The Charlotte Checkers had a week filled with drama, violence, and pettiness, and sit a win away from History
It’s been a big week for the Checkers, The Calder Cup Finals began last Saturday and we are now four games into the championship series. We’ve had an OT game, some end of game fisticuffs, coaches needling each other in the media and, true to form, lots of scoring. Here’s the breakdown on what we learned this week in Checkers hockey.
Game one opened this series with a bang, as the first Calder Cup game ever hosted in Charlotte came down to the wire and then some. The two highest scoring teams this post season battled to a 3-3 deadlock as regulation expired.
The Checkers would come up short as Chicago would take game one. A wrist shot snuck past Alex Nedeljkovic ending the game with the score of 4-3 and put the home team down 1-0, sending the fans home disappointed.
Tensions Boil Over
Game two was back in Charlotte Sunday, and the scoring clip continued for both teams. Dustin Tokarski took over goaltending duties from Alex Nedeljkovic for the night and kept his pristine record with Charlotte intact with 20 saves in the 5-3 win. While the game was an tough battle as one would expect at this point in the season, the biggest story came in the closing seconds.
As the final second was about to tick off the clock, tempers flared and the scuffle broke out. Curtis Mckenzie landed a few punches on Steven Lorentz as the Checkers forward was on the ice. This was some dispute over who started the ruckus, but in the end it resulted in 59 penalty minutes. 27 of those minutes went to Chicago’s leading scorer as well as a suspension from game three of the series.
Coaches Squabble in Postgame Press
As the series shifted to Chicago, the lead up to game three of the series was filled with much discussion of the game prior. The Checkers coach had made some unkind remarks about Chicago’s leading scorer who missed game three with the afore mentioned suspension. The Chicago coach responded in defense of his player. From that point the discussion broke down into “He Said, He Said” over who started the fight to begin with.
All the talk, ended when the puck dropped Wednesday night. Nedeljkovic was back in net for the game and looked to be back in form, providing a stellar performance in his 38 save effort . Nedeljkovic looked every bit the AHL Goalie of the Year, as he fended off some top grade chances from the Wolves through out the game.
As for offense, the Checkers would continue to find the back of the net, potting four in the game. The top scoring team in these playoffs, bombarded the Wolves’ netminder with shots all game. The pressure was simply too much to handle and the Checkers would win 4-1, taking their first lead in this series 2-1.
Closing in on History
The Checkers have never won the Calder Cup in franchise history. Game four in Chicago would put them one game closer to ascending that mountain top. A comeback affair, the Checkers battled back from a 3-1 deficit after two periods to take a 3-1 lead in the series.
This was an important milestone for both the Checkers and the state of North Carolina. A win Saturday night would mean the first Calder Cup professional hockey championship in Charlotte. They would join the Hurricanes, the NC Courage, and the Durham Bulls as teams who have brought professional championships to North Carolina.
Game five of the Calder Cup Finals is Saturday at 8pm. Charlotte will either be coming back to Charlotte with the Cup or with a chance to win it on home ice.