Red and Black Hockey
The Hurricanes organization got some bad news on Thursday night. Donnie MacMillian, known as “Donnie Mac” passed away at the age of 52. He was riding his mountain bike when he suddenly died. According to the News & Observer, he was discovered by another group of riders, but it was too late.
Donnie Mac was the ice tech and building superintendent at the RBC Center. He was the only building superintnedent the RBC has ever had, and he’d been with the team even before the move to North Carolina. He was hired as a Zamboni driver for the Hartford Whalers in 1993 after doing the same in the American League. He moved with the team and was offered the position. He was also given the opportunity to live at the RBC Center, which made it perfect for him. Throughout every season, he literally lived in an RV in the parking lot of the RBC Center.
On Thursday night, the Checkers opened their Eastern Conference final series against the Binghamton Senators with a 7-4 loss. The seven goals against matched the total goals against in the first five games of the six-game series against WBS Penguins. Suffice to say, Mike Murphy didn’t bring his “A” game. He gave up five goals on just 15 shots before being relieved by Justin Pogge midway through the second period.
Despite outshooting the B-Sens 40-22, the Checkers just didn’t have what it took in this game. Charlotte surrendered a shorthanded goal and a power play goal. They did manage to score two power play goals of their own, but every time they climbed to within one goal, the B-Sens widened their lead.
Thirteen different Senators and nine different Checkers registered at least one point.
Two days ago, I wrote about how the story of Zach “Bug” Bennett had gotten some exposure on ESPN. Again, I’ll urge everyone to watch the nine minute clip here.
Tonight, that story is going to get some more attention in the major US media. The story will be highlighted during tonight’s ABC World News with Diane Sawyer. Set your DVRs. Tune in. Whatever. It’s a great story about a great kid. In the end, it really has very little to do with hockey and much more to do with human kindness.
In North Carolina, all seven games of the Eastern Conference final between the Checkers and the Binghamton Senators will be broadcast on Time-Warner Digital Cable. That series begins tonight at 7:00, and all games will be on channel 520 statewide.
Tonight, on ESPN’s “investigative journalism” program E:60, there was a feature story about the Charlotte Checkers and their most devoted fan. It’s a story that we all know down here, and I’m glad that ESPN shared it with the rest of the world.
11-year old Zach “Bug” Bennett was born with a neurological disorder called Neurofibromatosis (type I) Incidentally, I also have this disorder, but nowhere near as severely as “Bug” does. Normally, this condition manifests itself as cutaneous lesions, markings or non-cancerous tumors. People with NF1 are much more likely than others to develop brain tumors. In severe cases, it can also affect the spine and/or leg bones. I have lesions on my arms and torso, but nothing else (so far). Zach has had to have dozens of surgeries on his legs including the amputation of both.
This year’s IIHF World Championships have been pretty wild. Some countries have played much better than expected and others haven’t performed as well as expected. Finland is always expected to be in the medal hunt, but this year, they’re being accused of being lucky rather than good.
There’s a story on the story on the IIHF home page about how Finland, and specifically Tuomo Ruutu, a href=“http://www.iihf.com/channels-11/iihf-world-championship-wc11/news/news-singleview-2011/article/bounces-players-best-friend.html?tx_ttnews[backPid]=4926&cHash=3de9549f67”>has been in the right place at the right time with a lot of frequency.
Finland is no stranger to luck at the IIHF tournament. I’m sure we all remember the 2008 game between Finland and the USA, when Ville Koistinen was credited with a goal that should not have counted. More on that in a bit. This year, they’ve been the benefactor of some lucky bounces, but the bottom line is that they’ve put themselves in the spot to reap those benefits. The harder you work, the more good luck you will have. Something like that, anyway.
The East Division final between Charlotte and WBS was a goaltenders duel for the first five games and the first period of game six. The Penguins scored two midway through the second, then they added a shorthanded goal early in the third. It looked like it was done, and there was already talk of practice tomorrow and game seven on Monday.
