Checkers Take Down Bears for Weekday Sweep
CHARLOTTE, NC - Things might have been a little closer than the home team wanted, but the Checkers nevertheless claimed a 5-4 victory over the Hershey Bears.
It was a hot start for the Charlotte offense, kicking off with Jake Bean and Dave Gust's strikes late in the first period. Hershey would break through 73 seconds into the middle frame but the Checkers would pour it for the rest of the period to extend their advantage to 5-1 after 40 minutes of play. Janne Kuokkanen facilitated a lot of that push, racking up three helpers to keep his hot streak alive, while five different skaters lit the lamp.
The pesky Bears wouldn't roll over, however, and things turned in their favor down the stretch. Brian Pinho chipped one in for the visitors with less than nine minutes left in regulation, then the Bears capitalized twice with an extra attacker to shrink Charlotte's lead down to just one with three minutes to play.
The Checkers would batten down the hatches for those waning minutes, though, and Alex Nedeljkovic came up with some key saves to preserve that advantage until the final buzzer and complete the weekday sweep of Hershey.
Coach Ryan Warsofsky on having to hang on in the third period
We just made a couple of mistakes and a couple of bad reads. It was like we just stopped playing for the last eight minutes. We've got to learn from that, because this is going to happen again. We pulled it together, and you can't get over the fact that we still won a hockey game. It's hard to win, but we have to learn from it.
Warsofsky on the team's start
I loved our first two periods. I thought we were really on the puck, we were focused, we were detailed and we were moving. We're hard to play against when we do those things.
Warsofsky on another three-assist game by Janne Kuokkanen
When you give him time and space, on the Lorentz, goal especially, he can make things happen. He's getting more confident with the puck in the offensive zone and he's moving a little bit more and he's using his body a little bit more. It's creating more space for him so he's doing a good job of that.
Warsofsky on getting ready for weekend games against Toronto
We've just got to take a deep breath here, catch ourselves, take a step back and realize we won two hockey games, we've got a good team coming in and we have to learn from what just happened. We'll take tomorrow off to mentally reset and then be back for a good practice on Friday.
Steven Lorentz on holding on in the third period
I don't know if we let our foot off the gas, but it's kind of a learning experience that you've got to play 60 hard minutes. Just because you get a lead the way we did you can't rest on it. I think we sat back just a little bit and they got one and maybe a lucky break or two. They still got the goals and they count, but we did a good job holding them off in the end. At the end of the day we were able to fend them off and overall we played a pretty solid game.
Lorentz on extending the team's hot streak
We just beat one of the best teams, probably in the league, two games in a row back to back in our barn, and obviously for confidence's sake that's huge for us. Moving forward I think that's kind of a message to the league that we're not a team to sleep on. Early on I think we were kind of figuring out lines and trying to build some chemistry, and now we've started to develop some set lines and know what each guy brings to the lineup every night. It's obviously a good feeling in the room, and we'll take the positives and the negatives and learn from it.
Lorentz on playing at home again
It's been a breath of fresh air. It was a long road trip that felt like it took a lot out of us, but at the end of the day we had a very solid road trip and coming off the Christmas break I think we did a very good job of making sure we didn't have a game where we were sitting back and didn't have our legs. I think it was good for us, and it's nice to be able to sleep in our own beds and be comfortable every day coming to the rink.
The Checkers have won 13 of 16 since Dec. 7. During that time, they have jumped from eighth/last place in the division all the way up to third ... Lorentz has multiple points in six of his last 10 games ... Janne Kuokkanen had his second consecutive three-assist game, giving him 20 points in his last 15 outings ... After scoring five points in 24 games to start the season, Gust has 16 in his last 15 ... Kaski extended his point streak to three games. He has nine points in 13 games as a Checker ... Morgan Geekie extended his point streak to five games (2g, 3a) ... Alex Nedeljkovic won his fifth consecutive start ... Bean has six points in his last six games ... The Checkers scored on the power play for the fifth straight game. They are 6-for-16 (37.5 percent) during that time ... The Checkers improved to 3-1-0 against Hershey this season ... Forwards Clark Bishop, Stelio Mattheos and Kerby Rychel missed the game due to injury ... Defenseman Cavan Fitzgerald was a healthy extra.
The Checkers welcome the Toronto Marlies to town on Saturday for Charlotte Night, which will feature specialty jerseys that will be auctioned off after the game.
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