Checkers: Scouting the Enemy

(Photo Credit: Scott Paulus)
This was a high traffic area the entire game when the Admirals and Checkers last battled one-another. I think more time being spent at the opposite net would be a welcome change. (Photo Credit: Scott Paulus)

This is the second meeting of the season between the Milwaukee Admirals and Charlotte Checkers. If you don’t remember the first one I can’t say that I blame you. It was the second game of the season and the Admirals lost soundly by a final scoreline of 7-2. That might have been the Admirals at the height of their individualistic style of play this season when terrible passing and bad special teams were among a long list of repairs needed to be fixed.

It has been a month’s time since that game took place. The Admirals enter on a four-game winning streak with a record of 6-4-1-0 (13 points). The Checkers enter with a record of 7-5-0-0 (14 points). Thanks to the Pacific Division’s California based teams and the newly formatted standings based on percentage of points earned to games played ratio it is actually the Admirals (0.591) who have the better position in the Central Division than the Checkers (0.583). Imagine that after how the first meeting turned out?

I do suppose some major credit can be given to these Checkers though. They opened the season up with a crazy ten-game road trip. They weren’t able to finally unveil their new/old barn the Bojangles’ Coliseum until this past weekend when they reintroduced the place with two games against the Manitoba Moose. Game 1: Checkers get shutout, 3-0. Game 2: Checkers win, 3-2. Call me crazy but I think the Carolina Panthers against the Green Bay Packers is the reason why attendance fell from 8,317 to 3,514 on the first two days back in the building.

~Developments for the Admirals Next Home~

In talking about the Charlotte Checkers moving back into the Bojangles’ Coliseum one should take note of the potential mirroring story unfolding right here in Milwaukee in the not too distant future. When I spoke with Admirals President Jon Greenberg on Wednesday I brought up Charlotte’s recent move back into an old building and how it could be similar to an Admirals move to the UW-Milwaukee Panthers Arena.

“We’ve had preliminary discussions with the UW-Panther Arena about the possibility of coming over,” said Jon Greenberg. “Those have been positive discussions so far. I’m actually going to Charlotte this weekend to study – to meet with the Checkers just about the challenges that they had moving forward – things that needed to be updated in their building that we need to be keeping in mind when we move because the life span of this building isn’t going to be here much longer. We do have to start planning for our future and those discussions with the UW-Panther Arena we’re excited about where those have a potential to go.”

So, there is your on-ice hockey development with the players and the team itself taking place this weekend as well as developments off-the-ice in regards to the Admirals search for a future home. The time between the Checkers leaving and returning to the Bojangles’ Coliseum was ten years. The Admirals last played hockey in the ol’ MECCA back in 1988 – probably before I was born yet. What challenges are there for the Admirals with respect to such a move? Well, that’s part of what President Greenberg will be finding out with the Checkers who went through the same thing just recently.

“We’re excited about what’s going on in the UW-Panther Arena,” said Greenberg. “They’ve done a lot of amazing work over there. If you haven’t been in there recently, every seat is being replaced, they’ve done about eighty-percent of them already, so it’s brand new seats. Beautiful HD scoreboard. Technologically that building is very advanced. There are things that they still have to get ready for a new tenant that they’re willing to do. So, exciting possibilities for the Admirals moving forward.”

~Checking Those Checky McCheckers~

The Checkers are led in scoring by Phil Di Giuseppe currently with a total of 10 points (4 goals, 6 assists). In fact, when looking at the Checkers top five in scoring you will surprisingly not find a single player with a positive plus-minus rating. That’s sort of the state of things for them so far this season. Perhaps even stranger than that is perennial AHL scoring talent Zach Boychuk is 12 games and 42 shots on goal into this season without scoring a goal. He hasn’t recorded a goal in 19 AHL games now. It was 3/22/15 on the road against the Iowa Wild when Boychuk last picked up a goal.

Things are also not so sound in net for the Checkers. They have been heavily leaning on veteran netminder and former Admiral Drew MacIntyre. He has played in all but a single game out of 12 for the Checkers this season. That includes an appearance where he was yanked from the net and one in which he wishes he was never put in the net to relieve Rasmus Tirronen.

My thought is for the Checkers to be attempting a similarly played game to the one played against the Admirals previously. They forced the Admirals to take long perimeter shots, 24 shots on goal in the game, and MacIntyre wasn’t tested much with many of them. The Admirals power-play was blanked in four opportunities while the Checkers cashed in from two of their four power-play chances.

The great news is that this is in absolutely no way the same Admirals team right now. During this five-game points streak and four-game winning streak the Admirals have: outscored their opponent 17-9, produced a power-play goal in four consecutive games, gone 6/28 (21.4%) on the power-play and 18/22 (81.8%) on the penalty kill, and have outshot their opponents by 179-149 while only being outshot once from their last five games.

In short, these two games in Charlotte shouldn’t really reflect what the first meeting in Milwaukee displayed. Thinking back to what happened a season ago in Charlotte also makes me wonder what type of fireworks could take place. I know, I know. That was all circumstantial stuff but anytime I can reference last season’s goalie fight I will.

Expectations for the Admirals two-in-two on the road in Charlotte? Can this current streak last the weekend or will the East Coast travel sap some of the energy that was built here in the Midwest?

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