Friday’s 4-3 win over San Antonio brought the Checkers up to ninth place in the Western Conference – their highest position since Nov. 7 – and just two points behind the Rockford IceHogs for eighth place. They received some good news and some bad news on Saturday, with Rockford picking up a win to go four points clear (with one more game played than Charlotte) while Oklahoma City lost to solidify Charlotte’s hold on ninth.
A win today would get the Checkers back to within two points of Rockford, now in seventh, and potentially within one of eighth-place Rochester, which plays against Lake Erie at 3 p.m. The Checkers have won five in a row against the Rampage, who they visit once more on April 4.
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That’s where Chris Terry and the Checkers’ always-productive power play came in, with Charlotte’s scoring leader, both this season and all-time, cashing in for his second man-advantage goal of the game to win it with 4:01 to go.
The game marked the fourth time that the Checkers have given up a three-goal lead this season. They’ve won all four of those games.
“No one wanted to blow a lead like that, but [we had] the perseverance in our group and the character to come back like that and stick with it,” said Terry.
Terry’s goals gave him six over an active five-game streak that marks the longest of his career and ties the longest posted by any AHL player this season. With 59 points (sixth AHL), he is one of three Checkers skaters (Zach Boychuk, Aaron Palushaj) on pace to break the team’s single-season points record of 65 set by Boychuk in 2010-11.
“Especially this time of year we’re trying to push for a playoff spot, it’s really important for those guys to step up at the right time,” said defenseman Michal Jordan, who’s been doing that himself with five assists in his last four games.
After his five-game win streak came to an end in Norfolk on Wednesday, John Muse made 29 saves on 32 shots to tie the Checkers’ record for most wins in a single season (22) on Friday. He is 5-0-0 with a 2.56 goals-against average and .920 save percentage against the Rampage this season, making him a solid and rested choice to play again today. That said, Mike Murphy, though unlucky in the wins and losses department of late, is coming off an impressive 40-save effort against Lake Erie exactly one week ago.
If the Checkers make any lineup changes outside of goal today, it would likely involve rookie defenseman Dennis Robertson, who awaits his pro debut after signing with Carolina at the conclusion of his college season late last week. Forwards Greg Nemisz and Brendan Woods remain out due to injury.
Update: The Checkers are signing forward Matthew Pistilli and Trevor Cann to professional tryout contracts. Read more here.
|9th West||15th West|
|3.05 (10th)||2.75 (20th)|
|3.19 (27th)||3.06 (24th)|
|22.1% (2nd)||16.7% (t-16th)|
|80.7% (21st)||78.8% (28th)|
|13.8 (8th)||14.1 (9th)|
With the Checkers dominating in the season series in terms of wins and losses, the games themselves have been much closer than one might expect. All five of Charlotte’s wins have come by a single goal, with the Checkers winning one in the shootout and scoring the winner in the final 10 minutes of the third period in the other four.
“They play hard no matter if they’re up or down,” said Checkers coach Jeff Daniels. “They always come hard at you.”
Making something of a rare start as NHL veteran Scott Clemmensen had taken over for recent games, goalie Michael Houser kept the Checkers at bay for as long as he could on Friday with 42 saves on 46 shots. The rookie has a 2.74 goals-against average and .905 save percentage this season, while Clemmensen, who has started four of the last six (all losses) checks in at 3.53 and .888 at the AHL level.
The Rampage will continue to be without many of their top young players who are getting late-season looks with the NHL’s Florida Panthers, also well outside playoff position, though they are still left with a veteran squad. Defenseman Matt Gilroy, Mike Mottau, Ryan Whitney and Greg Zanon have a combined 1,500 games of NHL experience. Forward Jed Ortmeyer has played 345 NHL games, while Bobby Butler and Mark Mancari are both former All-Stars at the AHL level.
Against San AntonioAfter losing their first meeting against San Antonio this season on Nov. 2, the Checkers won each of the next five, all by a single goal, to improve to 12-6-0 against the Rampage since joining the Western Conference prior to the 2011-12 season. The clubs play twice more this season, including today's game and a final match-up in San Antonio on April 4.
Aaron Palushaj leads the Checkers with 10 points (3g, 7a) in six games against San Antonio this season, with Zach Boychuk (1g, 8a in six meetings) and Chris Terry (4g, 3a in six games, including two game-winning goals) also above a point-per-game in the season series.
John Muse is 5-0-0 with a 2.56 goals-against average and .920 save percentage against the Rampage this season, with Mike Murphy yet to face them.
Western Conference Standings
The Checkers currently trail eighth-place Rochester, which has one game in hand and plays against Lake Erie today, by three points. They also trail Rockford, idle today with one more game played, by four.
Of the Checkers' 12 remaining games, five will be played against teams in direct competition for a playoff spot (one against Rockford and four against Oklahoma City). Four more will be played against teams below them in the Western Conference standings (two against 14-seed Iowa and two against 15-seed San Antonio).
Terry StreaksChris Terry has goals in five straight games, marking the longest streak of his career and tying him for the longest streak posted by any player in the AHL at any time this season. His streak is the longest by a Checker since Drayson Bowman set the franchise record with eight from Oct. 19-Nov. 4 of last season.
