Saturday, October 18, 2014

Checkers swept by Griffins despite strong effort from a sick Brendan Woods

Brendan Woods woke up sick Saturday morning.

He tipped off the Checkers training staff and then did what he could to pull himself together. 

“It was up in the air a bit,” Woods said. “We were just taking precautions, but I felt good in warm ups and let the coaches and trainers know that I was good to go.” 

Woods – whose injury history is longer than most 22-year-old forwards’ – is back on the ice this year after a disappointing end to last season, where a knee injury cost him the final 25 games.  

After being sidelined with a broken leg earlier in his career and missing 31 total games in 2013-14, Woods had no intentions of sitting out Saturday’s 4-1 loss to the Grand Rapids Griffins because of an illness.

“I’ve had a tough road in my career so far with injuries,” he said. "It’s just good to be healthy and I want to stay healthy.”

Woods’ physicality showed midway through the first period when he corralled the puck and carried it deep into the Griffins' zone with speed before sending a tape-to-tape pass to Phil Di Giuseppe for a slap shot that was tipped home by Jared Staal.

The puck found the back of the net at 6:14 in the first period and proved to be the lone goal of the game for the Checkers (1-4-0), who fell for the second time in as many days to Grand Rapids (3-1-0) in front of 5,917 at Time Warner Cable Arena.

“It’s a simple play,” said Woods, whose team surrendered two goals in the second and third periods. “That’s how our goals are going to be. They’re not going to be pretty. We’re going to be playing dirty and getting all those ugly ones. The ugly ones are just as good as the prettier ones. We’ve just got to keep plugging away."

For the second day in a row, Charlotte struggled to stay out of the penalty box (they allowed the Griffins nine power plays on Friday) and Grand Rapids took advantage, netting three of its four goals on the man advantage.

With the Checkers trailing 3-1 in the third, Woods was hit with a tripping penalty and his frustrations boiled over when he voiced his opinion that the play was a dive to the on-ice officials.

Woods’ words earned him a 10-minute game misconduct penalty, but the game was all but over at that point.  

“The way the score was and how the game was going, I was frustrated and I let my emotions get to me,” he said. “They’re a good team and they’re good on the power play. We knew that coming in to this weekend and we kind of shot ourselves in the foot by taking too many dumb penalties – me included.

“We have a great team in that locker room,” Woods continued. “We showed that for the first 15 minutes tonight when we dominated. We’ve just got to put a full 60 minutes together.” 

Game 5: Grand Rapids Griffins at Charlotte Checkers

Puck Drop: Saturday, 7:00 p.m.

TV/Radio info: AHL Live / ESPN 730

Records: Checkers 1-3-0, Griffins 2-1-0

The Charlotte Checkers are still looking for their first win at home this season after dropping a 2-1 decision to the Griffins at Time Warner Cable Arena on Friday night. Brody Sutter scored the lone goal in support of Drew MacIntyre (41 saves on 43 shots), who is now 1-2 on the season despite leading the AHL with 112 saves. After Saturday night's game, the Checkers will hit to road, where they will play a two-game weekend series in Iowa against the Wild. 

Following Friday's game, the Detroit Red Wings recalled Griffins starting goaltender Petr Mrazek (18 of 19 saves) to the NHL. ... Tom McCollum (1-0-0; 2.00 GAA) will likely start in net. 

Notes: The Raleigh News and Observer's Chip Alexander put a nice update on former Checkers Victor Rask and Elias Lindholm adapting to play in Carolina. ... C Ben Holmstrom is three shy of 500 AHL penalty minutes. ... Friday was the 100th career AHL game for C Brody Sutter. ... After asking around, it sounds like the Checkers feel as though Friday's game was the best so far this season from rookie LW Brock McGinn, who had a shot hit the post. 

