In a battle between the league’s top two teams, it was the Checkers who emerged victorious, notching a 4-1 win over the Rochester Americans.

Alex Nedeljkovic put on a show, pulling off several highlight denials, finishing the night with 28 saves and nearly securing his second consecutive shutout. The Amerks finally broke through, however, in the final 72 seconds while on a two-man advantage, but it wasn’t enough to overcome the Checkers’ initial push.

Martin Necas finished off a slick feed from linemate Tomas Jurco midway through the first to open the scoring, then Aleksi Saarela roofed a quick one-timer from the slot on the power play to double the Charlotte lead heading into the first intermission.

Patrick Brown added a tally early on in the middle frame to push Charlotte further ahead and they didn’t look back from there. The captain found the empty net in the waning moments of regulation and clinched the decisive 4-1 win.

QUOTES

Coach Mike Vellucci on the team’s performance We started off really well and got a couple of goals really quick, but if you remember, Ned made a huge save when it was 0-0 there that looked like it was going to be behind us. We were fortunate to get a couple of breaks and scored a nice goal on the power play, but I don’t think we played very well in the second half of the second or in the third. I thought we turned it over quite a bit, so we’ve got to manage the puck and be smarter with it.

Vellucci on the goaltending Obviously Ned was great tonight and he’s been stellar all year. When we did have the breakdowns he was big behind us. In the second period they had a breakaway, a two-on-one and a lot of chances, but in saying that we missed a lot of chances too and their goalie played well also.

Vellucci on beating the team directly behind the Checkers in the standings I just want our young team to get used to playoff atmospheres in the American Hockey League. It’s a tough league and we’re playing a lot of more experienced guys, so I just want to get the experience. It was a big win tonight but we want to make sure we get another one tomorrow because it means nothing if we don’t do that.

Vellucci on Janne Kuokkanen’s injury He’s out of for the year. He’s having surgery in two weeks.

Alex Nedeljkovic on the team’s start It’s huge. You want to set the tone. I thought we did a good job of controlling play when we got pucks behind their D and pucks below the goal line. We had a lot of good chances and were getting some good looks, so we’ve got to play with that same intensity tomorrow.

Nedeljkovic on staying focused throughout the game Just because we’ve got that lead doesn’t mean you can start getting a little lazy. I think tonight we were good for the most part but towards the end we were getting a little soft and not getting pucks deep. That’s my job when guys make mistakes to try to bail them out as best as I can.

Nedeljkovic on the experience of playing big games It’s going to be huge. Once we get there, teams are going to take it to another level, especially against the No. 1 team in the league, hopefully. We’ve got to be ready to win these kinds of games.

Trevor Carrick on the game They’re a good team and we’re obviously aware of where they are in the standings. When you’re playing a team like that we want to have a good start. I think we got away from our game a little bit in the third and some parts of the second, but we stuck with it, Ned stood on his head and it was a good team win.

Carrick on his recent scoring surge I went through a little bit of a stretch there where things weren’t really going my way. I don’t think I really changed much. They just tend to be those lucky bounces and they’ve been putting them in. I just want to stick with it and get a couple more wins here.

NOTES

The Checkers now lead Rochester by four points with one fewer game played ... Syracuse, which won tonight, passed Rochester as the league’s No. 2 team and trails the Checkers by three … The Checkers have won six of their last seven … Charlotte is now 3-0-0 in the season series with Rochester that concludes tomorrow. Charlotte has out-scored Rochester 14-5 in the series … Alex Nedeljkovic, who narrowly missed his second consecutive shutout, had a personal shutout streak of 142:01, which was the sixth longest in team history and the second-longest of his career. He won his 29th game of the season, at least four more than any other goalie, and is now just two shy of his career high set last season … Brown recorded his first multi-goal game since Dec. 13, 2017 … Carrick extended his point streak to a career-long five games (1g, 8a). He has 11 points in his last eight outings … Necas’s goal was his first since Jan. 6, ending a 21-game drought. He has seven points (1g, 6a) in his last four games … Forward Janne Kuokkanen missed the game due to injury … Forward Zack Stortini and defenseman Dennis Robertson were healthy extras.

UP NEXT

The Checkers and Americans will go toe-to-toe again tomorrow night for the final time this season.
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.