During his streak, Terry has taken over the team's scoring lead with 59 points (sixth AHL). His 26 goals rank second on the team behind Zach Boychuk (28) and are tied for the sixth-most in the league.
All He Does Is WinCheckers goalie John Muse has won 19 of his last 26 decisions dating back to Nov. 23. His most recent victory on March 21, his 22nd of the season, tied the franchise record held by Justin Pogge (2010-11) and Justin Peters (2012-13). He is tied for fourth in the AHL in victories.
A winner of two NCAA National Championships with Boston College and an ECHL Kelly Cup with the Florida Everblades, Muse, who rejoined the Checkers on a PTO in November before upgrading to an AHL deal, has an all-time AHL record of 40-22-3. He ranks second in the Checkers' AHL history with 39 wins, three more than Peters and four fewer than Murphy.
Murphy's LawDespite making 40 saves, one shy of his season high, Mike Murphy lost for the sixth time in his last seven decisions by way of a 3-2 defeat against Lake Erie on March 16. Murphy has received three total goals of support in his last three starts, all losses, while partner John Muse has gone 6-1-0 while receiving three or more goals of support in each of his last seven starts.
The Big ThreeAlong with Texas (four), the Checkers are one of two teams to feature three or more players among the AHL's top 20 scorers. Chris Terry leads the Checkers and ranks sixth in the AHL with 59 points, while Zach Boychuk and Aaron Palushaj are tied for eighth in the league with 57.
All three players have held sole possesion of the Checkers' scoring lead at one point this season and are on pace for their best scoring seasons at the AHL level. At their current pace, all three players would break Boychuk's team record of 65 points set in 2010-11, with Terry on pace for 71, Boychuk on pace for 69 and Palushaj headed for 67.
Sutter Moving Up
Checkers All-Time Points Leaders
Sutter, who played his 500th professional game on March 2, has averaged 0.73 points per game in his last two seasons with the Checkers compared to 0.33 points per game in his first five AHL campaigns with Quad City, Abbotsford and Charlotte. Despite missing 14 games while on NHL duty with Carolina this season, he ranks fourth on the Checkers in scoring with 39 points (12g, 27a) in 50 games.
Sutter has points in each of his last six games (4g, 5a), tying the longest streak of his career. He scored eight points (5g, 3a) over a six-game stretch last season.
Checkers Power Play by Season
The Checkers currently rank second in the AHL with a 22.1 percent success rate on the power play.
- The Checkers are 4-0-0 when surrendering a three-goal lead this season.
- A win today would put the Checkers above .500 at home for the first time this season (currently 16-16-1).
- The Checkers' 21 shots on goal in the second period on March 21 were their most in a single period since Jan. 19 (23).
- Aaron Palushaj's 22 goals, 35 assists and 57 points tie career highs set with Hamilton in the 2010-11 season, when he posted identical totals in four more games played.
- Zach Boychuk's 28 goals are the fourth-most in the AHL and the third-highest total in the Checkers' AHL history (Jacob Mikflikier had 29 and Chris Terry had 34 in 2010-11).
- The Checkers have killed 21 of 22 penalties since March 12.
- Aaron Palushaj's 20th goal of the season on March 9 was also his sixth-game winner. He is in a six-way tie for the most game-winning goals int he AHL.
- Mark Flood ranks second among AHL defensemen with 12 goals. That sets a career high and is the most ever by a Charlotte defenseman in a single season.
- The Checkers' eight overtime games (5-3) and four shootouts (2-2) are the fewest in the league.
- The Checkers' three shorthanded goals are the fewest in the AHL. They have never scored fewer than six in a single season.
- The Checkers have three defensemen (Danny Biega, Mark Flood and Michal Jordan) with fewer than 15 penalty minutes. The other three (Matt Corrente, Keegan Lowe and Rasmus Rissanen) have at least 50 apiece and 249 combined.
- Brett Sutter has points in each of his last six games (March 9-21: 4g, 5a)
- Chris Terry has points in each of his last six games (March 9-21: 6g, 2a) and goals in each of his last five (March 12-21: 6g, 1a)
- Michal Jordan has assists and points in each of his last two games (March 19-21: 0g, 3a)
- Justin Shugg has assists and points in each of his last two games (March 19-21: 0g, 2a)
- Philippe Cornet is two shy of 250 professional games
- Zach Boychuk is four shy of 250 AHL points
- Nicolas Blanchard is seven shy of 800 AHL penalty minutes
- Justin Shugg recorded his 100th professional point on March 21
- Aaron Palushaj recorded his 200 AHL penalty minute on March 19
- Greg Nemisz - missed eight games starting March 8
- Brendan Woods - missed 14 games starting Feb. 22
- March 23 - (RW) Matthew Pistilli signed to PTO from Florida (ECHL)
- March 23 - (G) Trevor Cann signed to PTO from Florida (ECHL)
- March 20 - (D) Dennis Robertson (Brown University) signed with Carolina (NHL) and assigned to Charlotte
- March 19 - (LW) Chris Terry reassigned to Charlotte from Carolina (NHL)
- March 17 - (D) Austin Levi reassigned from Charlotte to Florida (ECHL)