Give Charlotte Checkers coach Mike Vellucci some credit. He must give a whale of a locker-room speech.
The Checkers entered their locker room at Bojangles Coliseum on Wednesday night trailing 5-0 after only one period against the Hershey Bears. Vellucci gave a speech. The Checkers outscored Hershey 10-0 over the next two periods Wednesday and a full game Thursday.
Unfortunately, Charlotte had to settle for a split, as its comeback effort Wednesday fell short 5-4. Then the Checkers blasted Hershey 6-0 Thursday night, with Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton in attendance.
When asked what he told the team after the first period, Vellucci said, “You’re a pro athlete. We’ve got a young team, and you’ve got to understand that you’ve got to come to play every game. If you don’t, you get embarrassed real quick.”
Vellucci said after the game that he thought his team might have started its holiday break a bit early.
“You’ve got to make sure you’re ready, mentally and physically, to play,” he said.
The split left Charlotte second in the American Hockey League’s Atlantic Division, behind Providence. Lehigh Valley is close behind in third.
Here’s how the Checkers fared last week:
▪ Wednesday: After the horrible first period, Charlotte outshot Hershey 30-7 over the final two periods. The Checkers closed to 5-4 on a power-play goal by Sergey Tolchinsky with eight minutes remaining but could get no closer.
▪ Thursday: Charlotte continued its dominance of the Bears with the 6-0 victory. Aleksi Saarela notched a hat trick with three goals, and goalkeeper Alex Nedeljkovic recovered from a rocky start Wednesday night with his first shutout of the season.
▪ What’s next: The Checkers have a Christmas break and resume play Wednesday night at the Binghamton Devils (farm team of New Jersey). They then play Friday and Saturday nights at the Lehigh Valley Phantoms (Philadelphia farm team). The Checkers don’t return home until Jan. 12.
Steve Lyttle on Twitter: @slyttle