The Checkers traveled to Pennsylvania this past weekend for a pair of preseason contests, splitting the series with the Lehigh Valley Phantoms.
Friday’s game saw the Checkers on the winning side of a lopsided 6-1 final. After Charlotte jumped ahead with two goals late in the first period by camp invite Mike Kirkpatrick and rookie forward Andrew Poturalski, the Phantoms cut the lead in half with a strike just 18 seconds into the second. That would be the end of their rally attempt, however, as the Checkers would pump in four more goals in the middle frame, including three in a span of less than four minutes. Brody Sutter and camp invite Mike Kirkpatrick led the way with three points each, with the latter finding the back of the net twice. Jake Chelios also notched a multi-point game with a goal and an assist. In net, rookie Alex Nedeljkovic stood tall, turning aside 28 of the 29 shots he was peppered with.
Saturday wasn’t as friendly to the visitors. The Checkers fell behind by two goals midway through the second period before Erik Karlsson lit the lamp on a feed from Andrew Poturalski and newcomer Matt Tennyson to cut that lead down to one heading into the final frame. But the Phantoms poured it on in the third, striking three times and pulling away. Clark Bishop would net a goal late in regulation but it wasn’t enough as the Checkers fell 5-2. Daniel Altshuller manned the crease for the whole game, surrendering four goals on 37 shots.
Regardless of the results, the two preseason tilts did their job in giving head coach Ulf Samuelsson a glimpse into his team.
“We got a good opportunity to see what we have a little deeper,” said Samuelsson. “It gave us a lot of good ideas and areas to focus in on. So we should have a really good week of practice here before the real games start.”
It also gave the coaching staff a chance to put their systems into place and see how the pieces will come together.
“Our identity is sort of laid out already with how we want to play,” said Samuelsson. “We want to play a fast game, we want to have the puck a lot and we want to play very hard when we’re on the ice. Now it’s just a matter of getting the players to play the way that our system demands they play.”
As for the disparity in final scores from Friday to Saturday, the coaches saw several things that factored in, but overall didn’t see too much of a difference in the level of play.
“Statistically I think they were pretty close when we break them down,” said Samuelsson. “In the first game we scored at the right time and got the momentum going for us. In the second game, we started with too many penalty kills in the first period so a lot of guys couldn’t get in the game. It was hard for guys to get involved with such a weird first period.”
The team will take that two-game sample into a week of practice before opening up the regular season with a pair of contests against the Texas Stars on Friday and Saturday.