Santtu Kinnunen
The Checkers pushed themselves back into the win column Saturday, turning in a gutsy 3-1 victory over the Penguins.

The tight contest saw both teams emerge scoreless from the first period, but the Checkers snared the lead early on in the middle frame as Lucas Carlsson jumped into the action and found the back of the net on a quick shot from in close.

The Checkers hunkered down with that lead and never surrendered it from there. Santtu Kinnunen sniped a point shot on the power play to double the lead midway through the third, and when the Penguins were finally able to break through later in that frame, Gerry Mayhew came up with a swift response to push the lead back to a pair.

The Penguins launched one last effort down the stretch, including an extended six-on-four attack, but the Checkers were up to the task. While the team suppressed much of the Pens’ shooting opportunities, Mack Guzda came through when called upon - finishing the night with 19 saves and carrying Charlotte across the finish line.


Coach Geordie Kinnear on the game
It was just a gutsy effort. I thought both teams were kind of slugging it out a little bit. I think that team is on to a bit of a stretch and we’re on a bit of a stretch. I like the way we got to our game there, especially in the second period I thought we got to it pretty good. Obviously special teams stepped up tonight and it was a big goal by Kinny off a faceoff win. You look at the PK at the end blocking shots, that’s what it’s about. Sometimes you have to have that gutsy effort to be able to get the job done. I thought we did that.

Kinnear on taking the first lead at any point in this home stand
You want the first goal, right? You’ve got to be able to score to win the hockey game. We had a 1-0 lead but we didn’t want to change how we were playing. It was just a gutsy effort. Not always pretty, but a gutsy effort. Again, I thought in the second period we got going.

Kinnear on Johnny Ludvig’s defensive effort
They have some elite shooters over there and some high-end skill, and I thought he did a great job obviously. Paying a price to keep the puck out of the net. That’s how he got hurt earlier on in the year, but those are the intangibles that, as a group and as individuals, in the end you have to be able to have. There are going to be mistakes and it’s how you react afterwards. Give him a lot of credit, but that’s how we want to build over time. That’s the ultimate. To win in the end you’ve got to have a lot of grit to be able to do that, and he showed that tonight.

Kinnear on breaking a two-game losing streak
We’re not going to win them all. It’s just about that growth moving forward. We definitely didn’t like the game on Tuesday, but we learned from that. The effort was there the next game against Hartford and we just fell on the short end of the stick and didn’t get the result, but we liked a lot of the things we did and liked the things we did today. Now we’ve got to follow it up again and just keep building our identity. What I do appreciate is a lot of guys that stepped up with more quality time on ice and seized the opportunity. That needs to continue too.

Johnny Ludvig on the win
It’s huge. We’ve had a tough schedule for the past three weeks here since the Christmas break so we’re just trying to get any points we can right now against these divisional teams.

Ludvig on defensemen leading the scoring tonight
That’s key for any team, I think. You want to have good production from your back end and we’ve been working hard at it. It’s nice to see it paying off.

Ludvig on blocking shots
It’s something I’ve had since I was young and I’m always going to have that even though I got hit in the face. It doesn’t scare me at all anyways. It’s just something that I do and I’ve got to keep doing to help this team win.

Santtu Kinnunen on the win
It’s amazing. We needed the win and I think we pushed ourselves in the third period. We got the win and it’s feeling good, but we need to win again tomorrow.

Kinnunen on his goal
It’s always nice to score, but I’m happy if someone scores. Now it’s me, but maybe sometimes it’s someone else. I’m just happy to win.

Kinnunen on Mack Guzda
He’s a good goalie. I like him. When we have bad moments he’s been the rock in our back. He’s been awesome and I think we can let a little less shots for him so it will be easier for him.

Kinnunen on tomorrow’s rematch
We just need to take the good things like we played in the last period and play like that tomorrow. Special teams were a big part of this game, and we just need to keep continuing tomorrow.


The Checkers passed the Penguins to claim sole possession of third in the Atlantic Division … Carlsson’s goal marked the first time the Checkers have led in any point in their current home stand (two previous losses to Hartford) … This was Ludvig’s second career multi-point game and first of the season … The Checkers improved to 3-2-0 against the Penguins this season … Aleksi Heponiemi has 10 points (2g, 8a) in his last 10 games … Kinnunen has eight points (4g, 4a) in his last 10 games … The Checkers were a perfect 5-for-5 on the penalty kill … Checkers scratches included forwards Logan Hutsko and Justin Sourdif, and defenseman Calle Sjalin and Zach Uens.