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.
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.