one-timers and some great deflections on the net front. All the things you always talk about to score goals we did on those first four goals. Very happy to get off to a good start. The game slowed down a little bit from there but we kept them to the outside as much as possible.

Vellucci on the rest of the game after jumping ahead 4-0
We were excited to get out to a lead but it’s tough to hold a lead too. I thought we did a good job of it for the most part. We turned pucks over too and that’s how they scored their goal. We had a couple of turnovers in our own end and (Tokarski) made some big saves. Overall a decent game but we did what we were supposed to do. We’re supposed to win at home.

Vellucci on physical play
We knew once we got up they were going to try to play physical, and even before that they were playing physical with us. We’ve got to be smart. We know we’re a tough team and we play tough between the whistles. All the B.S. after the whistles we didn’t want to get involved with and we’ll let them take the penalties. We’ve got to play smart and play hard.

Vellucci on goaltender Dustin Tokarski
Tick was good. He’s calm, smart, sees the play really well and calms everybody else down. There was a couple of times when he came to the bench and set our guys straight, and that’s what leaders do.

Vellucci on tomorrow’s Game 2
You know they’re going to push back. They’re a really good team and knocked off a great team in the first round. You’ve got to make sure you answer the bell and you’re ready to go.

Julien Gauthier on his early goal
It’s huge getting that early energy. Schilkey made an amazing play and I just had to put the puck in the net. A big start is fun for everyone and gets us going, and then we’re in the game right away.

Gauthier on the rest of the game after going up 4-0
After the start we knew they were going to push hard and you have to keep the momentum as best as we could. It’s not easy and they’re a great team, so we had to play hard for 60 minutes.

Gauthier on the game getting physical
We don’t need to go in that type of game because we have the lead. We have to keep our composure and not retaliate after the whistle because I think they’re looking for penalties. If we take penalties they can make us pay on the power play and that’s not what we want. We have to keep our composure. Sometimes you’ve got to take a punch and take it for the team.

Derek Sheppard on the start
Home-ice advantage is huge in the playoffs, so we were excited to come back and get started in the second round. We were lucky enough to pot a few early and kind of take control in the early part of the game. That made a difference going forward.

Sheppard on him and Eric Williams stepping into the lineup
It’s too bad we’re missing two key parts in Carrick and McKeown, and with Bean called up, those are key parts of our team. Like coach said, me and (Williams) stepped in and we’re just trying to help continue what this team’s worked for all year and try to keep plugging away taking it one game at a time helping wherever we can.

NOTES

After scoring two goals in the first 3:49 of their first-round playoff series, the Checkers struck twice in the first 3:56 of this round … Four goals in the first period ties the Checkers’ season high set twice previously … Dustin Tokarski is now 8-0-0 as a Checker with just nine total goals allowed … Andrew Poturalski (5g, 5a) and Morgan Geekie (4g, 2a) each had one assist, giving them at least one point in all five playoff games … Saarela has points in the last three (1g, 4a) and Steven Lorentz (2a) has points in the last two … Derek Sheppard scored his first AHL goal and Eric Williams recorded his first AHL point … The Checkers improved to 3-0 at home in the playoffs and have won 15 of their last 17 at home since Feb. 22 … The Checkers are now 42-0-0 when leading after two periods this season … Defenseman Trevor Carrick served the final game of a three-game suspension … Forwards Scott Davidson, Jacob Pritchard and Zack Stortini were healthy extras.

UP NEXT

The Checkers host Game 2 on 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.