Nedeljkovic Snags Second Straight Shutout in 6-0 Win
CHARLOTTE, NC - It was another game, another decisive victory for the Checkers, as they used a four-goal third and a shutout performance from Alex Nedeljkovic to run over the Hartford Wolf Pack 6-0.
The Checkers stifled the Wolf Pack's attack in the opening frame, holding the visitors to a season-low two shots on goal, and a power-play strike from Lucas Wallmark put Charlotte on the board first. The second period featured a similarly tilted ice, with the Checkers outshooting Hartford 18-4, but the home team was again only able to convert once, this one coming from a slick dish from Andrew Miller to Philip Samuelsson for the easy tap-in tally.
The Wolf Pack remained within striking distance to start the third period until a Jake Chelios shot found its way through traffic midway through the frame to make it 3-0. The Checkers kept the pressure up for the remainder of the period and blew the game wide open in the final six minutes of play. With a pair of strikes from Janne Kuokkanen and a league-lead-extending goal from Valentin Zykov, the Checkers doubled up their advantage in the waning minutes of regulation and finished with a staggering 6-0 win.
Coach Mike Vellucci on the team's recent offensive success
We have a lot of depth up front. When you have guys like Kruger and Jooris sent down ... it just gives us a lot of depth and gives our young guys more opportunities.
Vellucci on breaking this game open in the third period
I think the third goal just loosened up everybody. We were still playing smart and getting chances, but we weren't taking high risks. That's the key in games like that where you have the puck a lot. Tonight means nothing without tomorrow, and you know there's going to be a big push back from Hartford.
Vellucci on Alex Nedeljkovic's game
I thought it was good. He didn't have to be spectacular except for a breakaway when he only had two or three shots. He was solid and moved the puck well for us. It's tough for goalies to stay in it when it's not in your end for a while, so good for him.
Vellucci on Nedeljkovic's recent workload
He's played really well and he demands to be the guy. His play dictates it too, so what are you going to do? You've got to keep playing him.
Vellucci on Andrew Miller
He should be talked about more. He's been our most consistent player all year long and he brings it every day. I'm very pleased with the way he's played this year. He's consistently been our best player and he deserves more recognition than he gets, but that's the kind of person that he is. He's a great guy and a very intelligent person. He's not looking for recognition, he's looking for wins. It's my job to promote him more than I probably am.
Andrew Miller on the team's recent turnaround
It's nice to play at home with the crowd behind us. What's been important for us is that we have four lines that are really contributing. When you have four lines playing well, moving their feet and being hard to play against, in the AHL that's a good combination.
Miller on recently becoming the AHL's scoring leader
My linemates are making good plays and creating some offense. We're playing off each other well. They play hard and their fun guys to play with, so I've really got to give a lot of credit to them.
Miller on Nedeljkovic
Ned's been good. He works hard and he's a good guy. I think that's all important. He had a long summer training and I think that showed this year. He really works hard and guys really like to play for him.
Nedeljkovic on the team's recent success
I think we're all getting in the groove here. We've put in three solid efforts in our last three games and we've just got to keep it going. It's getting late in the year and points are at a premium. You're in that playoff race and every point matters and every night matters.
Nedeljkovic on getting consecutive shutouts
It's nice, but we played a great game defensively all around. They had two shots after the first period and six after two. We were all over them tonight. We came out with a lot of energy offensively, we shut them down and we played in their end almost the whole game. Good defense is great offense and vice-versa. We've just got to keep playing like that and hopefully we can string some more of those together and get on a nice run here.
The Checkers scored five or more goals in five of their last six games ... The Checkers have won three in a row and four of five. At home, they have won six of seven ... Nedeljkovic is now tie for the league lead in wins (21) and shutouts (4) ... Andrew Miller extended his point streak to five games (5g, 7a). His three points tonight gave him 51 for the season and a four-point cushion in the AHL's scoring race ... Wallmark has 10 points (3g, 7a) in his last seven games ... Samuelsson's goal was his first since Nov. 25, a span of 30 games ... The Checkers scored at least one power play goal in six of their last seven games (nine total, including one tonight) ... Hartford had not lost in regulation since Jan. 15, with this loss ending a 9-0-1 run ... The Checkers set a new mark or fewest shots allowed in a single game (15) ... After scoring just six points in a 20-game span, Janne Kuokkanen has nine in his last six ... Forwards Patrick Brown and Sergey Tolchinsky missed the game due to injury ... Forwards Mike Ferrantino, Nick Schilkey and Zack Stortini and defenseman Dennis Robertson and goaltender Callum Booth were healthy extras.
Charlotte's home stand rolls on tomorrow with a rematch against this same Hartford team. Puck drops at 7 p.m.
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