Just like the night before, the first 20 minutes were a scoreless deadlock. This time it would be the Checkers who broke through, however, as Rasmus Asplund buried a wrister from the slot early on in the second and Khodorenko doubled the lead late with a slick redirect of a Santtu Kinnunen feed.
The Checkers clamped down on their advantage in the third, and Will Lockwood gave them some insurance midway through as he jammed home a loose puck on the power play. The Penguins eventually found the back of the net with under four minutes to play, but Khodorenko quickly threw water on any comeback hopes with an empty-net dagger just seconds later to seal Charlotte’s first victory of the season.
Guzda put together a gem of a performance between the pipes for the home side, stopping 32 of the 33 shots he faced in his first start of the season. The second-year-netminder also played a big role in the Checkers shutting down the Penguins’ power-play unit, which went 0-for-4 on the night.
First game ✅— Charlotte Checkers (@CheckersHockey) October 14, 2023
First goal ✅
Welcome to the club, Patrick Khodorenko! pic.twitter.com/tLWtu0Nmvz
We got better as a group. We needed to make some corrections and collectively get better and individually get better. Some guys got opportunities that had to watch yesterday’s game, so overall part of the process and a step in the right direction.
Kinnear on Mack Guzda
Hard work always pays off. The hardest part is doing the work when you’re in the moment, and I’m proud of the work he put in. Some of those other guys stepped in tonight that had to watch and have worked hard all summer long. I’m proud of the whole group. You always want to reward your work and obviously he was one of the guys rewarded tonight.
Kinnear on Patrick Khodorenko
It's about opportunities and being ready for it. You look at him, he didn’t play a lot of hockey last year. Had an injury, had to work through it. The mental toughness to miss a whole year is not easy, and then make the most of your opportunity.
Kinnear on Dalpe’s 500th AHL game
It's awesome. The job we have, we’re obviously blessed. He’s been blessed to have a great hockey career. You look at him last year with the Stanley Cup Finals, I know that meant a lot to him because he’s put in a lot of hard work in the minors and the mental challenges along the way. I’m proud of him, I’m proud that he’s a Charlotte Checker and I’m proud of seeing him from day one in the American Hockey League to where we are now. We’ve come full circle and we’re enjoying being around the rink together.
Zac Dalpe on getting the first win
I think it’s part of the reason you play, to have that winning environment. You want to come out of the gate hot and yesterday didn’t go the way we wanted it to but we built it today. It’s a party around here. Saturday night in Charlotte.
Dalpe on his 500th AHL game
I’m most proud of the people sticking with me through the ups and downs. I’ve had a lot of injuries in my career, and I’ve been staring at this number for a while. To get to this number is a testament not only to my hard work but my wife and my dad and my brothers and my extended family. It’s special. You grow up wanting to play pro hockey and the fact that you get to lace them up for 500 in any league is a privilege. I’m just happy to finally get it out of the way.
Dalpe on getting recognition from his teammates
The AHL is a great league, but it’s tough travel and you grind and you try to make it to the NHL. You have peaks and valleys a little bit here and there and you plateau, and I think people realize how hard it is, and I’m proud of getting to that. It’s pretty special that the guys acknowledge it for sure.
Mack Guzda on hard work this summer paying off
Absolutely. Once you get to the regular season, you get in a game and everything you work toward all summer, you get to see it. That goes for our whole group. Everybody put in work this summer and we went through a tough training camp together. Now we’re ready to get rolling and we’re excited.
Patrick Khodorenko on his goals
It’s definitely huge, just for the confidence. Credit to all the other guys because we all played a hell of a game. PK, Guzda was unbelievable and I got lucky on (Kinnunen) making a great play to me and I was lucky enough to be right there on the back door. I’ve just got to build off that.
Khodorenko on coming into the lineup after sitting last night
I just wanted to come in, do my part and contribute. I’ve been out for a year, I had shoulder surgery last year, and I just wanted to get my feet wet, play a solid game and keep it simple. I thought I did a pretty good job of that. It’s going to be competitive all year because we have a lot of good players in the locker room, so you’ve got to be on top of it every day.