Saturday, December 11, 2010

Hershey Bears 2 at Charlotte Checkers 1 (SO) - December 10, 2010


After stopping in Fredericksburg, VA for the night, I woke early and made the 6-hour trip to Charlotte, arriving in plenty of time to see the first-year Charlotte Checkers host the defending champion Hershey Bears.


The Teams

The Charlotte Checkers were a franchise in the ECHL last season but the owners bought the Albany River Rats and moved them to Charlotte, taking the Checkers' identity and giving the ECHL franchise back to the league. They are Carolina's AHL affiliate and a couple of their notables are Brett Sutter (recently arrested in Phoenix after an alcohol-fueled altercation and subsequently traded from Calgary) and Ottawa native Jon Matsumoto (in black below), who enjoyed a 10-game stint with the Hurricanes earlier this season.


Hershey has won the past 2 Calder Cups and is Washington's farm team. Their most famous name is Sheldon Souray, who is on loan from Edmonton after being unclaimed on waivers before the season due to a rather bloated contract.


The Checkers play in Time Warner Cable Arena but I'm not going to write about it here as I'm going to see the Bobcats play there tonight. The top deck is closed off so you can't tour the whole thing, as you can see below. As well, one end of the seating bowl is closed off, so it can be difficult to find really good seats here; I found the seats near the top of the seating bowl had views that were partially obstructed by the glass over the benches or penalty box. I moved around a few times before I found a seat that I liked.


The Game

It was "Black-Out Night" and the Checkers were wearing their 3rd jersey, a black number that you can see in the Mastumoto photo above. Fans were encourage to wear their black jersey, but few did.

Former Leaf prospect Justin Pogge was in goal for Charlotte while the Bears started Braden Holtby (making a save below), who was up with Washington for 5 games earlier in the year. Holtby was 4th in the league with a 1.86 GAA.


Hershey got off to a quick start when Andrew Gordon converted a nice pass from Brian Willsie just 1:05 in. Charlotte got it back when Holtby poke-checked Chris Terry, but the puck went right to Jerome Samson who backhanded over the sprawling goaltender and into the net.

After that the goaltenders took over, stopping everything that was thrown at them. Pogge was particularly impressive, facing 49 shots and stopping 48. For the third time on the trip, overtime was played and again nothing was decided. So it was another shootout.

Charlotte went first and Jacob Micflikier deked Holtby but pushed the puck just wide (below).


After Gordon missed for Hershey, Holtby saved Zac Dalpe. Lawrence Nycholat then scored for the Bears. When Zach Boychuk missed for Charlotte, I thought it was game over, but the AHL shootout uses 5 shooters, not 3 as in the NHL, so we kept going. Willsie went for Hershey and converted to make it 2-0. Terry had to score to keep Charlotte alive but Holtby saved it easily and Hershey escaped with the 2-1 shootout victory.


I always find shootouts a bit of a letdown; it is much more exciting when a goal is scored in overtime. This was an interesting game with Hershey clearly a better team but Pogge's play provided his pals a point.

Notes

There were two promotions during the game. The first was "As Seen On TV" where you had a choice of three useless products: a pasta box, bottle tops, and buttons that you can use to make your pants bigger. Given my heavy reliance on fast food during this trip, I chose the buttons.


The second was Teddy Bear night, where fans were asked to bring a teddy bear and throw it on the ice after the Checkers' first goal. Despite being told not to throw from behind the goal, where the netting would prevent the bears from making it onto the ice, several fans did just that, throwing their toys over and over again into the netting. Eventually they figured it out and moved to the sideline where they could reach the ice more easily. This the second time I have seen this promotion and it is always fun for the fans and a great cause.

Next Up

The Boston Celtics, the NBA's hottest team, are visiting the Charlotte Bobcats tonight. I've then got to drive about 6 hours to Jacksonville to see the Raiders and Jaguars do battle at 1 pm the next day. It will be tough with no room for error, so check back Monday to see if I made it.

Best,

Sean

4 comments:

  1. The experience will be much different for the Bobcats, but you will get much better views. It's a "short axis" arena - similar to San Antonio where the Spurs and rampage play, and there isn't enough of a slope to get good views for hockey. Warning: Most of upper level is very steep.

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  2. Thanks so much for your comment. I could tell the slope wasn't good for hockey but have never heard the term "short axis". I'll have to look into this after the trip.

    You were right about the experience being different for the Bobcats, too bad they played their worst game of the season.

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  3. It's something I found out about only recently. But please don't come to any more Charlotte games since you were 0-2 here :) Well okay the Checkers did get a point on Friday and that stands as the difference between them and Hershey in the standings.

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  4. Apologies for the jinx, have left Charlotte and noticed they beat the Raptors in their next game, much to my chagrin.

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