After disposing of the two-time defending champion Hershey Bears in six games, the Checkers will face the first-ranked team in the regular season, the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins, in the second round.
East Division Final – Series “J” (best-of-7)
E1-Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins vs. E3-Charlotte Checkers
Game 1 – Thu., Apr. 28 – Charlotte at W-B/Scranton, 7:05 p.m. (WBCN)
Game 2 – Sat., Apr. 30 – Charlotte at W-B/Scranton, 7:05 p.m. (WFNZ)
Game 3 – Mon., May 2 – W-B/Scranton at Charlotte, 7 p.m. - TICKETS
Game 4 – Wed., May 4 – W-B/Scranton at Charlotte, 7 p.m. - TICKETS
Game 5 – Fri., May 6 – W-B/Scranton at Charlotte, 7 p.m. - TICKETS (TWC Ch. 520)
*Game 6 – Sat., May 7 – Charlotte at W-B/Scranton, 7:05 p.m.
*Game 7 – Mon., May 9 – Charlotte at W-B/Scranton, 7:05 p.m. (WFNZ)
All games available to watch ($9.99)/listen (free) at www.AHLLive.com. Game 1 on WBCN 1660. Games 2 and 7 on WFNZ 610AM. Game 6 TBD. Tune in at 6:45 p.m. every game for a pre-game show with Checkers broadcaster Jason Shaya.
How they come in…
Charlotte dropped two of the first three games to Hershey before storming back with three straight wins to dethrone the reigning champs, 4-2. Game 5 proved to be the turning point as the Checkers, down 3-0, scored five unanswered goals to win, 5-3.
Following a 58-21-0-1 season in which they finished with 14 more points than any other team in the league, the Penguins dug themselves into a 0-2 hole against division rival Norfolk before battling back to win four straight. Wilkes-Barre allowed just 11 goals in the six-game series.
East Division Semifinals:
|Charlotte vs. Hershey
Gm 1 – Charlotte 5 @ Hershey 4
Gm 2 – Charlotte 2 @ Hershey 4
Gm 3 – Hershey 3 @ Charlotte 2
Gm 4 – Hershey 2 @ Charlotte 3
Gm 5 – Hershey 3 @ Charlotte 5
Gm 6 – Charlotte 2 @ Hershey 1
|Wilkes-Barre Scranton vs. Norfolk
Gm 1 – Norfolk 2 @ W-B/Scranton 1
Gm 2 – Norfolk 2 @ W-B/Scranton 0
Gm 3 – W-B/Scranton 2 @ Norfolk 1
Gm 4 – W-B/Scranton 4 @ Norfolk 2
Gm 5 – W-B/Scranton 2 @ Norfolk 1
Gm 6 – Norfolk 3 @ W-B/Scranton 6
Before relocating to Charlotte, the Checkers, known then as the Albany River Rats, swept the Penguins in the first round of the 2010 Calder Cup Playoffs. The Checkers have 16 players from last year’s squad, while Wilkes-Barre has 12.
Regular Season Series
The Penguins were a thorn in the side of the Checkers all season long and won seven of eight matchups, including all four at Time Warner Cable Arena. Charlotte’s lone win in the season series (Jan. 23 @WBS) came by a score of 9-5, which was the highest single-game goal total posted against the Penguins in their 12-year history.
After sporting the AHL’s second most potent attack (3.31 goals per game) during the regular season, the Checkers kept pace and scored 19 goals in their six-game series against the Hershey Bears.
Zac Dalpe and Zach Boychuk led the way offensively for Charlotte in the first round. With eight points (3g, 5a), Dalpe tied Keith Aucoin for the series’ scoring lead, while Boychuk (3g, 4a) was the only player on either side to register a point in every game of the series. Boychuk also led all players in the Checkers/Penguins regular-season series with 10 points (5g, 5a), while playing in just five of the eight games.
Nick Dodge, who had just five goals in the regular season, scored three times against Hershey, including two game-winning tallies. Dodge also set up Nicolas Blanchard's series-clinching overtime goal in Game 6.
Following a regular season where they scored just eight fewer goals than the Checkers, the Penguins struggled offensively in the postseason until their series-clinching victory, when they produced six goals en route to eliminating the Admirals.
In the Game 6 outburst, the Penguins received a natural hat trick from their postseason goal leader, Steve Wagner, while fellow defenseman and former ECHL Checker Corey Potter’s six points (1g, 5a) were the second-highest playoff point total of any AHL defenseman in the first round.
Wilkes-Barre, however, will be without the services of arguably their top four prospects, Chris Conner, Dustin Jeffrey, Nick Johnson and Eric Tangradi, due to call-ups and injuries to the Pittsburgh Penguins. Conner, Johnson and Tangradi are ineligible due to the fact they were in the NHL on the Clear Day deadline, while Jeffrey suffered a season-ending injury in late March with Pittsburgh. The four combined for 58 goals and 68 assists in the AHL this season.
After Justin Pogge allowed eight goals during a split of the first two games against Hershey, Mike Murphy returned from a month-long injury to take over in Charlotte’s goal for the final four games.
Murphy won three of his four starts, stopped 113-of-122 shots (0.926 save percentage) and held a scoreless streak of 82:48 between the second period of Game 5 and third period of Game 6.
For the Penguins, rock-solid defense and strong goaltending were the keys to their franchise-record regular season and comeback over Norfolk in the first round. They allowed a league-fewest 181 goals in the regular season and just 11 tallies in six games against the Admirals.
Goaltenders Brad Thiessen and John Curry form one of the best tandems in the AHL. The two combined for nine shutouts during the regular season, while two other shutout bids were broken in the final 10 seconds of games.
Thiessen led the AHL in wins with 34, ranked second in goals against average (1.94) and second in shutouts (7), while Curry went 23-13-0.
Charlotte’s success on the penalty kill against Hershey (27-of-28, 96.4%) was a prime reason it was able to hold the Bears in check. Although the Checkers stumbled with a man-advantage in the series (4-of-33), they had the league’s third-ranked power-play unit (21%) during the regular season.
After ranking 19th during the regular season, Wilkes-Barre/Scranton’s power-play unit gelled and went 6-of-21 (28.5%) during the final four games against the Admirals.
Checkers: Regular Season / Playoffs
Penguins: Regular Season / Playoffs