When asked of their reactions when first seeing nine consecutive road games on the schedule to start their season, the Checkers may not have been entirely honest.
At least, that’s what the lack of obscenities would suggest.
“Oh my,” offered Zac Dalpe, which is technically a four-letter response.
The fact of that matter is that the nine-game swing, which is broken up into three separate trips, ties a team record set last season. Making matters worse is the cruel twist of each of the first four games representing the home opener for the opposing team. In addition to waiting through prolonged player introductions each time, the Checkers had to deal with hostile atmospheres and revved up competition over and over and over again.
Part of the reason that sour feelings seem to have subsided is that, now over halfway through the stretch, the team seems to be no worse for the wear. They’re 3-1-1 after the first two trips, putting them in first place in the South Division, third place in the Western Conference and sixth in the AHL.
“We said right from day one that if you want to make a run at the Calder Cup you’ve got to win on the road, and so far we’ve been able to do that,” said coach Jeff Daniels.
“It’s one of those things where you either do it or you die,” said Dalpe.
They’ve even found one or two ways to use the schedule to their advantage.
“On the road it’s easy to get that energy to just go out and play,” said defenseman Bobby Sanguinetti. “You don’t overthink the game.”
“I think it’s been good to get guys away and spending time together,” said Daniels. “That definitely helps a team.”
There’s also the matter of getting the monster trip off the schedule early. Once they finally return home, they’ll play 14 of their next 18 games at home, including an even-longer 10-game home stand starting the Saturday after Thanksgiving. The road trips they have left will be shorter, though they will still have a five-game swing in January and a six-game road stretch in February.
“I don’t want to say it’s been a headache, but it’s better to get it out of the way now than in the playoff push,” said Dalpe.
The Checkers will play the final four games of this road swing starting Friday in Grand Rapids. They’ll then move on to play two games in Peoria to complete the three-in-three set, their second in as many weeks, before visiting Milwaukee for a Halloween night match-up on Wednesday.
When it’s all said and done, the Checkers, who are already the only AHL team yet to play a home game, will host the Chicago Wolves at Time Warner Cable Arena on Sunday, Nov. 4.
Should everything continue to go as well as it has thus far, they’ll do so in a good mood.
“It’s been tough, but I think we’re pretty happy with our start,” said Sanguinetti.