Probable lines: 

Brock McGinn-Ben Holmstrom (A)-Alex Aleardi
Phil Di Giuseppe-Brody Sutter-Greg Nemisz (A)
Carter Sandlak-Patrick Brown-Chad LaRose
Kyle Hagel-Brendan Woods-Jared Staal

Rasmus Rissanen-Michal Jordan (C)
Keegan Lowe-Danny Biega
Trevor Carrick-Beau Schmitz

Drew MacIntyre
John Muse

Healthy scratches: Mike Aviani (signed a PTO with the Checkers on Thursday), Dennis Robertson

Injured/out: Justin Shugg (upper-body injury). Brendan Woods (questionable due to illness)

Friday, October 17, 2014

Brody Sutter's goal not enough as Checkers fall to Griffins in home opener, 2-1

Brody Sutter kept telling himself that once the puck dropped, the arena didn’t matter.

It was Thursday morning, and Sutter, a seventh-round draft pick with a famous last name, was hours away from making his NHL debut – at Madison Square Garden.

“It was awesome, probably the best day of my life and something I’ve worked towards since I was a little boy,” said Sutter, 23, who logged 13 shifts in the Hurricanes shootout loss to the Rangers. “To not only make the NHL, but to do it in New York was not only really cool, but an exciting day for my family and I.”  

Following the game, Carolina activated Jeff Skinner from its crowded list of injured reserves and reassigned Sutter to the Charlotte Checkers just in time for its home opener at Time Warner Cable Arena on Friday.

Less than 24 hours removed from centering the Canes' fourth line, Sutter found himself paired with youngsters Alex Aleardi and Phil Di Giuseppe, again reminding himself that once the puck dropped, the arena doesn't matter.

After using the first period to get his legs under him, Sutter broke into the offensive zone, collected a rebound, and sent a quick shot past Grand Rapids goalie Petr Mrazek for the Checkers’ lone goal in a 2-1 loss in front of a home-town crowd of 7,277. 

“Hockey is hockey,” Sutter said. “You have to come and compete every night. It doesn’t matter if it’s NHL, AHL, juniors, or college. Obviously, it’s a little bit bigger of a stage up top and it’s a little bit faster. But, like I said, once the puck drops, it’s still hockey and you’ve got to be able to compete and win your battles and help the team win.”  
Friday night was a solid showing for Sutter (three shots on net) – who played 69 games for the Checkers last season and set career highs in games, goals (8), assists (20) and points (28) – but almost no one else, with the Checkers getting outshot 43-19. 

Charlotte – which surrendered Grand Rapids nine power plays -- allowed the go-ahead goal at 0:46 of the third while playing a man down, when Teemu Pulkkinen found the open net above the right blocker of Drew MacIntyre (41 of 43 saves).

“I think if we cut down on some shots against and some penalties we might be a little fresher to play the other way, but right now we’re killing ourselves with too much time in our end killing penalties and soft plays,” Checkers coach Jeff Daniels said.

Charlotte did what it could to try to even the score in the third period, but was still outshot 16-8 in the frame and ultimately fell to 1-3-0 on the season.

The Checkers will have a chance for redemption on Saturday at 7 p.m. when the two teams face off once more before Grand Rapids heads out of town.

Carolina coach Bill Peters “said I should get another chance up there at some point this season, so that’s encouraging and it was a good first step,” said Sutter. “But we’ve got to execute better on our breakout. There are not too many positives when you get outshot 38-20 or whatever it was at home. We need to be better and we’ll make sure we are tomorrow.”

Game 4: Grand Rapids Griffins at Charlotte Checkers

Puck Drop: Friday, 7:00 p.m.

TV/Radio info: TWC Ch. 323 / no radio

Records: Checkers 1-2-0, Griffins 1-1-0

The Charlotte Checkers are set to play their first home game of the season after starting the 2014-15 campaign with a three-in-three road trip. After dropping their first two games of the season, Charlotte secured a 2-1 win in overtime on Sunday thanks to Ben Holmstrom's first goal as a member of the Checkers and 42 saves (on 43 shots) from Drew MacIntyre

The Griffins split a home-and-home series with the Lake Erie Monsters and will take on Charlotte at Time Warner Cable Arena again on Saturday. The Checkers are 2-2 all time in home openers.

Hurricanes assign Brown, Sutter to Charlotte

Per AHL release...

RALEIGH -- Ron Francis, Executive Vice President and General Manager of the National Hockey League’s Carolina Hurricanes, today announced that the team has assigned forwards Patrick Brown and Brody Sutter to the Charlotte Checkers of the American Hockey League (AHL). It was also announced that forward Jeff Skinner has been removed from injured reserve.

