Checkers Bring In Solid Scorers

By Cliff Mehrtens
Staff Writer
© The Charlotte Observer

CHARLOTTE, N.C. – The Charlotte Checkers hope they’ve solved last season’s scoring problems.

Charlotte, which will open the ECHL season at 7:30 p.m. on Friday against the Florida Everblades, had its lowest goal total (212) in five seasons.

Coach Derek Wilkinson recruited several solid scorers, including some “point-a-game” players, a coveted quality in hockey.

Jeff Miles has been in the ECHL’s top 10 scorers each of the past two seasons. Last year with Columbia, he scored 76 points in 68 games. Mike Bayrack, in his third Checkers season, scored 37 in 39 games last season. He has five seasons of 29 or more goals.

Winger Maxime Boisclair, in stints with four teams last season, had 96 points in 67 games.

“We like the balance we have on all three lines,” Wilkinson said. “Miles and Bayrack are point-a-game guys, and top-end scorers in this league. Boisclair has incredible vision, and great size and strength. We’ve got a couple other guys capable of scoring, and a lot of rookies who’ve had 30-goal seasons in junior hockey.”

Jeff Kyrzakos (53 points in 74 games), Marty Guerin (50 points in 68 games), Peter Tsimikalis and Ryan Murphy were solid ECHL scorers last season.

The potential is rookies who’ve had impressive amateur numbers.

Peter-James Corsi (39 goals), Ryan Hillier (34) and Tomas Zaborsky (31) hit the “point-a-game” plateau. David Rutherford (22 goals) was close.

“We have a lot more speed and skill,” Wilkinson said. “We can create off the rush. Last season, it wasn’t from our lack of chances. We just didn’t have a lot of finishers.”

The defensemen aren’t offensive-minded, but move the puck well, Wilkinson said.

Michael Busto, Kenny Smith and Jared Nightingale (team-high 196 penalty minutes) return.

The new defenders are Dan McGoff, Ken Scuderi, David Urquhart, Julien Brouillette and Lyon Messier.

“They are good, mobile two-way defensemen,” Wilkinson said. “Everything we do is based on five men going together.”

The goalies are Maxime Daigneault and Jeff Jakaitis.

“I like our chemistry,” Wilkinson said. “We’re youthful, so this is a new experience for a lot of them. But they’re excited, eager and willing. I haven’t had a group that came together this quickly.”