Excluding a shaky second period, a short-handed Checkers squad played some quality hockey in what was an exciting win on Wednesday. The only problem was, just about no one saw. Wednesday's paid attendance was 3,056.
The game was a perfect example of why the team moving to the Bojangles Coliseum next season should be a good thing for everyone.
As is, the Checkers share Time Warner Cable Arena with the NBA's Charlotte Hornets, who act as the arena's main tenant. As such, the Hornets get first pick when it comes prime scheduling days, leaving the Checkers with whatever's left.
This season, and especially this month, what's left has been a ticket salesman's nightmare.
The Checkers are one game into a current five-game home stand. Here's the days they're set to play on: Wednesday, Thursday, Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday.
A member of the Checkers' staff walked by the media section on Wednesday night, scanned the largely empty arena, and shrugged.
"Safe to say you won't see a home stand like this next season," he said.
And he should be right, as the main tenants of Bojangles, the Checkers should be able to secure whatever home dates they'd like and that's important for a team that's seen its average attendance drop three seasons in a row.
Charlotte currently ranks 12th in the AHL in average attendance (5,537). That's a little more than 730 tickets a game down from last year's pace, when the team drew the seventh most fans in the AHL. The team could sellout its 10 remaining home games and still not hit last year's attendance mark (241,685).
Changing gears, it's tough not to feel for veteran forward Chad LaRose, who was injured during a collision that occurred during last Tuesday's practice. LaRose was leading the Checkers in points (31) and goals (16) and might have made a nice late-season addition for an NHL team looking for a fourth-line forward and some special teams help.
"LaRose is a leader for us," Checkers coach Jeff Daniels said on Wednesday. "He's got the experience... and he did a lot of good stuff for us. He's around and checking in on the guys to see how they're doing, but injuries happen and call-ups happen. We've just got to find a way to be ready to go."
Both Brendan Woods and Patrick Brown have started to see time at the wing as of late. It's been something Daniels has wanted to experiment with all season, but the team's lack of depth at center had prevented, both played well in their new roles on Wednesday.
Checkers goaltender Drew MacIntyre has stopped 19 of 20 in the shootout this season. He had lost seven of his last eight games entering Wednesday.
Scouts love what they've seen from rookie defenseman Trevor Carrick. Carrick scored his fifth goal of the season on Wednesday and has recorded the most penalty minutes of any Checkers' rookie this season. He's a guy that will be fun to watch as he matures.
While on the topic of Checkers' rookies, I get the feeling left wing Brock McGinn -- who has been red hot as of late -- may get a look in Carolina sooner than later. McGinn, 21, ranks tied for fourth on the Checkers and first among rookies with 19 points. He is tied for third on the team with 10 goals, five of which have come in his last seven games.
Here's an excerpt of Paul Branecky's story on Checkers broadcaster Jason Shaya moonlighting as an AHL goaltender.
On the first day of training camp during the latter part of the Checkers’ ECHL era, a New York Rangers prospect named David Urquhart heard the locker room chatter and was confused. Finally, he approached one of the team’s goalies.
“Why do they call you the radio guy?” he asked.
“Because I am the radio guy,” Jason Shaya recalls saying that day, aware of the apparent absurdity of the situation. “He was probably taking shots on Henrik Lundqvist three weeks earlier and now he’s down in the ECHL taking shots on me.”
It's an interesting read that I highly recommend if you have some free time. Here's a vine of former NHL 50-goal scorer Dany Heatley beating Shaya over the right blocker.
Shaya's response to this vine was pretty great as well...
1) Bad D 2) I was screened 3) Wasn't ready RT @CheckersHockey: Heatley 1, @jason_shaya 0 https://t.co/T1EdcE6C55
— Jason Shaya (@Jason_Shaya) March 4, 2015