The 2012-13 American Hockey League season officially came to an end last night for the Charlotte Checkers in an exciting and dramatic winner-take-all game five with the Oklahoma City Barons. A remarkable series which saw both teams win big and a couple of close contests finished with a 6-2 win for the Barons, despite being peppered for 51 shots. The Checkers look to head into the offseason with a chip on their collective shoulders, as they blew a 2-1 series lead to be eliminated Saturday night.
The Checkers had a very successful regular season which saw them compile a 42-26-4 record. Their 92 points were good for fourth in the Western conference and they were edged by the Texas Stars for the South Divisional crown. A hot start, thanks in large part to the NHL work stoppage, allowed the Checkers to come flying out of the gates. They held first place in the AHL for several weeks, before losing a couple of players to the big leagues in January. The injury bug also plagued the Checkers for much of the stretch part of the season, as key players were either out or called up due to injury with the Hurricanes.
Despite the adversity, the Checkers put up a valiant effort against the Barons, who finished just below Charlotte in the standings with 91 points.
After Charlotte took a commanding 2-1 series lead, the Barons woke up offensively and defensively. Oklahoma City routed the Checkers 8-1 to force a deciding game 5, and then kept the pressure on the Checkers by potting six goals. Despite outshooting the Barons 51-30 in game 5, the Checkers couldn’t break through and ultimately lost the series.
The Checkers were led by Zach Boychuck, who had three goals and three assists in the series. Starting goaltender Rob Madore started all five games, but was pulled twice in the series. He finished with a 4.01 goals against average and a save percentage of 88.1%, not great numbers to have in a best-of-five playoff series.
The Checkers will look to build off of another Calder Cup playoff season. Several players have a chance to crack the lineup in Raleigh, so it will be tough to have a solidified lineup in place until training camp is over. Closing out a series has to be priority number one for Charlotte in the future, but they have a ton to build from after being one of the most dangerous offensive teams in the league this season.