Monday, November 24, 2014

Checkers reach tentative agreement to return to Bojangles' Coliseum

The Bojangles’ Coliseum  -- the site of the first professional hockey game in Charlotte – will celebrate its 60th anniversary next year and there is now an agreement in place for it to do so with a new anchor tenant and a $16 million dollar renovation.

The Charlotte Checkers of the American Hockey League announced on Monday that they have reached a tentative agreement with the Charlotte Regional Visitors’ Authority to return to Bojangles’ Coliseum beginning with the 2015-16 season. 

Next year would mark the first of a 10-year deal the team has struck with the CRVA, which contains two additional five-year options, and is contingent upon a Charlotte City Council vote to approve $16 million in funding for renovations that are necessary to raise the building to AHL standards.

The initial plan for renovations ($12 million previously proposed for amateur sports and civic events and $4 million to accommodate the Checkers) was given in a city council meeting on Monday and the vote will take place on Dec. 8.

Upgrades would include a new high-tech scoreboard, external digital marquees, digital ribbon boards, new seats, new premium seating areas, internal branding specific to the Checkers and new hockey related amenities.

“We are extremely excited about the possibility of returning to our roots at Bojangles’ Coliseum,” said Tera Black, the Checkers’ chief operating officer. “We believe the move to such a historic arena that’s been updated with all the amenities would be greatly beneficial for our organization, our fans and the city of Charlotte.”

The relocation to the Bojangles’ Coliseum would make for a homecoming for the Checkers, who often ran up against the logistical issues of sharing Time Warner Cable Arena with the NBA’s Charlotte Hornets.  

The Queen City adopted the Baltimore Clippers in January of 1956 and a crowd of 10,363 mobbed the Coliseum on a chilly Monday night to see the team play its first game against New Haven (see the photo to the right).

Police had to turn away a reported 3,000 more fans, but the clear interest in the sport sparked Clippers owner Charlie Rock to ask the league to make the move permanent.

The following year, the team’s name was changed to the Checkers. The team occupied the facility at various points between then and 2005, when it moved to its current location at Time Warner Cable Arena.

Although it’s a move away from a more developed area of Charlotte, the relocation will have some immediate positive impacts for the Checkers, who will be the anchor residents of the arena.

At Time Warner, the Checkers were able to schedule just eight Friday night home games this season. By comparison, the Providence Bruins – typically among the AHL’s top drawing teams – boast 19 Friday night games this season.

The club also struggles to secure ice time at TWCA and is often forced to practice in Indian Trail, which would no longer be an issue at the Coliseum.

“I just think there’s a lot of new fans that probably don’t know the arena like it was back when I played there,” said Pat Kelley, who coached the Checkers from 1973-76.

“The days (of play) will be so much better. Your big nights are your Friday and Saturday nights. And with everything else that goes on at Time Warner Cable Arena with concerts and basketball, they just weren’t able to secure all that many.”

Kelly, who is at the majority of the Checkers games nowadays as an official’s supervisor for the AHL, said that he still remembers his time at the Coliseum – some of it spent on the road as a player for the Greensboro Generals of the Eastern Hockey League – fondly.

“It’s noisy and it’s loud and I don’t think there’s any bad seat in that arena,” Kelly said. “When Greensboro and Charlotte used to play you couldn’t find a seat.”

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Charlotte Checkers to wear Hornets jerseys in Nov. 29 matchup with Admirals

The Checkers will dawn specialty “Charlotte Hornets” themed jerseys for next Saturday’s showdown with the Milwaukee Admirals at Time Warner Cable Arena on Nov. 29th.

The jerseys (pictured to the right), which feature the new Charlotte Hornets emblem and color scheme, will be auctioned off for charity following the game. The Checkers also plan to raffle off one prior to the game via their social media account. 

The 29th is also the morning of the Charlotte Checkers third annual 5K Run & Walk, which benefits the Checkers Charitable Foundation. Those that register for the 5K will receive a ticket to the night’s Checkers game. 

The 29th is one of three nights the Checkers plan to wear specialty jerseys this season. They'll wear race-themed duds for the annual "Race Night" game against the Oklahoma City Barons on Jan. 23 and Pink sweaters for their Pink in the Rink Weekend game against the Chicago Wolves on Feb. 7. 

Game 14: Norfolk Admirals at Charlotte Checkers

Puck Drop: Tuesday, 7 p.m.

