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Checkers' goaltender Alex Nedeljkovic looks on during his team's game Saturday night in Syracuse.

Devils On Three-Game Canadian Road Trip; Charlotte Spoils Syracuse's Home Opener


Written by: Tracey Lake -> @trace_1114
Edited by: Alyssa Hertel

Devils Earn Weekend Split in Laval

After a 5-3 win over Hartford on Wednesday night at home, the Binghamton Devils hit the road for the first time this season, starting a three-game Canadian swing in Quebec against the new look Laval Rocket, who are hoping to rebound from a disastrous first season after moving from St. John’s in 2017.

On Friday night, the Devils suffered their first loss of the season, dropping a 5-2 decision to the Rocket in Laval’s home opener.

The two teams combined for six goals in the first period. Byron Froese kicked off the goal rush for the Rocket with his second of the season 6:56 into the contest. Binghamton answered less than a minute later while on a 5 on 3 power play, as Nick Lappin tied the game with his 3rd goal in 3 games. Laval took back the lead just as quickly, as David Sklenicka (shorthanded) and Nikita Jevpalovs both picked up their first goals of the year in a span of 1:35 to jump ahead 3-1.

The Devils cut the lead back to one on a Nathan Bastian goal, his 3rd, with 9:33 remaining in the period. However, Laval went up 4-2 late on a 5 on 3 chance of their own, with Alexandre Grenier scoring his second of the season. The Rocket outshot Binghamton 16-5 through the first 20 minutes of the contest.

After a quiet second period, Laval sealed the victory in the third. Kenny Agostino extended the Rocket lead to 5-2 with just over 11 minutes remaining in the game. For the Devils, Cam Johnson took the loss, stopping 27 of 32 Rocket shots.

Charlie Lindgren needed only 17 saves to pick up his second win of the season. Ten Rocket skaters recorded at least one point.

Less than a day later, the two teams met for a rematch. Goaltender Mackenzie Blackwood made his season debut for the Devils, while Michael McNiven earned the start for the Rocket after
Lindgren was recalled to Montreal earlier in the day.

Unlike the night before, where both teams combined for six first period goals, this game was more on the defensive side.

Despite being outshot 17-10 through the first 20 minutes of the contest, it was rookie Marian Studenic putting the visitors on the board first. Rocket locked it down in the middle period, holding Binghamton to just 2 shots, and tying the game late in the period on a Jake Evans goal, his first of the season.

The Devils managed only 3 shots in the third, but one would turn out to be the game winning goal. Lappin continued his hot streak with his fourth goal of the season, breaking the 1-1 deadlock with 7:19 remaining in regulation and giving Binghamton the split with Laval.

Blackwood earned his first start of the season, stopping 40 of 41 Rocket shots. Yegor Yakolev added two assists for the winners. McNiven finished with 13 saves on 15 Devil shots, while Maxim Lamarche had the lone assist.

Binghamton will head to Belleville on Wednesday to take on the Senators, before coming home to face Syracuse on Friday and Cleveland on Saturday. Laval will continue their homestand by hosting Hartford on Wednesday, then Springfield comes in for a 2-game weekend set.

Undefeated Checkers Spoil Syracuse’s Silver Anniversary Party

In a rematch that paid homage to history, the first team that Syracuse played in upstate New York ruined the party during this year’s silver anniversary home opener.

Back on September 30, 1994, AHL hockey returned to the Onondaga County War Memorial for the first time since 1980, as the expansion Syracuse Crunch, who at the time were the affiliate of the Vancouver Canucks, played host to the Albany River Rats. In a high scoring affair, the two teams skated to a 7-7 tie.

It was only fitting that for the 25th anniversary home opener, the former River Rats, now the Charlotte Checkers, were the Crunch’s opponent.

Finishing up a 4-game road trip through New York state to begin the season, the Checkers finished off an Empire State sweep with a 4-1 win in front of a sellout Syracuse crowd.

Crunch goaltender Connor Ingram made his season debut, while Alex Nedelijkovic successfully extended his 3-0 record.

The Checkers put two goals past Ingram in the opening period. Julien Gauthier’s first of the season came less than five minutes into the contest to put Charlotte ahead 1-0. The Checkers doubled their lead on a late period power play goal off the stick of Janne Kuokkanen, his third of the season.

Charlotte’s domination continued into the second. Gauthier had a chance to add his second of the game 51 seconds into the middle period after being awarded a penalty shot, but Ingram denied him. Just before the Checkers’ second power play was to expire, Charlotte jumped ahead 3-0 with Clark Bishop’s first goal of the season. The Crunch’s special team woes continued, as they gave up a shorthanded goal to Checkers captain Patrick Brown with 3:35 remaining in the period for a commanding 4-0 Charlotte lead.

Syracuse finally got on the board early in the third, as rookie Oleg Sosunov scored his first professional goal to cut the Charlotte lead to 3. That would be the only offense the Crunch could muster, and the Checkers finished off a perfect 4-0 road trip.

Nedelijkovic earned his fourth straight win to open the season, finishing with 34 saves on 35 Crunch shots. Bishop finished with a goal and an assist, while seven different Checker skaters had at least one helper. Ingram stopped 29 of 33 shots, while Jonne Tammela and Boris Katchouk had the lone assists on Sosunov’s goal.

Charlotte returns home for a weekend two game set against Hershey. The Crunch will head to Binghamton on Friday night, then return home to host Utica on Saturday.