During the season, Checkers broadcaster TJ Chillot checks in with a weekly blog highlighting everything Checkers hockey.
We’re back for another In the Trapezoid with TJ - and we’re smack dab in the middle of one of the longest road trips of the season. Three games under our belts on this current tour of the Northeast, with three more to go! Let’s take a look back, try to peer into the future, and talk about all things Checkers as the 2022-23 season rolls on.

Keep That Puck

The Checkers’ youth movement has seen a surge as of late and it’s come with a bunch of firsts! Riley Bezeau, Ethan Keppen, Justin Sourdif, and Zach Uens all registered their first pro goals in the month of November. In total, the Checkers are getting some good production from their rooks, with a combined 13 points from their six first-year players. Sourdif leads the way with five points, while every other rookie has at least one point. (Except for Mack Guzda, but that’s not really fair, is it?)

The Not-So-Divine City

The Checkers have struggled in Providence over the last two seasons, to say the least. After this past weekend’s games, Charlotte is now 1-5 at Dunkin’ Donuts Center/Amica Mutual Pavilion going back to the beginning of 2021-22. The only win was the final regular season game in 2021-22, the game in which the Checkers clinched the Atlantic Division. I guess if you’re only going to be victorious in one of six, that’s the one to win. There’s one more game this season to be played in Rhode Island, not counting any potential playoff matchups of course, and that’s February 24, 2023, and much like Friday’s game, it’s the first of a three-in-three.

A Date (Again) With The Wolf Pack

With a total of 12 games under their belts in the early part of the season, the Checkers have already seen the Wolf Pack four times. Quick math tells you that 33% of their first month and a half were contests against the Hartford heavies. That percentage only goes up with Wednesday’s mid-week showdown at XL Center. So far, the Checkers are 3-0-1-0 in their first four against the last-place Wolf Pack, and following that game, the two teams won’t meet again until January at Bojangle’ Coliseum.

Giving A Spark

Even though the Checkers dropped their most recent game to the Providence Bruins, it was an up-and-down affair that saw momentum swing like a pendulum. After the Bruins jumped out to a 3-0 lead less than a minute into the second period, it was clear that SOMETHING needed to be done. Like a mechanic coming to jump-start to a car, enter Patrick Giles. The rookie forward locked horns with former Checker Dan Renouf and suddenly the tide began to turn. Charlotte’s entire bench fed off the bout and quickly registered 10 consecutive shots on goal. While none of those blasts beat Brandon Bussi, their next one did. It was only a matter of time before the dam broke, and it was all due to the large momentum shift that Giles provided with his grit.

The 555

One thing the Checkers’ last three games have in common? Each game ended with Charlotte surrendering five goals. While the Checkers managed to win one of those games, the idea of giving up five goals per game is not a habit they’re looking to develop. It’d be easy to just blame the netminders if you looked solely at the box score and saw four goals on 26 shots, five goals on 27 shots, and four goals on 35 shots. In reality, the unforced errors in the defensive zone and the loose puck protection in transition are where I’d look at improving before blaming it on the masked men.

A New Challenger Approaches

After playing Hartford what seems like a million times, the Checkers will open their season series against the Springfield Thunderbirds on Saturday, November 19th. This is a much different Springfield team than the one that ousted the Checkers from the playoffs last year. Without Sam Anas (now in Hershey), Matthew Peca (rostered, but has yet to play in a game this season), and Nathan Walker (made NHL roster), they’ve been without their top three scorers from a year ago. That said, they still have great playmakers like Keean Washkurak and Hugh McGing, plus veritable veterans like Tommy Cross. At the time I’m writing this article, the Thunderbirds are tied with the Checkers in standings points with 14. I personally feel the rivalry will be renewed on Saturday. When last year’s Checkers remember how the T-birds ended their Calder Cup bid, I think Charlotte will be an unstoppable force.

Winnable Games

The Checkers have three winnable games staring them in the face as they wrap up this six-game road trip. - Wednesday, November 16 at Hartford (a team the Checkers have had great success against so far this season) - Friday, November 18 at Bridgeport (a team the Checkers took to a shootout and nearly escaped with the victory) - Saturday, November 19 at Springfield (a team that the Checkers haven’t seen yet this year, but boy do they remember last year)

With two points out of a possible six so far on this roadie, I’m looking to see how the team rebounds. I don’t think it’s a stretch when I say they can win two or more games before coming home. The Checkers only have two wins in their last eight, and with a big showing against Hartford, Bridgeport, and Springfield, I can see this back-half of the road trip being the kick starter to a similar stat line - but one that goes in their favor.