PROVIDENCE, R.I. – After completing a two-game sweep of the Providence Bruins, the Bridgeport Islanders are set to face the top-seeded Charlotte Checkers in the Atlantic Division Semifinals. This will be the pair’s first-ever postseason meeting.
Charlotte punched their pass to the post-season back on April 8th. They were the first team in the Eastern Conference to secure a spot in the Calder Cup Playoffs. On top of that, they are also the reigning Calder Cup champions, winning the trophy back in 2019, which was the last time the trophy was awarded.
On the flip side, the Islanders were the last Atlantic Division team to clinch a playoff spot. Two weeks after Charlotte’s clinch, Bridgeport finally claimed their playoff seed off a Hartford Wolf Pack loss and their own victory over Springfield.
Final Regular Season Records:
Charlotte Checkers: 42-24-5-1, .625 points percentage (1st in Eastern Conference)
Bridgeport Islanders: 31-30-7-4, .507 points percentage (12th in Eastern Conference)
How They Got Here:
Charlotte received a bye into the Atlantic Division Semifinals as they were the number one seed in the division.
The Bridgeport Islanders swept the Providence Bruins in a best-of-three Atlantic Division Quarterfinals.
Game 1 – Tuesday, May 10 – Charlotte at Bridgeport– 7:00 pm ET
Game 2 – Thursday, May 12 -Charlotte at Bridgeport– 7:00 pm ET
Game 3 – Saturday, May 14 – Bridgeport at Charlotte – 4:00 pm ET
Game 4 – Monday, May 16 – Bridgeport at Charlotte – 7:00 pm ET*
Game 3 – Wednesday, May 18 – Bridgeport at Charlotte – 7:00 pm ET*
* => If Necessary
Season Series Recap:
Talk about an odd season series. If anything was consistent here, it was the way their wins and losses stacked up. Charlotte won every odd-numbered game, while Bridgeport took the evens.
|January 9||Charlotte||3-2 SO|
Despite the close record on this season series, Charlotte didn’t heat up until the final few weeks of the season. As the calendar flipped to March, the Checkers were fifth in the Atlantic, looking up at the rest of the division. As we are now solidly into the month of May, the Checkers are division champs, rewarded with a bye into the Semifinals.
In the season series, Scott Wilson led all Charlotte skaters in scoring with three goals and one assist in eight games played. Also tallying four points for the Checkers in the series were Cole Schwindt (1-3-4) and Alexander True (0-4-4). Connor Carrick (2-1-3) and Dennis Cholowski (2-1-3) led the squad on defense. Though, as they had all season, Charlotte scored by committee, with no one or two players really separating themselves from the pack.
No quit in Cole Schwindt! pic.twitter.com/IASyxHrZWb
— y – Charlotte Checkers (@CheckersHockey) January 29, 2022
The anomaly between this series and how he ended his season is in Charlotte’s net. Joey Daccord went 2-2 in four appearances against the Islanders. He let in 11 goals with a 2.72 goals-against average and a 0.911 save percentage. However, he would then go 10-2-0 in his final 15 regular-season appearances, allowing only 22 total goals and only giving up more than two goals in three of those games.
Bridgeport, meanwhile, has a handful of players that excelled against the Checkers. Cole Bardreau, Chris Terry, Jeff Kubiak, and Otto Koivula tallied seven points each. Though, the Checkers had three more players that scored at least one point against the Islanders than in reverse for Bridgeport (20 to 17).
The Islanders goaltenders are just as much of an enigma as Daccord. Most notably is the veteran Cory Schneider.
IN CORY SCHNEIDER WE TRUST. pic.twitter.com/OpWVLknFc8
— x – Bridgeport Islanders (@AHLIslanders) May 5, 2022
While he was 2-0-1 in three series appearances (2.60 GAA and 0.926 SV%), he has been the go-to guy for the Islanders so far this postseason. His counterpart, Jakub Skarek, went 2-2 with a 1.76 goals-against average and a 0.939 save percentage.
How Charlotte Wins:
Coming off a 17-day break between their last regular-season game and first appearance in the playoffs, the Checkers are bound to have some rust. They’ll need to come out on the hop and get settled in pretty quickly in a best-of-five series. Their saving grace may be an approach preached by their head coach, Geordie Kinnear: approach each game the same, regardless of the opponent.
Captain Zac Dalpe needs to be a critical leadership figure and on-ice contributor in this series. Facing a team with a ton of confidence and momentum, he will need to set the tone and find a way to get his Checkers going and active early. Luckily for Charlotte, that’s the exact type of role in which Dalpe excels. He’s an impact player, no matter what team he plays for. Look for him to get on the scoreboard early, continuing on his stellar season where he became the fifth player in franchise history to score 30 goals in a season.
— American Hockey League (@TheAHL) April 24, 2022
Charlotte was stingy all season, especially coming down the stretch, mainly thanks to their goalies. If Daccord and the defense can keep that going, that will take a lot of pressure off the skaters, giving them room to work.
Speaking of streaks, the Checkers will be looking to Finnish forward Aleksi Heponiemi racked up 13 points over his final 17 appearances in the regular season. The talented and highly creative playmaker could be the difference in a close series.
How Bridgeport Wins:
Like in their opening series against Providence, Bridgeport will need another heroic performance from veteran goaltender Schneider. He was easily the MVP of that series, as each game was settled by a score of 2-1 in overtime. His skaters were outshot 77-66, so he’ll need to be up to the task of absorbing more shots than Charlotte’s netminder. A veteran of 601 professional regular-season games and 50 playoff games between the NHL and AHL, he’s well-versed in high-stakes games and playoff action. That should settle down his team, knowing they have a stoic figure back in the crease.
Aatu Raty had a coming-out party in the Division Quarterfinals, getting both his first North American pro assist and goal. The goal was the series decider in overtime. He tallied the assist back in game one with a secondary helper on the game-winner by Arnaud Durandeau in overtime. Bridgeport will be all the better if he can keep his clutch performances going.
— x – Bridgeport Islanders (@AHLIslanders) May 5, 2022
Bridgeport will need all of their regular season weapons, plus the new-found good luck charm in Raty to capitalize on Charlotte’s extended break. They need to pick up the scoring against a stingy Checkers squad, though that might be difficult. Former Checker Terry may be the catalyst since he knows that team the best and can pinpoint the kinks in their armor.
Despite the first and sixth seed matchup, this is a tight and exciting second-round tilt.
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