Fortunately, the Checkers found life in the third and exploded for four straight goals in a span of 9:18. Brad Thiessen, who had only given up one goal in the last three games, showed that there were chinks in his armour.
Here’s how it all went down. And it went down quickly:
Brad Thiessen of the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins and Mike Murphy of the Charlotte Checkers have been playing an outstanding series against each other. They are the first and second ranked goalies in every statistical category, and their numbers get better every game. Charlotte won game one 3-2. WBS won game two 3-0. After that, it’s been a goaltending clinic on both sides of the ice. Charlotte won game three 2-1 in overtime, and they won game four 1-0. Tonight, WBS turned the tables and took game five by the same 1-0 score.
It’s a real shame that few people will be experiencing this brilliant duel since, you know, it’s the American League.
Mike Murphy had his shutout streak snapped at 161 minutes 11 seconds when Chris Collins tipped a Bryan Lerg shot at 8:54 of the third. The tip, high in the slot, looked like it might have been with a high stick, but the play never even went under review.
On Wednesday night, the Charlotte Checkers defeated the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins 1-0 in game four of the East Division final of the Calder Cup playoffs. Charlotte leads the series 3-1 and will have a chance to finish the series at home on Friday night. If and when they finish this series, they will advance to the Eastern Conference final against either Binghamton (Senators) or Portland (Sabres).
Mike Murphy, who continues to improve in this playoff season, made 44 saves for the shutout, his first of the playoffs. His GAA of 1.73 is second in the league for the playoffs. His save percentage of .945 is first in the league. He’s tied for the league lead with six wins and one shutout. The last time he allowed a goal was at 13:23 of the first period in game three. If you’re scoring along at home, that’s a run of 106 minutes, 37 seconds. Oh. Did I mention that he’s just a 21 year old kid playing in his first professional season?
Chris Terry scored the only goal of the game at 2:01 of the third period.
On Monday night at the Time-Warner Cable Arena, the Charlotte Checkers beat the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins 2-1 in overtime to take a 2-1 lead East Division final series of the Calder Cup playoffs. Charlotte will host the next two games Wednesday and Friday nights. Oddly, they have done in three post-season games what they could not do in eight regular season games: beat the Penguins twice. They lost all four home games in the regular season, but won the first home playoff game between the teams. It just goes to show that the playoffs are a completely different animal.
Chris Collins of the Penguins scored at 13:23 of the first, and for a long time it looked like Pens goalie Brad Thiessen was going to be unbeatable again. At 9:45 of the second, Nick Dodge finally snapped a Checkers scoreless streak that lasted four and a half periods. His fourth goal of the playoffs ended up being the last goal of regulation.
Just 5:40 into the bonus frame, Brett Sutter potted the game winner from right out in front. His third marker of the postseason was assisted by Zac Dalpe and Jacob Micflikier. Checkers goalie Mike Murphy made 26 saves for the win.
On Saturday night, the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins squashed the Charlotte Checkers 3-0 in game two of the East Division finals of the 2011 AHL Calder Cup playoffs. Charlotte won game one 3-2 on Thursday to swipe home-ice advantage from the Pens. With the series tied at one, the next three games will be at Charlotte’s Time-Warner Cable Arena. Tonight, Wednesday and Friday. The guarantee of three home games is good for the team, good for the arena, good for the city. It’s not the same impact that home games at the RBC Center would have for Raleigh and the Canes, but it’s still quite good.
I expect tonight’s crowd to be somewhere around 3,500. Wednesday’s should be somewhere around 3,000. I wouldn’t be surprised if Friday’s crowd pushes 6,000.
The shutout loss on Saturday obviously put an end to Zach Boychuk’s seven game scoring streak. It was the first time since a 2-0 loss at Worcester on March 5 that the Checkers have been blanked in a game.
About Red and Black Hockey
David Lee is a restaurant manager with an unused degree in political science. He can be found at Carolina Hurricanes games, Scrabble tournaments and indie-rock shows. Sometimes, all in the same day.