TV/Radio info: AHL Live / Online

Records: Checkers 4-8-1, Admirals 6-8-0

Charlotte returns home for a showdown against Norfolk before traveling to Oklahoma City for games Friday and Saturday. The Checkers ran into a hot San Antonio team last weekend and recorded one point in their two-game showdown (0-1-1). With Friday’s overtime loss, the Checkers earned a point in back-to-back games for the first time this season. They're still searching for consecutive wins.

Norfolk is hoping to inch back towards the .500 mark after splitting a pair of home games against Binghamton on Friday and Saturday. Tonight's game is the first of eight meetings between Charlotte and Norfolk (its closest opponent in terms of geographic distance). With four of those meetings coming between now and December 10, expect the two teams to become quite familiar.

Notes: After recording one point (an assist) in his first five games, Checkers forward Greg Nemisz has six goals and three assists in his past eight, including two game-winners. … After missing eight games with an upper-body injury (suffered in an Oct. 12 game at Chicago), forward Justin Shugg returned to the lineup this past weekend and recorded a goal in each game. ... Rookie Brock McGinn has one goal on 29 shots this season. His 3.4-percent shooting percentage is the lowest of any Checker who has found the back of the net at least one time. With Jared Staal (injury) ruled out for Tuesday's game, the Checkers have signed left wing Gabriel Desjardins to a professional tryout contract. The 22-year-old is expected to be ready to play against Norfolk. Desjardins joins the Checkers from their ECHL affiliate in Florida, where he posted nine points (5g, 4a) in 12 games.  Two former Checkers -- Matthew Pistilli and Casey Pierro-Zabotel -- signed PTO's with the Admirals this past Monday.

Checkers projected lines: 

Andrew Rowe-A.J. Jenks-Phil Di Giuseppe
Brock McGinn-Kyle Jean-Justin Shugg
Gabriel Desjardens-Greg Nemisz-Chad LaRose
Kyle Hagel-Brendan Woods-Alex Aleardi

Michal Jordan-Ryan Murphy
Trevor Carrick-Danny Biega
Rasmus Rissanen-Keegan Lowe

John Muse
Drew MacIntyre

Healthy scratches: Dennis Robertson, Beau Schmitz, Carter Sandlak (finishing final game of four-game suspension)

Injured/out: Ben Holmstrom (shoulder), Patrick Brown (undisclosed), Brody Sutter (undisclosed), Jared Staal (undisclosed)  

Monday, November 10, 2014

Charlotte Checkers rebound in big way from bad loss with 3-1 win over Texas Stars on Monday

Checkers goalie Drew MacIntyre called his team together following Monday night’s 3-1 win over the Texas Stars at Time Warner Cable Arena.

The Checkers had entered the night looking to rebound from their worst defeat of the season this past Saturday, in which the defending Calder Cup champion Stars chased MacIntyre 10 minutes into the first period on their way to an 8-2 win.

“MacIntyre stopped us and kind of just let us know that we’ve got to bring that effort both games,” said Checkers forward Brendan Woods, who netted his first goal of the season in the win.

“It was an embarrassing night,” MacIntyre said of Saturday, where he allowed four first-period goals on nine shots. “I was ashamed, individually, and team-wise, it was one of the worst I’ve seen in my career. It was an absolute schooling, but it’s huge that we can respond like this.”

MacIntyre finished Monday night with 28 saves on 29 shots.

The Checkers were able to respond despite getting hit from every angle from a personal standpoint on Monday, with a player recalled to the NHL (Michal Jordan), an injury (Patrick Brown), and a suspension (Carter Sandlak).

As a result, Charlotte filled the hole by signing 24-year-old left wing Kyle Jean – who came to the team from the Greenville Road Warriors, where put up 10 points (6g, 4a) in nine games – to a professional tryout contract.

The Checkers (4-7-0) got some help getting on the board early, when two Stars defenders collided during a power play, springing Danny Biega for a breakaway.

Texas goalie Jack Campbell (29 saves) stopped Biega’s initial shot, but Woods was there for the put-back goal. 

"Biega came out of nowhere and I just followed up the play and the puck was sitting right there," said Woods (1-4-5) who moved into a tie with Phil Di Giuseppe for second on the team in points. "They did all the hard work; I just did the easy part." 

The two teams traded goals in the second period, but it was easily Charlotte’s best of the night.

The lone hiccup came at the thee minute, 44 second mark, when Charlotte failed to control a puck in its own zone and it led to Travis Morin's sixth goal of the season. 