Notes: This is the first of eight regular-season meetings between the Griffins and Checkers. ... Tonight is the 13th all-time meeting between Charlotte and Grand Rapids. The Checkers hold the edge with a 8-4-0-0 (16 points) record. ... Holmstrom (1-1-2) is tied for the team leas in goals and points and has recorded points in his last two games. ... Both Sutter and Brown are expected to play tonight. ... Former Checker Chris Terry (3-1-4) has scored three goals in the Hurricanes last four games and is tied for the team lead in points.  

Probable lines:

Brock McGinn-Ben Holmstrom-Chad LaRose
Phil Di Giuseppe-Brody Sutter-Alex Aleardi
Carter Sandlak-Greg Nemisz-Jared Staal
Kyle Hagel-Patrick Brown-Brendan Woods

Rasmus Rissanen-Michal Jordan
Keegan Lowe-Danny Biega
Trevor Carrick-Beau Schmitz

Drew MacIntyre
John Muse

Healthy scratches: Mike Aviani (signed a PTO with the Checkers on Thursday), Dennis Robertson

Injured/out: Justin Shugg

Friday, July 4, 2014

Checkers updates: Canes sign four of six Checkers RFAs

It’s been a busy week for the Carolina Hurricanes who have now resigned four of the Charlotte Checkers six restricted free agents.

Here’s a quick recap of what’s gone on.

June 24 – Hurricanes agree to terms with left wing Chris Terry on a one-year, two-way contract. The deal will pay Terry $600,000 on the NHL level or $300,000 on the American Hockey League level in 2014-15.

July 1 – Hurricanes agree to terms with goaltender Drew MacIntyre on a one-year, two-way contract. The deal will pay MacIntyre $600,000 in the NHL or $250,000 in the AHL for the 2014-15 season, with a guarantee of at least $300,000.

Former Checkers captain, Brett Sutter signes a two-year, two-way deal with the Minnesota Wild.

July 2 -- Hurricanes sign forward Greg Nemisz to a one-year, two-way contract. The deal will pay Nemisz $600,000 in the NHL or $100,000 in the AHL for the 2014-15 season, with a guarantee of at least $125,000.

Hurricanes agree to terms with forward Zach Boychuk on a one-year, two-way contract. The deal will pay Boychuk $600,000 at the NHL level, or $200,000 on the AHL level, with a guarantee of $275,000.

July 3 -- Hurricanes agree to terms with right wing Jared Staal on a one-year, two-way contract. The deal will pay Staal $550,000 on the NHL level, or $65,000 on the AHL level, during the 2014-15 season.

Hurricanes agree to terms with defenseman Michal Jordan on a one-year, two-way contract. The deal will pay Jordan $550,000 on the NHL level, or $200,000 on the AHL level, with a guarantee of $225,000.

Hurricane agree to terms with center Ben Holmstrom on a one-year, two-way contract. The deal will pay Holmstrom $600,000 in the NHL or $200,000 in the AHL for the 2014-15 season.

*Only restricted free agents Justin Shugg and Rasmus Rissanen remain unsigned at the moment.

More on the two new guys:

Holmstrom, 27, is a native of Colorado Springs, Colorado and spent his first five professional seasons in the Philadelphia Flyers organization. He was captain of the Adirondack Phantoms for the last three and could take over that role with the Checkers given Sutter’s exit. Holmstrom has 122 points (49g, 73a) and 393 penalty minutes in 256 career AHL games. 

MacIntyre, 31, is a two-time AHL All-Star and has played in 329 games. He went 29-15-3 with a 2.53 goals-against average, .917 save percentage and one shutout for the Marlies last season, ranking second among AHL goaltenders in victories. With Just Peters heading to Washington, MacIntyre looks primed to start the year as the Checkers No. 1 goaltender.

*Charlotte should be happy to have the veteran in red and white this season, last year, he went 3-0-0 with a 1.67 goals-against average and .942 save percentage against the Checkers.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Zach Boychuk captures AHL goal-scoring title in Checkers final game of the season

Having been mathematically eliminated from playoff contention the night before, the Charlotte Checkers lacked any kind of spark in Rockford on Saturday night on their way to a 7-3 loss in the final game of the regular season. 

