The Charlotte Checkers have hit some rough ice near the middle of the American Hockey League season, but head coach Mike Vellucci says he won’t let the team fret about a four-game losing streak.
“We’re not going to dwell on it,” Vellucci said after the Checkers dropped a 3-1 decision Saturday night to the Toronto Marlies. That loss, 24 hours after a 4-1 setback to Toronto, created the Checkers’ longest losing streak of the season.
Charlotte, which had been battling for second place in the AHL’s Atlantic Division a week ago, suddenly finds itself in fifth.
One problem is the absence of several key performers.
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Center Lucas Wallmark, who was fourth in scoring despite playing only two-thirds of the Checkers’ games this season, was called up Friday by the NHL’s Carolina Hurricanes. Center Aleksi Saarela, fourth for Charlotte in goals scored, was injured in Friday night’s loss. And forward Sergey Tolchinsky, tied for seventh in scoring, missed both weekend games due to injury.
“He had a pregame skate with us, and he’s gone,” Vellucci said of Wallmark’s departure. “There’s a lot of line-juggling going on.”
Vellucci, speaking about Toronto, told the Checkers’ website, “They’re the top team in our conference, we’re short-staffed, they had a full lineup, and that’s the way it goes.
“You’ve got to move on to the next game.”
The Checkers won’t have to wait long, and they should have a lot of support.
Charlotte returns to the ice Tuesday night for a 7 p.m. faceoff against the Bridgeport Sound Tigers, top farm team of the New York Islanders. It’s 1950s Night at Bojangles Coliseum, and the attraction of low-priced tickets and concessions has led to a sellout.
Here’s an update on the Checkers:
Friday: Andrew Poturalski’s second-period goal allowed the Checkers to avoid a shutout in a 4-1 loss to the Marlies (farm team of the Toronto Maple Leafs). Toronto was 2-of-4 on power plays, while the Checkers were 0-of-3.
Saturday: The first two periods were scoreless, but the Marlies broke through with two quick third-period goals. Poturalski scored, cutting the deficit to 2-1, but the Marlies added an empty-net goal in the final minute.
The week ahead: The Checkers close out a homestand with games at 7 p.m. Tuesday and Wednesday against Bridgeport, and then games at 6 p.m. Saturday and 1 p.m. Sunday against the Rochester Americans (Buffalo Sabres’ top farm team).