In the wake of goaltender Michael Leighton suffering an injury on Feb. 17, the Charlotte Checkers struggled to find a replacement.
Over a nine-game stretch, including the game in which Leighton was injured, Charlotte’s opponents averaged 4.1 goals. Thus, in an effort to solidify the position, the Checkers acquired Tom McCollum from the Stockton Heat on March 8.
And through his first seven games, McCollum has delivered.
Before a 3-1 loss against the Chicago Wolves on Sunday, McCollum posted a .944 save percentage in his first six games with the Checkers, who went 6-0 during that stretch. Now, with McCollum anchoring the net, Charlotte clings to a spot in the American Hockey League playoffs with three weeks left in the regular season.
Tuesday: Charlotte’s Lucas Wallmark broke a scoreless tie on a power-play goal midway through the second period. That proved to be enough of a cushion for McCollum, who made 23 saves in a 1-0 win over the Iowa Wild.
Wednesday: After Charlotte entered the third period with a 2-1 lead, Iowa tied the game on a goal with about nine minutes left. It looked as if the game was destined for overtime, but Connor Brickley scored with about two minutes left to hand the Checkers a 3-2 victory.
Saturday: Bryan Bickell’s goal about two minutes into the third period gave Charlotte a 2-1 lead. However, Chicago tied the game and sent it into overtime with less than two minutes remaining in regulation. After neither team scored in overtime, McCollum blocked two of the three attempts he saw in the shootout, setting up Kris Newbury’s game-winner in a 3-2 win, a franchise record seventh straight.
Sunday: The Wolves struck first, scoring about eight minutes into the first period, and never looked back in a 3-1 win. Charlotte’s lone goal came with about 12 minutes left in the game.
What’s next: The Checkers embark on a four-game, three-city road trip this week, starting with 7 p.m. contests against the Cleveland Monsters on Tuesday and Thursday. Charlotte then plays the Grand Rapids Griffins at 7 p.m. Friday and Chicago at 5 p.m. Sunday.