Ramble ramble ramble we move along. As always – suggestions, comments, or recommendations to make this better, hit me up at @MrWorkrate on Twitter. PS – more than likely, there won’t be a Checkpoint next week due to the American Thanksgiving holiday. We’ll pick it up the following week, however.

LOOKING WEST DOWN I-85

I kind of need to change this for the Non-State Fair Road Trip, as it’s more east to I-85 to I-95, then north for a while, but whatever. Friday, the Checkers took on Utica once again, taking another 5-2 victory, matching their score from two days prior. The win wrapped up the season series with Utica, which the Checkers won 3-1. Clark Bishop and Janne Kuokkanen scored their first goals for Charlotte on the season, with Bishop scoring a second goal later to close out the scoring for the Checkers.

After disposing of Utica, the Checkers dropped a 5-3 decision to Syracuse the following night, with the Crunch jumping out to an early three goal lead that the Checkers couldn’t recover from. Former Hurricane Jamie McBain had four points on the night, while another former Cane (and Checker) Michael Leighton saved 21 of 24 shots to get the win.

McBain seen here before he had his ketchup removed.

Finally, in a 10:30AM game played yesterday morning Charlotte dropped another 5-3 loss, this time to Springfield. BRB – checking to see if any future games are being played in Brockway, Ogdenville, and North Haverbrook on this road trip.

Sorry, back. Anyway, the game with Thunderbirds was a back-and-forth affair, with both teams exchanging leads before taking a 3-3 tie into the final period. With time ticking down on the clock, the Checkers were penalized for too many men on the ice, then soon after defenseman Philip Samuelsson flipped the puck over the glass for a delay of game penalty, putting the Checkers down two men. The numbers caught up to them, with the Thunderbirds Tim Erixon scoring the power play goal with 1:24 left on the game clock. A late empty-netter would seal the 5-3 defeat and end goalkeeper Alex Nedeljkovic‘s seven game winning streak.

The Checkers have a rematch with Springfield on Friday, then visit Bridgeport on Saturday to close out their road trip and finally return home to the sweet smell of BoBerry Biscuits at Bojangles Coliseum for a pre-Thanksgiving series on Tuesday and Wednesday against Ottawa affiliate Belleville.

STUFFING THE NET

After starting off the season with one point in his first eight games, Andrew Poturalski has seen his scoring return to 2016-17 levels, with six points in his last seven games, including four goals. Poturalski, the Checkers leading scorer last season, has seen his linemates change a bit this season, so maybe finding wingers he clicks with will see his scoring stay hot as the season progresses. Also seeing his share of scoring lately has been newcomer Janne Kuokkanen. Kuokkanen is currently running a three-game scoring streak, with goals against Utica and Springfield, and two assists against Syracuse. Kuokkanen has been playing left wing on a line centered by fellow Finn Aleksi Saarela, who slid over to center with Lucas Wallmark out of the lineup with an injury. Saarela, who had been in a scoring slump of his own, now has points in three straight games himself, which might make Coach Vellucci’s job a little difficult when Wallmark is healthy enough to return.

CHECKERS GETTING MASHED

Get well soon, Lee.

The injury bug continues to hit the Checkers, with Lucas Wallmark the latest to miss time with an undisclosed injury (and I don’t want to pry). Wallmark didn’t play in the weekend’s games against Utica or Syracuse, nor was he made available for the early morning game against Springfield. Lee Stempniak, who joined the Checkers on a conditioning stint, didn’t even last a period before coming out of the game with an undisclosed injury that was unrelated to the undisclosed injury he was doing the conditioning stint for. At least on the positive side, defenseman Brendan Kichton returned for the Springfield game after missing the last five games. Kichton was a -2 in the Springfield game, so he might need a little time to shake off the rust.

IT’S ALL GRAVY

Flying under the radar with his consistent play lately had been forward Phil Di Giuseppe, who had a four-game scoring streak snapped in Syracuse on Saturday and was coming off of eight points in six games before the Syracuse shutdown. He wasn’t too far under the radar though, as the Hurricanes called PDG up on Sunday, sending down Checkers captain Patrick Brown in the transaction. Brown didn’t make any appearances for the Hurricanes during his time with the team, but was back in the lineup for yesterday’s game against Springfield, playing on a line with Janne Kuokkanen and Aleksi Saarela.

WHO ARE YOU CALLING A TURKEY?

Maybe he was getting cheap shots all night. Maybe someone said something about his billet family. I don’t know – I’m not on the ice, but at the end of the Utica/Checkers game on Friday, Valentin Zykov lost it. Zykov comes in with his stick high, starts cross-checking, then finally gets into a fight. Zykov’s not a fighter – HockeyFights.com list this as only his second career fight – and that seemed to show about halfway through the fight when Zykov stops throwing punches and decides to go for a single-leg takedown. It didn’t work. Zykov got five for fighting, and another two for cross-checking, but the game was already pretty much over by this time.

GIVING THANKS

The Checkers are taking part in the #GivingTuesday movement by giving $5 from tickets sold to upcoming games this month to various charities. Click here for more information.

 

DOWN IN THE ECHL

Despite a 4-1 loss on Friday to Cincinnati, the Everblades remained red hot, taking the next two games to keep them in sole possession of first place in the ECHL South division. Callum Booth got his first career shutout as a professional, beating Orlando and former Everblade Anthony Peters 1-0 on Saturday, stopping all 21 shots for his fourth win of the season. Booth now leads the ECHL in GAA (1.96) and sports a .928 SV%. Forward Steven Lorentz had an uneventful weekend, recording no points in Friday and Saturday’s games, and not playing in Sunday’s game, although it’s unknown whether this was due to injury or just a healthy scratch. Defenseman Keegan Kanzig remains out of the lineup, and has not played since October 28th.