North Carolina Hockey Red Hot In January

North Carolina Hockey Red Hot In January

By Chris Cole

February 5, 2019

February has begun and while we wait and see what the shortest month of the year has in store for us between the four professional hockey teams in North Carolina we can look back to January and see one blaring trend: ice hockey was red hot for everyone.  From the Carolina Hurricanes to the Charlotte Checkers, Fayetteville Marksmen, and the Carolina Thunderbirds every team was holding their own and were victorious ways more than they were on the short end of things. Let’s look at each team and how they fared in the first month of 2019.

Carolina Hurricanes (NHL)

Record (W-L-OTL): 8-3-1

The Hurricanes came into 2019 with a win on New Years Eve against the Philadelphia Flyers and didn’t look back for another four games for a five-game winning streak before losing to the Tampa Bay Lighting on January 10th by a score of 3-to-1.  The Canes scored no less than 4 goals in every game they won including high scoring games against the lowly Edmonton Oilers (7-4) and the high-flying Nashville Predators (6-3). As if the Canes couldn’t get any better they traded Victor Rask on the 17th to the Minnesota Wild for 2010 5th overall pick Nino Niederreiter.  Since the trade Niederreiter has five goals in five games which makes the Canes look like the early victors (pun intended) of the trade.

Charlotte Checkers (AHL)

Record (W-L-OTL-SOL): 7-3-1-0

Being hot in one month of the 2018-19 AHL is nothing new to the Checkers who have been the dominant AAA pro team for most of the year.  Being the direct feeder to the Hurricanes they have had multiple players called up to the big league team this season as well as receiving goalie Scott Darling from the Canes via waivers.  One thing worth pointing out for January is that we could be seeing a future high-profile playoff showdown between the Toronto Marlies (last year’s Calder Cup winners) and the Checkers based on their three showdowns last month.  Both teams traded 5-0 shutout wins with the Marlies winning the other game in OT by a score of 4-3. The Checkers sit in first place in the East and have shown they are capable of winning despite being behind a handful of goals and the constant reshuffling of the roster because of callups.

Fayetteville Marksmen (SPHL)

Record (W-L-OTL): 7-1-1

If there is anything to point out about the Marksmen is that they have shown this season that they are miles ahead better than the team they had last year.   In the 2017-18 season the Marksmen finished in 10th out of a 10-team league with a record of 12 wins, 38 losses, and 6 OT losses. Coming into February they are 5th in the standings with an overall record of 18 wins, 12 losses, and 4 OT losses.  They began January with an 8-game winning streak which started the day after Christmas and ended in a 4-3 OT loss to the Roanoke Rail Yard Dawgs on January 19th. Bolstered by forwards Brian Bowen and Darren McCormick and goalies Dillion Kelley and Nathan Perry the team has shown that they are built for success this season and the only question from last month is about their future and how far they will go into the SPHL post-season.

Carolina Thunderbirds (FHL)

Record (W-L-T-OTW-OTL): 9-0-0-0-0

The only undefeated team of the bunch the Thunderbirds have been the talk-of-the-town in the hockey scene in the state with their sheer dominance of the six-team Federal Hockey League.  Their win-streak start back on December 7th with a 2-1 win over the Elmira Enforcers and is still ongoing. They won Friday night against the Danville Dashers to tie the FHL record of 21 straight wins set by the defunct New York Aviators and beat the Dashers again on Saturday night 4-3 to claim the record for themselves.  

The T-Birds sit alone at the top of the league with a record of 31-3-0-0-1 for 94 points (a win in the FHL is worth 3 points, an OT win is 2, and an OT loss is 1 point) which is 33 more points than second place Elmira.   One interesting note for the January part of their streak: for the January 4th game in Elmira the owners of the Enforcers guaranteed a win against the streaking T-Birds and if they were to lose they would give everyone in attendance two tickets for their upcoming game against the Mentor Ice Breakers.  The T-Birds beat the Enforcers 2-1 so i’m sure that didn’t help the gate receipt at all for Elmira’s game against Mentor with all those free tickets they had to hand out.

The Combined Record

When you combine all the records of the teams for January it becomes even more impressive than the individual records in my opinion.  The Canes, Checkers, Marksmen, and Thunderbirds played a combined 41 games and had 31 wins, 7 losses, and 3 OT losses. You almost have a perfect fraction of fourths for one month in which you had 75% chance of a win if you went and saw either of the teams last month.  

If all the teams can keep this up you will see every team making a playoff run in their respective leagues with the question being how far?  February has just started and every team except the Checkers have began the month with a win (they lost in OT to the Providence Bruins) and now it’s just a waiting to see if February and the months after than can mimic the success every team had in January.