The American Hockey League’s hottest team entering the Calder Cup playoffs has the word “Checkers” on the front of its jerseys.
Charlotte wrapped up the AHL regular season Sunday with its seventh straight victory, a 4-1 decision over the Bridgeport Sound Tigers.
That left the Checkers third in the Atlantic Division, with a first-round playoff series against second-place Wilkes-Barre/Scranton. The first two games of their best-of-five series will be Friday and Saturday evenings at Bojangles Coliseum.
The Penguins will host Charlotte in the series’ other games.
The Checkers not only are the AHL’s hottest team, but they’re also the most explosive. Charlotte finished the season as league-leaders in goals scored, with 262. Lehigh Valley, the Atlantic Division champion, was second with 260, followed by the Toronto Marlies (254), who won the North Division.
Charlotte’s Valentin Zykov won the goal-scoring title, despite spending more than two weeks of the season with the Checkers’ National Hockey League parent team, the Carolina Hurricanes. Zykov finished with 33 goals, and he also was the AHL champion in power-play goals, with 17.
Just a few weeks ago, the Checkers were battling Bridgeport Sound for the fourth and final playoff spot in the AHL Atlantic. But Charlotte won nine of its final 10 games, opening a gap over Bridgeport Sound and then passing Providence in the season’s final weekend for third place.
The Checkers finished only three points behind Wilkes-Barre/Scranton.
Here’s a review of the past week, and a look ahead:
Friday: The Checkers scored a key victory in the playoff race, downing Providence 5-3. Trevor Carrick and Lucas Wallmark scored in the third period, breaking a 3-3 tie. Zykov scored his 33rd goal of the season.
Sunday: In the regular-season finale, the Checkers got two goals from Warren Foegele in the 4-1 triumph over Bridgeport Sound. Carrick, a defenseman, scored a goal and had six shots.
Playoffs: The Checkers and Wilkes-Barre/Scranton open their series at 7 p.m. Friday at Bojangles Coliseum. Game 2 is set for 6 p.m. Saturday. Remaining games are set for April 26, 28 and 29 in Pennsylvania.
The Checkers are offering several discounted ticket packages for the Friday and Saturday games, along with $2 hot dogs and popcorn.
Steve Lyttle on Twitter: @slyttle