The Charlotte Checkers continued their gauntlet of away games to start the season with a back-to-back-to-back weekend which saw them play in Milwaukee against the Admirals on Friday night, and two games straight in Rockford against the IceHogs. After going 1-0-1 in the opening weekend, the Checkers looked to keep the ball rolling in the grueling 3-game weekend.
On last Friday, the Checkers took to the ice against Milwaukee. Justin Peters got the nod in goal after sitting in the second half of the back-to-back last weekend. Checkers’ rookie Victor Rask opened the scoring for the weekend, scoring a goal midway through the first period. The Checkers kept the pressure on for the entirety of the game, scoring 3 more goals after Milwaukee tied it up towards the end of the 2nd period. Zach Boychuck continued his blistering start, scoring the 4th Checkers’ goal at the beginning of the final period of the game. The Admirals cut the lead to 2, scoring on a 5-on-3 late in the game, and added another tally with only 3 minutes to play, cutting the lead to a single goal. However, Peters stood tall in net, and kept the puck out for the remainder of the game. Peters had 22 saves for his 2nd win in as many tries, and the early lead proved large enough for the Checkers to improve to 2-0-1. Defender Justin Faulk, last year of the Carolina Hurricanes, was injured midway through the game, and did not return as a precaution.
The second night of games saw the Checkers take to the ice against the Chicago Blackhawks’ farm team, the Rockford IceHogs. Justin Faulk would sit this game out in order to rest his injured ankle. This game would prove to be a goaltender battle, as veteran Dan Ellis got the start for the Checkers. Ellis would make 35 saves for Charlotte, and his Rockford counterpart, Carter Hutton, made 45 saves. The Checkers fell behind early, as Ellis allowed a rebound to trickle through his pads into the crease, and Rockford forward Marcus Kruger slammed the rebound home. Ellis was strong after that, making plenty of key saves, while Hutton stood on his head for most of the night for Rockford. Drayson Bowman finally broke through in the 2nd period, knotting the score at one. Bowman added another goal on a rebound from a Zac Dalpe shot in the 3rd and Ellis and the Checkers were able to hang on for the win. With only one game remaining on the weekend, the Checkers were 2-0-0, and 3-0-1 on the season.
The third and final game of the weekend was a rematch of the game before: same opponent, same venue. If the first game was a defensive battle, this game was an all-out shootout featuring 9 goals and plenty of end-to-end action. The long road trip looked to finally catch up with the Checkers, as they fell behind by two early in the game. Rockford threw plenty of shots at Justin Peters, and the offense wasn’t able to keep up with the Rockford forwards. However, this team has shown resilience on many occasions already this season, and they battled back to tie the game at 2 after Chris Terry scored off of a deflection, and Drayson Bowman continued his tear by scoring a powerplay goal, his 4th in 3 nights. Rockford answered by scoring a tic-tac-toe goal to go ahead once again, and again, Charlotte tied the game with a Boychuck powerplay goal. Finally, however, the legs gave out as the IceHogs scored twice more to put the game out of reach. Zac Dalpe scored a goal with a little time remaining to keep the game close, but the Checkers fell 5-4, giving the team their first regulation loss of the season. Peters made 36 saves and Daple had 3 points, but it wasn’t enough to give the Checkers’ their third win in as many nights.
The Checkers record (3-1-1) shows that this team is ready to play with anybody in the league. They still have 4 remaining road games in a row before they return home in November, but their record is very good, despite the odds. The Checkers have a great balance of offense and defense, and with two viable starting goalies in Peters and Ellis, neither of the tandem should get too fatigued throughout the season. The team plays another set of back-to-back-to-backs next weekend, so rest up boys, you’ve still got your work cut out for you.