Weekend watch list: Jan. 12-14

Patrick Williams, TheAHL.com Features Writer

Outdoor hockey highlights this weekend in AHL.

The Charlotte Checkers will stage the Queen City Outdoor Classic when they face the Rochester Americans on Saturday night (7 ET, AHLTV) at Truist Field. The ballpark is the home of Triple-A baseball’s Charlotte Knights.

The game is the 12th outdoor game in AHL history, and the first one involving the Checkers; Rochester hosted an outdoor game at Frontier Field in 2013.

Before getting together outdoors Saturday, the Amerks and Checkers meet tonight at Bojangles Coliseum. The Checkers are settling in back home following a 3-2-1-0 road trip. Tonight’s contest, the Checkers’ first on home ice since Dec. 22, opens a six-game homestand. They are sixth in the Atlantic Division with a 17-12-4-0 record, but they reside only four points behind second-place Providence.

After a run of five losses in six games back in December, the Amerks have righted themselves. They are on a three-game point streak (2-0-1-0) and took three of a possible four points last weekend in a home-and-home set with North Division-leading Cleveland. Rochester is fourth in the North Division at 15-12-3-1.

The Amerks are expected to have standout forward Jiri Kulich back in their lineup for the first time since Dec. 20. Despite missing Rochester’s past seven games while he represented Czechia at the IIHF World Junior Championship in Sweden, the 2022 first-round pick of the Buffalo Sabres has 16 goals, third-most in the AHL.

In their only other two get-togethers this season, the teams split a pair of decisions in Rochester.

The Belleville Senators roll into Toronto tonight with an eye on some franchise history.

The Sens meet the Marlies at Coca-Cola Coliseum (7 ET, TSN2) having won seven consecutive games, one shy of the franchise record set in 2021. They shut out the visiting Manitoba Moose on Wednesday night as Mads Sogaard made 27 saves and Egor Sokolov scored a pair of goals. Belleville has outscored opponents 24-10 in the seven wins and has climbed to third place in the North Division.

Against their provincial rivals, Belleville is 4-0-0-1 this season. Two of the Senators’ victories during this streak came in Toronto at the end of December.

The Marlies are sixth in the North Division and are winless in their past seven games (0-5-2-0). However, they received goaltender Dennis Hildeby back on loan from the parent Toronto Maple Leafs earlier this week. Hildeby, who will represent the Marlies along with forward Alex Steeves at next month’s All-Star Classic in San Jose, has excelled in his first full season with the club: his 2.20 goals-against average is tied for fourth in the league, and he has gone 7-5-3 with a .919 save percentage.

The Coachella Valley Firebirds and Colorado Eagles meet in the AHLTV Free Game of the Week on Saturday (9 ET/6 PT).

The contest will reunite a pair of clubs that put on a memorable playoff series last May. Colorado won two of the first three games of the best-of-five division semifinal series before the Firebirds rallied with back-to-back victories to close out the series.

In the teams’ only meeting so far this season, the Eagles pulled out a 1-0 win in Palm Desert on Dec. 17, as Trent Miner made 22 saves. The Eagles added forwards Jean-Luc Foudy and Chris Wagner on loan from the parent Colorado Avalanche on Thursday; both players have missed the first three months of the season due to injury.

An AHLTV account is required to watch the AHLTV Free Game of the Week, but no subscription is needed. Visit AHLTV.com for details.