Saturday Entry #1: Checker Rats Come Home

A lot to go over today, so I’ll break it up into 2 entries: first recapping last night’s events, then later on this afternoon tonight’s pregamer with the Crunch coming to town for the 2nd time this week.

First, I survived the snow!  Not as bad as the last one, according to YNN Albany about 7 inches or so.  I still went straight downtown from work anyway just incase and the drive wasn’t bad.  Did a Starbucks run then spent some time with the Bennett family in the TU Center box office.  Zach (aka Bug) has gone through a lot in his 11 years of life.  He has neurofibromatosis, or NF1, a disorder in which tumors grow on nerves.  He has had numerous surgeries, including amputation of both legs.  He gets around in a motorized wheelchair which on game days always has his goalie mask on the back.  Recently he got a service dog named Matrix thanks to a community fundraiser.  The River Rat/Checker franchise has been there for the family all the way, making Zach an honorary Rat last season and countless visits from team members to the hospital or his home (apparently he can beat Mike Murphy at Wii hockey).  The Checkers are doing an awesome fund raiser next Friday night at home, having a Race Night jersey auction where all the proceeds go to the family as they prepare to move to North Carolina (their house is still on the market, this is basically the last obstacle to cross before that can happen) for a better climate and for better health care for Zach.

Now on to the game.  Changing the pattern up a bit, Jeff Frazee started for the second straight game for the Devils, while Justin Pogge manned the Checker net.  The Devils had a lot of chances on net, but Pogge was a brick wall.  Michael Swift stayed hot, getting a point in his 10th straight game courtesy a penalty shot goal.  Otherwise it was all about the former River Rats, as 3 out of 4 ex-Rats scored…Nicolas Blanchard in the 1st, Chris Terry in the 2nd and Jerome Samson (now the AHL goal scoring leader with 20) in the 3rd.  Matt Anderson answered right after Samson’s goal with one of his own to make it 3-2, but Brett Sutter scored into the empty net late in the 3rd to seal the Checkers 4-2 win.

Attendance last night: 2099.  Pretty much what I expected with the weather (everyone got vouchers for free tickets for next Friday’s game against Binghamton), I would say about 90 percent were pro Charlotte.  It was pretty evident during warmup when I realized I was the only one in the Devils corner watching, everyone was on Charlotte’s side of the ice.  Not a good message to send to your home team but what can you do?  I’m trying to support the home team best I can, but I’ve known the Checker players longer (I’ve known Casey Borer since he turned pro almost 4 years ago for example), so I’m torn.  January 28th will be an interesting day in Albany, the Devils are home but Charlotte is in Adirondack.  I already have my Albany ticket so I’ll be staying here, looks like a lonely night for me.

On a lighter note…last night was my first run-in with N.J. Devil, New Jersey’s mascot who made the trip for Devil Dawg’s birthday celebration.  He puts other mascots to shame with his dancing skills.  I told him I was coming to Newark on Sunday and he acted so excited he grabs me for a hug and starts jumping up and down.  Don’t get all that excited you already know Tampa Bay is killing them (unless Stamkos does another penalty shot fail).  And I give credit to Casey, Brett Bellemore, Mike Murphy and Zack FitzGerald for coming outside in the snow to visit with my group (namely my friend Jackie’s twin nieces) after the game (stupid Devil rules).

One last note:  overnight way out west in Abbotsford, the Phantoms lost in a shootout, gaining another point.  The basement is creeping ever closer…

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