Greg Nemisz helped the Checkers respond five minutes later, netting his team-leading fifth of the season, with a wraparound attempt that trickled under Campbell’s pads.

Brett Sutter added an empty-netter late to seal the win for the Checkers.

“I think we learned a big lesson this weekend,” said MacIntyre. “We pretty much play teams back-to-back all season and it’s tough. I’ve been on teams that have done it before and if you beat a team, it’s really hard to beat them again. So, we have to be better, more consistent. Hopefully we learned that lesson this weekend.”

The Checkers will now travel to San Antonio to play two games with the Rampage beginning on Friday.

Game 11: Texas Stars at Charlotte Checkers

Puck Drop: Monday, 6 p.m.

TV/Radio info: AHL Live / ESPN 730

Records: Checkers 3-7-0, Stars 6-2-2

The Charlotte Checkers will look to rebound from their worst defeat of the season this past Saturday, in which the Texas Stars chased goalie Drew MacIntyre 10 minutes into the first period on their way to an 8-2 win at Time Warner Cable Arena. Tonight is the first of three games for Charlotte this week. The Checkers will travel to San Antonio to play two games with the Rampage beginning on Friday.

Notes: The Carolina Hurricanes recalled defenseman Michal Jordan from the Charlotte Checkers Monday morning. Jordan, who totaled two assists in 10 games for the Checkers this season, will be available for Carolina’s game tonight against the Calgary Flames. ... The AHL, on Monday, announced a four-game suspension for rookie Carter Sandlak, leaving the Checkers short one forward for tonight's rematch with Texas. Charlotte filled that hole by signing left wing Kyle Jean to a professional tryout contract. ... Sandlak, 21, earned a match penalty during Saturday's game against Texas for throwing a punch at unsuspecting Stars forward Gemel Smith. ... Sandlak will be eligible to play next on November 20 at Oklahoma City. ... Jean, a 24-year-old Michigan native, comes to the team from the Greenville Road Warriors, where put up 10 points (6g, 4a) in nine games. ... Patrick Brown did not participate in today's morning skate and will miss tonight's game due to injury, per head coach Jeff Daniels. Brown went to the locker room at one point during Saturday's loss, but returned later in the period. ... The Checkers six points in the standings is their lowest total through 10 games in the team's five-year history. ... Stars C Travis Morin (5-12-17) enters Monday leading the Stars in goals, assists and points. ... Derek Hulak recorded a hat trick against the Checkers on Saturday. ... Monday is Teacher Appreciation Night. 

Checkers projected lines: 

Phil Di Giuseppe-Greg Nemisz-Alex Aleardi
Andrew Rowe- Brody Sutter-Chad LaRose
Brock McGinn-A.J. Jenks-Kyle Jean
Kyle Hagel-Brendan Woods-Jared Staal

Rasmus Rissanen-Danny Biega
Trevor Carrick-Ryan Murphy
Dennis Robertson-Keegan Lowe

Drew MacIntyre
John Muse

Healthy scratches: Dennis Robertson, Beau Schmitz, Carter Sandlak (suspended)

Injured/out: Justin Shugg (upper-body injury), Ben Holmstrom (shoulder), Patrick Brown (undisclosed) 

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Game 10: Texas Stars at Charlotte Checkers

Puck Drop: Saturday, 7 p.m.

TV/Radio info: AHL Live and TWC SportsChannel 323 / ESPN 730

Records: Checkers 3-6-0, Stars 5-2-2

The Checkers will look to build off their first home victory of the season this weekend as they play two with the Texas Stars, the first coming this Saturday and the rematch Monday at 6 pm.

Notes: Checkers assistant captain Greg Nemisz has been red-hot offensively with five points in his last four games. Nemisz scored both Checkers goals in their 2-1 win over Hamilton at Time Warner Cable Arena this past Sunday. His four goals this season are tops on the team. … The Checkers signed forward Andrew Rowe to a PTO prior to last Sunday’s win. The game was the fourth in as many nights for Rowe, who began the season with South Carolina (ECHL). He played well despite some tired legs, making his performance on Friday something worth keeping an eye on. … The Checkers, have average 1.89 goals per game, which ranks 29th in the AHL. They have been held to a single goal in five of their eight games this season, all losses. … With five fights in Sunday's game against Hamilton, Charlotte now ranks third in the league with 16 major penalties. Forward Kyle Hagel leads the AHL in major penalties with five, and defenseman Trevor Carrick is tied for the major penalties lead among rookies with three. … Drew MacIntyre has started seven of the first nine games in net. MacIntyre, a 12th-year pro who appeared in 48 games for the Toronto Marlies last season, currently ranks fourth in the AHL with 206 saves. … Stars C Travis Morin (5-9-14) enters Friday leading the Stars in goals, assists and points. Saturday is Military Appreciation Night, Camo Checkers hats will be given to the first 2,500 fans. … Monday is Teacher Appreciation Night.

