During the season, Checkers broadcaster TJ Chillot checks in with a weekly blog highlighting everything Checkers hockey.
I know, it feels like just yesterday that we had an edition of In The Trapezoid with TJ, but hey, with all the great stuff going on, I have thoughts! I’d love to share them with you, so let’s get to it!

Love To Loaves And Fishes

I wanted to start off this week’s In the Trapezoid with a huge THANK YOU to the fans on behalf of the Checkers, AlphaGraphics South Charlotte and Loaves and Fishes Friendship Trays. On Dec. 3, we hosted our annual food drive presented by AlphaGraphics South Charlotte, and the drive brought in 3,500 lbs of food for Loaves and Fishes Friendship Trays - QUINTUPLING the intake brought in during last season’s drive. If you were one of those giving folks who donated, thank you. Your support means more than you know to the families who will benefit from this drive.

The Great Outdoors

Yesterday’s outdoor practice at Truist Field was such a beautiful sight to behold. If you didn’t get the chance to check out the Checkers on the ODR, or if you just want to relive some of the sights, check out these amazing shots by the Checkers photography and videography team.

Former Checkers vs. Former Checkers

In the first two weeks of December, the Seattle Kraken and Florida Panthers matched up twice. With the Panthers being the current affiliate of the Checkers and the Kraken spending a one-year affiliation with Charlotte last year, the amount of former Checkers on the ice was astonishing. Seven players suited up for both teams that have ties to Charlotte including Morgan Geekie and Cale Fleury with the Kraken and Zac Dalpe, Chris Tierney, Matt Kiersted, Eetu Luostarinen, and Gustav Forsling for the Panthers. It’s obvious that this town knows how to develop hockey players. Who said the South isn’t a hockey market?

Contributing For The Cats

Speaking of former Checkers, Kiersted, Tierney, Dalpe, and Lyon were all recalled by Florida in early December. Here’s a quick look at how the guys have done in the National Hockey League.

Dalpe - 4 games played, 3 points (2g, 1a)

Tierney - 4 games played, 3 points (2g, 1a)

Kiersted - 4 games played, 3 points (1g, 2a)

Lyon - Yet to see game action, but that could change if Spencer Knight remains sidelined

What more could you ask for if you’re the Florida Panthers? One of the best parts is, a lot of those points are coming on plays with their Checkers teammates. For instance, Dalpe’s first goal in the NHL this season was assisted by Tierney and Kiersted. On Sunday, Tierney scored a goal assisted by Dalpe and Kiersted. You love to see it!

Plight In Pennsylvania

It wasn’t a great outing for the Checkers this past week in PA, having dropped a midweek contest to the Hershey Bears before being swept by the Lehigh Valley Phantoms over the weekend. Charlotte was outscored 12-4 in those three contests and struggled to get moving offensively. It was the second time this season the Checkers have lost three straight on the road and the first time they lost three straight in regulation on the road - or at home for that matter.

It's Guzda's Goal

One player that continues to play well, even in the losses, is Mack Guzda. He had one start in the three-game PA stretch, and even though Charlotte fell, it was a solid performance by the rookie who only surrendered two goals against the Phantoms - a team that would go on and put up six the very next night. In total, Guzda has a very respectable stat line which puts him in the top 10 among all rookie goaltenders in the league in categories such as goals-against-average, save percentage, wins, minutes, and total goals against.

Playing A Clean Game

Though the penalty kill has been less-than-stellar in the last few games, the Checkers overall are a team that doesn’t commit infractions. On average, Charlotte has 10.96 penalty minutes per game which puts them fifth-fewest in the entire league. So I guess when your PK unit is struggling, one of the saving graces is “It can always be worse”. They could be sitting in the box for 22 minutes per game.

Score First

It’s cliche, but the team that scores first in any given contest controls their own destiny. When you’re at home you bring the crowd into the game and make it that much harder for the visitors to get going, and when you’re on the road you give yourself a leg up on the team with home-ice advantage. The Checkers are no exception, and they play their best hockey when scoring the game’s first goal. Through the first 24 games of the season, the Checkers have scored the opening goal 11 times and have a record of 8-2-1 in those games. That’s points in nine of 11! A huge number when you consider that the Checkers’ overall record is 12-9-2-1. Most of their wins, and very few of their losses, have come when scoring first.

Four Before

Up next, the Checkers look to right the ship with four games at Bojangles Coliseum before the holiday break. Up first, Charlotte takes on Rochester this weekend followed by a two-game set against the Providence Bruins on Dec. 22 and 23.

The Americans come into this weekend’s game in second place in the North with 26 standings points. By comparison, the Checkers have 27 points and sit in fifth place in the Atlantic. I think that says a lot about how competitive the Atlantic is. Overall, the Checkers are 2-1-1 against teams in the North Division this year, having split series with Syracuse and Utica previously.

As for Providence, they’ve slipped back into second place in the Atlantic behind the Hershey Bears but the Checkers are still winless against Providence this season with a 0-3-0-0 record. This is the first time the two teams will play outside of Amica Mutual Pavilion.

Get your tickets now by visiting CharlotteCheckers.com! There are plenty of good promotions coming up, including Share the Warmth Night presented by Piedmont Natural Gas on Dec. 17 - where fans can receive a free Checkers branded blanket while supplies last - and so much more. Looking forward to seeing you at the Boplex!