Although he didn't score in the game, Checkers forward Zach Boychuk was able to lock up the Willie Marshall Award, given annually to the AHL's top goal-scorer. 

Boychuk captured the title with 36 goals in 69 games for Charlotte. He also finished second in the league with 74 points and was named a Second Team AHL All-Star at left wing. The 24-year old native of Airdrie, Alta., also recorded one goal and three assists in 11 NHL games with Carolina this season. 

Texas Stars Colton Sceviour and Travis Morin tied for second in the league with 32 goals each.

The 36 goals were 13 more than Boychuk had ever scored in a season and set a new franchise record for the Checkers.

Victor Rask, Ryan Murphy and Brody Sutter took care of the scoring for the Checkers on Saturday. In a reoccurring theme as of late, the Checkers had trouble staying out of the box, and ultimately allowed a franchise-record five power-play goals en route to the loss.

John Muse, who made 30 saves, dropped to 1-6-0 in the month of April.

After one period of play the game was tied, 2-2, thanks to goals by Rask and Murphy. However early in the second period, Rockford scored twice on a double minor for high sticking committed by Phil Di Giuseppe. 

Less than a minute into the third, Rockford took a three-goal lead and later added two more power-play tallies. Sutter scored with roughly seven minutes to play in the game, but its fate had long-since been decided. 

Notes: This April (1-6-0) goes down as the worst month in Checkers history in terms of percentage of possible points earned (14.3). November was the second-worst at 18.2 percent (2-9-0), while March (12-4-0) was the second-best (75.0). … Sutter’s goal was his 50th professional point. … Boychuk led the Checkers with six shots, while Murphy and Aaron Palushaj each had five. … Forward Sergey Tolchinsky (no shots, minus-1) and defenseman Dennis Robertson (three shots, even) each made their professional debuts. … Matt Marquardt, Jared Staal and Mark Flood were healthy scratches. … Philippe Cornet, Greg Nemisz and Brendan Woods missed the game due to injuries.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Charlotte Checkers eliminated from playoff contention

Blame it on a four-point month of November. Blame it on losing Justin Peters to the NHL early in the season. Blame it on a difficult schedule down the stretch.

Which ever reason you choose, the final result is the same: The 2014 Charlotte Checkers will not be playing in this year's playoffs. A 5-1 loss to the Admirals in Milwaukee on Friday, combined with Oklahoma City earning a point in its game with Iowa, sealed Charlotte's fate with one regular season game remaining.

A 12-4-0 mark in the month of March catapulted the Checkers back into playoff contention, but a 1-4-0 showing in April was their final undoing.

Ryan Murphy scored the lone goal for the Checkers with 11 seconds left in the second period to make it 4-1 and John Muse stopped 29 of 34 shots.

Although the final result of today's game with Rockford will have no playoff implications, there's still a few good reasons to watch.

With 36 goals this season, Checkers forward Zach Boychuk is four ahead of Texas' Travis Morin for tops in the AHL. A goal would all but lock up that scoring title.

There's also the strong possibility that rookies like Sergey Tolchinsky, Phil Di Giuseppe and Dennis Robertson will all see extended time on the ice after spending time as healthy scratches as the team tried to make its way into the top eight in the Western Conference.

Notes: The Checkers were a perfect 13-for-13 on the penalty kill against Milwaukee this season, including a 2-for-2 effort in this game. … Muse has played in each of the Checkers’ last 10 games, including nine starts. …  Matt Marquardt played his 400th professional game … Palushaj and Terry led the Checkers with five shots on goal apiece. … Zach Boychuk and Victor Rask finished with plus-1 ratings. … Phil Di Giuseppe, Sergey Tolchinsky and Dennis Robertson were healthy scratches. … Philippe Cornet, Greg Nemisz and Brendan Woods missed the game with injuries.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Checkers fall to Grand Rapids, now stand two points out of playoffs with two games to play

The Checkers put 36 shots on Tom McCollum on Sunday and the Grand Rapids goaltender turned away all but one on his way to recording a 2-1 win in Charlotte's final regular season game at Time Warner Cable Arena. 

