It seemed more than appropriate to dedicate Memory Lane Monday to the amazing Charlotte Checkers. Their inaugural season was inspiring on and off the ice. The former River Rats made the move to sunny Charlotte with a rough start. They lost five of their first six games, but by early November the Checkers started to find their groove.
By the New Year, they were 19-10-1-3. Stars like Osala, Dalpe, Boychuk, and Bowman began to shine on the Time Warner Cable Arena ice. When April 9th rolled around, the team finished 44-27-2-7 and found themselves in the playoffs.
Five skaters found themselves with over 50 points: Boychuk (65), Terry (64), Micflickier (61), Dalpe (57), and Samson (54, and no longer with the Checkers). Justin Pogge played the pipes 48 times with a .907 SV% while Mike Murphy was goalie in 39 contests with a .919 SV%.
The Calder Cup race was a thrilling sprint with numerous highs and lows. The Checkers managed to eliminate historical champions, the Hershey Bears, 4-2 in the series. The final game was a close match that Nicolas Blanchard brought to an exciting overtime victory. Round One was also the time fans witnessed the return on Michael Murphy. He came back from a near month absence to prove the set back had absolutely no impact on his abilities.
The second round with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins was another nail-biter. Including a 2-1 overtime win with a beauty by Brett Sutter barely six minutes into the extra period. Nick Dodge scored in the second to tie the contest. The following game, on May 4th, was shutout by Murphy with a jaw-dropping 44 saves. I believe that was a rough night of celebrations for the Raleigh Road Trippers clan.
The series ended 4-2 and Charlotte moved forward to face a team that would ultimately end their season. The Binghamton Senators were fierce offensive competitors. In the end, Bingo managed 21 goals and swept our Checkers with an anticlimactic overtime loss in game four.
Never-the-less, fans are forever grateful for the Checkers commitment to their teammates, fans, and community. A plethora of memories remain after the 2010-11 season. Let the countdown to September begin, but in the meantime, here are some of my favorite memories:
Checkers announcing Murphy as Man of the Year.
One of my favorites from Chasing Checkers.
Game 5 win over Hershey.
Checkers October 15th debut.
The Checkers organization produces the finest videos and their end of year review was no different.
Many thanks again to the Charlotte Checkers organization. I truly believe you inspired new hockey fans in the south. I am so proud to be a Checkers supporter!