Checkers Shoot Down Thunderbirds 5-0 in Home Finale
CHARLOTTE, NC - The Checkers closed out the home portion of their regular season schedule with a bang, shutting out Springfield 5-0 to earn a weekend split.
Roland McKeown kicked things off just 38 seconds in when he hammered home a drop-pass from Martin Necas, and that would open the floodgates for Charlotte's offense. Four different Checkers notched multi-point games, including Aleksi Saarela, who hung Springfield netminder Samuel Montembeault out to dry for his 29th goal of the year and set up Morgan Geekie for a dagger late in the second. Martin Necas netted a pair of helpers, one of which was a power-play feed to Julien Gauthier in front that was nearly identical to their connection last night.
Between the pipes Dustin Tokarski stayed perfect with his new squad, making 20 saves to pick up his first shutout in a Charlotte sweater.
The second meeting between Charlotte and Springfield in as many nights featured plenty of physical play, especially early on. Zack Stortini and Derek Sheppard both dropped the gloves in the opening frame as the Thunderbirds rode their way to 50 penalty minutes in the game.
Coach Mike Vellucci on today's win compared to yesterday's loss
I thought we played pretty hard yesterday and just made some mental mistakes. I thought today we used our brains. We were smart with the puck and we still competed, which was good.
Vellucci on Zack Stortini
Our guys love him. You could see all the cheering for him and he blocked a big shot there helping to save a shutout for our goaltender. He does all the little things, the guys love him and he deserves every opportunity he gets in there.
Vellucci on Dustin Tokarski
I just think he's so calm that it helps everybody else out. If you notice, the puck hits him and he's calm, he's not overreacting. I think the guys just really like his veteran leadership and his calmness.
Vellucci on Aleksi Saarela
It gives him a lot. As coaches we talk about that if he can compete like that every shift there's no stopping him. When he sees a loose puck and he's quick, and when he has that opening and he gets a shot, there's not a lot of guys that can stop it.
Aleksi Saarela on the team missing Andrew Poturalski (injury) and Jake Bean (recall)
I miss Potsy already and I hope he's going to play in Cleveland. Those two guys are a big part of our team and it's not fun when we lose them, but I think we played a pretty good five-on-five game today and everybody stepped up.
Saarela on having Zack Stortini in the lineup
It's way funnier that way. It's huge for us. We've got (Derek) Sheppard too, and it's fun to paly because you know (the other team) isn't going to do anything stupid.
Julien Gauthier on this game compared to yesterday's
We did some video on what we can do to improve on last game. Everyone in that room knows we can beat them. It's just a matter of adjusting a little bit and everybody came through today with a great team effort. You couldn't ask for better.
Gauthier on the final week of the regular season in Cleveland
They have a meaning for us. We play like it's a playoff game for us, and these two games can be useful for us to get as much points as possible, be ready and adjust what we need to do before playoffs. Everybody's going to be ready and give a great team effort.
The Checkers improved to 15-3-1 in their last 19 games. They are also 12-1-1 in their last 14 games at home and have at least nine more standings points than any other AHL team ... Saarela has 13 goals in his last 16 games. With 29 on the season, he is one shy of becoming the fourth 30-goal scorer in team history ... Dustin Tokarski improved to 6-0-0 as a Checker with just seven total goals allowed. This was his second shutout of the season, the 26th of his career and the Checker' sixth team shutout of the season ... Julien Gauthier has five goals in his last six games ... Trevor Carrick had two points to extend his assist/point streak to five games (1g, 6a) ... Martin Necas had a goal and an assist to record his third consecutive multi-point game ... Tomas Jurco extended his point streak to four games (2g, 4a) ... Forwards Clark Bishop and Andrew Poturalski and defenseman Josiah Didier missed the game due to injury ... Goaltender Scott Darling was a healthy extra.
The Checkers have two games remaining on their regular season slate, the first of which comes Thursday in Cleveland.
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