Fleury Lifts Checkers over Phantoms 2-1
CHARLOTTE, NC - Facing each other in the Queen City for the first time since they were eliminated by them in the playoffs, the Checkers took down the Lehigh Valley Phantoms in a tight 2-1 contest.
The Phantoms broke the ice late in a deadlocked opening frame with a shorthanded breakaway conversion, but the red-hot Nick Schilkey evened the score in the period's final minute with a one-timer from the slot. The Checkers pushed back hard in the middle frame, more than doubling up the Phantoms in shots, and a quick wrister from Haydn Fleury found its way through traffic to beat Phantoms netminder Alex Lyon and secure the home side their first lead of the night.
Fleury's snipe would prove to be the decisive tally, as the goalies tightened up their already stellar performances down the road. Alex Nedeljkovic came away with 25 saves on the night, including 12 in the third period alone, to best Lyon and extend his league lead in wins.
Coach Mike Vellucci on the team's effort
I just told the guys I was proud of them. Structurally, I thought we played really well. We out-chanced them 18-11 overall in the game and I thought we played very sound defensively.
Vellucci on generating offensive chances
In the neutral zone we were moving the puck really well and using our speed. Offensively we've been working with our younger guys about puck protection and taking it to the net and then having some cutbacks. Offensively I thought we did well. Obviously you'd like to bury some of them, but he also made some good saves.
Vellucci on Haydn Fleury's goal
It was a great shot. He works at it and I think he feels better down here because he hasn't scored up top and we kind of kid him about it, but I think he's got offensive ability. I tell him all the time that I want him to make sure he's getting into the rush and making plays and using his strengths, which are his size and his speed.
Velluci on Alex Nedeljkovic's performance
What I liked was that, even on the mistake on the first goal, he's going to do that 100 times and he's going to make a mistake once. He didn't let that get to him and he had a solid game. The puck sticks to him and I know he's in the zone.
Fleury on winning a tight game
It seems like the last couple of weeks or months we've been losing those 2-1 games, so it's nice to come out on the good side of it. I think we played a really solid game tonight. We didn't really give them much at all and we were smart with the puck. If we could have buried some of our chances it would have been a little bit more.
Fleury on protecting the lead in the third period
Any team when they're down in the third, whether it's one goal or three, they're going to push for the first five minutes. We had to weather that storm, and I don't really think our game wavered the whole night. We were smart with the puck the whole game and I got rewarded in the end.
The Checkers have won three of their last four games ... Nedeljkovic became the winningest goalie in franchise history with his 64th win as a Checker, breaking a tie with John Muse ... Nedeljkovic has earned each of the Checkers' last nine wins dating back to Jan. 6. He has allowed two goals or fewer in each of his last eight starts ... Schilkey's goal extended his career-long point streak to five games (3g, 3a) ... Charlotte is 24-0-0 when leading after two periods this season ... The Checkers are now 5-10-4 when scoring two or fewer this season ... The Checkers improved to 2-0-1 against Lehigh Valley this season. Including tomorrow's rematch, Charlotte will play the Phantoms five more times in their last 20 games ... Forward Martin Necas missed the game due to illness ... Forward Aleksi Saarela and defenseman Roland McKeown did not play due to injury ... Forward Zack Stortini was a healthy extra.
The Checkers and Phantoms will face off again tomorrow at 6 p.m. at Bojangles' Coliseum.
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