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Old foes and friends return to Civic Center with Checkers

2010-10-22T00:09:00Z Old foes and friends return to Civic Center with CheckersBy TIM McMANUS tmcmanus@poststar.com Glens Falls Post-Star
October 22, 2010 12:09 am  • 

GLENS FALLS -- They're not playing for any cable company's trophy, there's no manufactured rivalry, and they'll play only six times this season.

But make no mistake, the Charlotte Checkers are the chief nemesis of the Adirondack Phantoms. A year ago as the Albany River Rats, they humiliated the Phantoms, winning 10 out of 12 games and all six at the Glens Falls Civic Center.

The re-branded Checkers make their first visit to the Phantoms this season Friday at 7:30 p.m.

The rivalry between the clubs, which had been on a low simmer all season, finally exploded in a vitriolic final game of the season here, which included several fights and 124 penalty minutes in another Adirondack loss. If familiarity indeed breeds contempt, there's plenty here, including the fact that Charlotte traded for Jon Matsumoto, the Phantoms' leading scorer last season, in a draft-day deal.

All of the Phantoms are aware of their struggles against this opponent, which brought back much of its lineup intact despite moving down the coast.

"We can't be mad after we lose," Pat Maroon said. "We've got to go in before the game (ticked) off and ready to play."

Maroon, it seemed, would have the most to lose from the departure of Matsumoto, his center for the past two seasons. Along with David Laliberte, they formed the Phantoms' most productive offensive unit.

Though Maroon and Laliberte struggled some last year, two seasons ago in Philadelphia, the group combined for 70 goals and 163 points.

"(Matsumoto) has a lot of skill, a lot of hockey sense, and a lot of speed and he creates a lot off the rush," Maroon said.

Last season, Matsumoto scored a team-high 30 goals and 62 points, but perhaps a change was best for everyone. Matsumoto has two goals and four points in six games to lead a Charlotte team that is 1-4 and still trying to find its footing.

Maroon, meanwhile, leads the Phantoms with four goals and six points in six games.

"(Matsumoto) was a good center for me, a very offensive guy and it was fun playing with him. But for sure, I have two great centers this year (Jon Kalinski and Ben Holmstrom)," Maroon said. "They really came in and did well and I'm proud of who I'm playing with right now. Can't ask for better."

On the whole, coach Greg Gilbert is asking for more from his team. The Phantoms have lost two in a row and three of four and have scored just 15 goals in six games. Reversing it against a team that dominated them with their speed and counterattack last season won't be easy.

"I think we've got to be a meaner team. I don't mean that in a negative way pertaining to fighting and cheap shots," Gilbert said. "We just have to play a meaner game. We have to be harder on the opposition than we have been up to this point."

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