CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - In spite of a historic season for the Charlotte Checkers, they head to the AHL’s Calder Cup Playoffs humble and hungry.
The Checkers finished the regular season with the best record in the league at 51-17-8. They scored the most points ever in franchise history with 110. They won their first ever division title. Head coach Mike Vellucci was named the AHL’s outstanding coach. Goalie Alex Nedeljkovic was named the AHL outstanding goalkeeper. So many reasons to be overconfident but all they have to do is look to the NHL playoffs for perspective.
The Tampa Bay Lightning were the best team in the NHL but got swept in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Add to the fact that the Checkers first round opponent is Providence. In 8 regular season games, each team won 4 contest so this best of 5 series will be a challenge.
“All 8 games were decided within one goal,” said Vellucci.
While they enter the playoffs level headed, they do come in playing some great hockey as they have won 17 of their last 21 games. Even when their playoff status was secure, they still played like the best team in the league.
“The last 2 games really didn’t mean anything and we played Cleveland and it meant everything for them to get to the playoffs and we won both games so guys are competitive, they wanna win, and they want to do it for each other and that’s the mentality we have to take into the playoffs,” said coach.
Charlotte will start the series without their captain as Patrick Brown was called up to the Carolina Hurricanes as they are in the Stanley Cup playoffs taking on the defending Cup champs, the Washington Capitals.
Brown has 35 points this season for the Checkers and will be missed, but not too big of a concern for the Checkers as Brown has spent time with Carolina throughout this season.
“We’ve been faced with this all year long,” said Vellucci. “We’re very happy for him. Nobody is jealous or down. Everybody is rooting for each other and that’s what a true team is.”
Game one of this best of 5 series is Saturday in Providence as the first two games will be on the road for Charlotte. Game 3 will be at Bojangles’ Coliseum and games 4 and 5 will also be in Charlotte if they are needed.
“We’ve had a great record at home,” said coach. “If we don’t steal one there, it’s not the end of the world. Our fans are great and we have a great home record, but we’d love to go in there and get the first one."