Raleigh Updates: The Hurricanes enter Friday on a four-game winning streak thanks to Thursday's 3-2 overtime win over the Columbus Blue Jackets.  Former Checkers C Elias Lindholm has 3 game-winning goals (all within the last 4 games). That ranks him tied for first in the NHL in that category.

Checkers lines: 

Andrew Rowe- Brody Sutter-Chad LaRose
Phil Di Giuseppe-Patrick Brown-Alex Aleardi
Brock McGinn-A.J. Jenks-Greg Nemisz
Carter Sandlak-Brendan Woods-Jared Staal

Rasmus Rissanen-Michal Jordan
Trevor Carrick-Danny Biega
Keegan Lowe-Ryan Murphy

Drew MacIntyre
John Muse

Healthy scratches: Dennis Robertson, Beau Schmitz

Injured/out: Justin Shugg (upper-body injury), Ben Holmstrom (shoulder), Kyle Hagel (undisclosed) 

Friday, November 7, 2014

Video: AHL changes rules to prevent goalies from intentionally dislodging own net

In the midst of his fifth consecutive season in the American Hockey League, 30-year-old Bridgeport Sound Tigers goalie David Leggio found an interesting way to turn the odds in his favor.

This Sunday, Leggio avoided facing a 2-on-0 breakaway by simply turning around and flipping his own net off its moorings before having to face a shot.

As a result, Springfield was awarded a penalty shot, which Leggio stopped.

Knocking his net over, effectively turned a 2-on-0 into a 1-on-0 and video of his quick thinking didn’t take long to go viral. It has over 1,145,000 views as of the posting of this story.

Don’t expect many goalies to follow Leggio’s example, thought. According to Darren Dreger, the AHL has reviewed the play and has made a goalie intentionally dislodging his net a game misconduct.

"I really didn't think it was a big deal, to be honest. I just thought I made a play based on the rules," Leggio told the Connecticut Post on Tuesday. "I was laughing a lot. I got some funny messages from people."

Later in the article, Leggio went on to joke:

"Maybe they'll change the rule. Name it after me, no big deal. I was just trying to make a play to help my team win."

Well Played Mr. Leggio.

UPDATE: The voice of the Charlotte Checkers, Jason Shaya offered a couple thoughts on Leggio's actions earlier this week.

"(Leggio) tweeted the following day that this is a tactic they actually teach in his goaltending school (amongst other delay strategies)," Shaya wrote during his weekly '10 Thoughts' post on "Also, because he stopped the penalty shot that was awarded against him, his gamble clearly paid off. But now I would assume that this will be reviewed by the AHL rules committee.

"One more thing about Leggio throwing the net off its pegs," Shaya continued. "I find it strange that his first reaction was to find a way out of the circumstance rather than to immediately engage in making a save. A goaltender, at the most crucial moments, you would think, should instinctively go into fight mode, not flight. How many times have you ever seen a goalie turn his back to the play that is coming in his direction? I doubt many goalies would even conceive of the idea." 

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Greg Nemisz nets two in Charlotte Checkers first home win

Entering Sunday, the Charlotte Checkers had generated only a single goal in each of their three home games this season.

Greg Nemisz put an end to that trend all by himself, scoring a goal in the second and third periods to lead the Checkers over the Hamilton Bulldogs, 2-1, in front of 3,753 at Time Warner Cable Arena .

“Nemo, for me, is just a real solid pro with his voice in the locker room and the way he prepares for practice every day,” said Checkers coach Jeff Daniels of Nemisz, who now leads Charlotte with six points (four goals, two assists). “He put up a lot of points in junior (hockey) and it hasn’t happened yet at the pro level... but he’s off to a good start.”

The win – which featured five fights – was the Checkers’ first at home this season and improved the team to 3-6-0 overall, while also serving as revenge for a 3-1 loss to the Bulldogs this past Friday.

“We came to the rink today with a chip on our shoulder – enough is enough,” said Daniels. “It wasn’t our plan to fight five times, it just kind of happened. It got a little chippy at times, but for the most part it was a pretty honest game.”