With just two games remaining, the Checkers -- who entered Sunday in ninth placed in the Western Conference -- no longer control their own destiny when it comes to the playoffs. They currently sit two points behind Oklahoma City (who has a game in hand) for for the eighth and final playoff spot.  

Philippe Cornet scored the Checkers’ only goal in support of John Muse, who finished the night with 25 saves.

The Checkers will now do some scoreboard watching, while they wait to conclude their regular season schedule with a pair of road games on Friday and Saturday.

“The whole game we did everything we could but put the puck in the net,” Checkers coach Jeff Daniels told team writer Paul Branecky following the game. “It’s disappointing because I thought the effort was there and the guys gave everything they had.”

Cornet opened the scoring in the first for the Checkers, but the Griffins' 
Cory Emmerton countered after Charlotte was hit with its third minor penalty of the period with 39 seconds to play. 

Trevor Parks scored the game-winner in the second when he found himself in the right place at the right time to gather a blocked shot and send it past Muse.  

Checkers forward, Aaron Palushaj, who suited up for the first time in eight games after suffering an injury three weeks ago, hit the post with a shot in the period.

McCollum, who stopped 14 Checkers shots in the third period, finished the game ranked third in the AHL with a 2.28 goals-against average. 

A Griffins' boarding penalty led to the game's final 10 seconds being played 6-on-4 (with Muse off for an extra attacker). However, the Grand Rapids goaltender held strong.   

“It’s just one of those nights where their goalie was standing on his head and it just wasn’t going in for us,” Checkers forward Zach Boychuk, who was reassigned to the team from Carolina on Saturday, told Branecky. “We battled as hard as we could right to the end and just weren’t able to get that equalizer.”

Between Sunday and the Checkers' next game against Milwaukee on Friday, Charlotte players will likely be keeping an eye on Wednesday's Stars-Barons showdown.  

“You’ve got to look at it like we’re still alive and still in it,” Boychuk told Branecky. “There are still two games left and obviously we’re going to need a lot of help, but we’ll see what happens in the next couple of days. “Hopefully those games this weekend mean something.”

Notes: John Muse (two shutouts) allowed two goals in 179 minutes against the Griffins this season. Emmerton’s goal ended his shutout streak at 139 minutes and 21 seconds. … Sean Dolan left the game after a collision with Ryan Murphy in the first period, but was able to return with a protective cage around his face. … Phil Di Giuseppe, Matthew Pistilli, Sergey Tolchinsky and defenseman Dennis Robertson were healthy scratches … Nicolas Blanchard, Greg Nemisz and Brendan Woods missed the game due to injury.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Zach Boychuk reassigned to Charlotte Checkers

Per team release...

RALEIGH, NC – Jim Rutherford, President and General Manager of the National Hockey League’s Carolina Hurricanes, today announced that the team has reassigned forward Zach Boychuk to the Charlotte Checkers of the American Hockey League (AHL). Boychuk was recalled by the Hurricanes on on Friday and skated 15:24 in the team’s 2-1 win last night at Detroit.

Boychuk (5’10”, 185 lbs.) has totaled four points (1g, 3a) in 11 NHL games this season. The Airdrie, Alb., native ranks first in the AHL in goals (36) and second in points (72) in 66 games played for Charlotte. Boychuk, 24, is also first in the AHL in power-play goals (18) and was named to the AHL’s Second All-Star team for the 2013-14 season. Carolina’s first-round selection, 14th overall, in the 2008 NHL Entry Draft, Boychuk has totaled nine goals and 15 assists (24 points) in 95 career NHL games with Carolina, Pittsburgh and Nashville.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Sergey Tolchinsky joins Charlotte Checkers

According to Carolina Hurricanes Senior Director of Communications, Mike Sundheim, rookie forward Sergey Tolchinsky has been assigned to the Charlotte Checkers.

Sault St. Marie's exit from the OHL playoffs on Tuesday night cleared the way for Tolchinsky to join the Checkers. The 19-year-old 5-foot-9-inch left-shot winger finished his OHL season 10th in the league in scoring with 91 points (31 goals, 60 assists).

Here's a story from the News & Observer's Chip Alexander about Tolchinsky's signing.

He also did this...