Checkers Steamroll Springfield 5-2 in Return Home
CHARLOTTE, NC - The Checkers showed some rejuvenation on home ice Friday night, blowing by the Springfield Thunderbirds 5-2.
After struggling through some slow starts during their most recent road trip, the Checkers roared out of the gates in their return to Charlotte. Andrew Poturalski broke out a strong power move to the front of the net to open the scoring eight minutes in, then Andrew Miller followed that up less than a minute later with a top-shelf breakaway conversion. The Checkers kept their foot on the gas even on the penalty kill, with Roland McKeown joining the rush and picking a corner for a shorthanded tally that made the score 3-0 before the first horn sounded.
The Thunderbirds were able to chip into the Checkers' advantage right before the first intermission, but that wouldn't slow Charlotte's roll. Andrew Miller opened the middle frame with his second tally of the night, then a quick wrister from Janne Kuokkanen found the back of the net minutes later to stretch Charlotte's lead to 5-1.
The third period would have significantly fewer fireworks, with Springfield tacking on one more late in the frame, but it wouldn't make a difference as Alex Nedeljkovic's 28 saves were more than enough to seal the Checkers' lopsided victory.
Coach Mike Vellucci on the fast start I think they realized how big the game really was, so we got a good jump. We gave up some chances early and Nedeljkovic made some huge saves, and then we got three quick ones on them and put them on their heels.
Vellucci on Roland McKeown's goal He was smart about it - he wasn't just joining the rush to join the rush. I thought he jumped at the right time and made a nice play.
Vellucci on Janne Kuokkanen's goal We talk about confidence with the young guys. He had four or five chances to score tonight and scored the one, so it's a big building step for him.
Vellucci on tomorrow's rematch I just told the guys that tonight means nothing without tomorrow's win. It's very important that we get two points tomorrow night.
Roland McKeown on his recent scoring We're moving the puck. A lot of the times in the last couple of games our second pass wasn't on the tape, but tonight we did a lot better job of controlling the puck and keeping possession. That leads to offense.
McKeown on the game getting rough late You've just got to stay alert and be ready for anything, because in a game like that it can get chippy. It's up to you to keep your focus and discipline.
Notes Miller has goals and points in each of his last three games (4g, 1a) ... Clark Bishop tied his career highs for assist and points in a single game (three), both of which were set in a previous home game against Springfield on Dec. 1 ... McKeown's goal was the Checkers' eighth shorthanded tally of the season, tying them for third in the AHL ... McKeown has six points (2g, 4a) in his last five games ... Kuokkanen's goal was his first since Nov. 21 and ended a 23-game drought ... Aleksi Saarela left the game with an injury in the first period and did not return ... Forward Sergey Tolchinksy missed the game due to injury ... Forwards Josh Jooris, Marcus Kruger, Mike Ferrantino, Spencer Smallman and Zack Stortini, defenseman Dennis Robertson and goaltender Jeremy Smith were healthy extras.
The Checkers' home stand continues tomorrow night with a rematch against Springfield at 6:00 p.m.
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