After taking a 1-0 lead over the Bulldogs on Friday and then surrendering three unanswered goals, the Checkers found themselves in a similar position on Sunday.

Nemisz’ first – a backhanded chip past Hamilton goalie Mike Condon (31 saves) – came a minute and 47 seconds into the second period. Early on in the third, Hamilton evened the game at 1-1, thanks to a puck that bounced off the backside of Drew MacIntyre (24 saves) and slid just over the goal line.

The Checkers response, left coach Daniels impressed.

“(The game) could have gone either way with the mindset of our team, but I thought the shift after that (goal) was a really good shift by Brownie’s line (Phil Di Giuseppe-Patrick Brown-Alex Aleardi)," Daniels said. "They just went in there, were moving their legs, had some zone time and we moved on from it.”

Midway through the second period, Nemisz was sent hard into the boards by Connor Crisp and was slow to get up, as Charlotte defenseman Carter Sandlak and Crisp dropped the gloves.

In the third, Nemisz got revenge, batting home the rebound from a power-play shot off the stick of Ryan Murphy for the game-winning goal.

“As much as you want to play with a lead through 60 minutes it doesn’t always happen,” Daniels said. “Goals happen and it’s just how you respond to it. We didn’t respond well on Friday but I thought we responded well today.”

NOTES: With two goals on Sunday, Greg Nemisz now has 17 points (7g, 10a) in 23 games since his acquisition from Calgary last season. The two-goal game was his first since 2012. … Andrew Rowe, who signed with the team early on Sunday to play for the suspended Brock McGinn, played his fourth game in four days. He finished the game with four shots on goal. “He played a three-in-three and all of the sudden you get in the car, get in at two this morning and then play at one a clock,” Daniels said. “I thought he gave us everything he had and I thought he did some good things. We’ll see how this week goes about with injuries and whatnot and we’ll see where he fits in.”… 20-year-old rookie defenseman Trevor Carrick has impressed coach Daniels with his play thus far. “He’s been a pleasant surprise for us,” Daniels said. “He’s a confident kid and he plays a big, strong game. He’s not afraid to make a play out there and he gets involved physically. He’s been real good for us for a first-year pro nine games into his pro season and he’s handled it real well.”

INJURIES: Justin Shugg (upper-body injury) is yet to practice with the team and missed his sixth consecutive game. … Ben Holmstrom (shoulder injury) missed his first game of the season and “was definitely out” according to Daniels. “He wasn’s a question mark today.”

Game 9: Hamilton Bulldogs at Charlotte Checkers

Puck Drop: Sunday, 1 p.m..

TV/Radio info: AHL Live / ESPN 730

Records: Checkers 2-6-0, Bulldogs 3-3-2

After falling, 3-1, to the Bulldogs on Friday, the Checkers will continue their quest for their first home win with a Sunday afternoon rematch with Hamilton at Time Warner Cable Arena. Charlotte has struggled at home offensively this season, where they have been outscored 9-3 through three games.

The Checkers will be without two regulars on Sunday. Rookie Brock McGinn has been suspended for one game by the AHL for an illegal hit to the head of a Bulldogs player on Friday (The suspension is the first issued to the Checkers this season and the first of McGinn's pro career). Assistant captain Ben Holmstrom is also out after injuring his shoulder in Friday's loss.

Notes: Just after 11:30 a.m. Sunday morning, the Checkers announced the signing of forward Andrew Rowe to a professional tryout contract. Rowe, 26, began this season with the South Carolina Stingrays of the ECHL, where he racked up seven points in his first eight games. The former Michigan State Spartan has averaged over a point-per-game each of his last two seasons in the ECHL, putting up 66 points (31g, 35a) in 64 games last season and 71 points (28g, 43a) in 66 games in 2012-13. ... The Bulldogs snapped a three-game losing streak with their win Friday in Charlotte. Hamilton is in search of back-to-back wins for the first time this season. 

Checkers lines: 

Andrew Rowe- Brody Sutter-Chad LaRose
Phil Di Giuseppe-Patrick Brown-Alex Aleardi
Carter Sandlak-A.J. Jenks-Greg Nemisz
Kyle Hagel-Brendan Woods-Jared Staal

Rasmus Rissanen-Michal Jordan
Trevor Carrick-Danny Biega
Keegan Lowe-Ryan Murphy

Drew MacIntyre
John Muse

Healthy scratches: Dennis Robertson, Beau Schmitz

Injured/out: Justin Shugg (upper-body injury), Ben Holmstrom (shoulder)