After the home team rallied to erase a 2-0 deficit, Checkers center Brody Sutter scored with just over five minutes remaining in regulation to seal a 3-2 victory in a rematch of last season’s first-round playoff opponents on Friday. Chris Terry, the Checkers’ leading scorer from last season, got things going by scoring on the team’s first shot of the season just 49 seconds into the game, while defenseman Mark Flood added another midway through the first period of his first-ever game with the team.
Justin Peters, a two-time AHL All-Star who returned to the lineup after spending the last two months of the 2012-13 campaign in the NHL, made 32 saves to earn the victory over Oklahoma City, who the Checkers face again on Saturday night.
The 22-year-old, second-year pro first showed signs of developing a more consistent offensive side to his game in last season’s playoffs, scoring twice in Game 1 of that series in Oklahoma City, including the overtime winner. After scoring six points in his first 27 AHL games, Sutter now has six points (3g, 3a) in his last six outings, all against the Barons.
Until putting together a few excellent scoring chances on Barons giveaways just prior to Sutter’s goal, including point-blank chances by Terry and Aaron Palushaj, the Checkers had struggled to generate the same kind of offensive pressure they enjoyed in the first period, when they scored two surprising goals on Bachman and won the shots battle 15-6.
In the meantime, the Barons had out-shot the Checkers 18-5 in the second period, including a rebound goal by Ryan Jones, and tied the game on a third-period power play when Philip Larsen finished a tic-tac-toe passing play involving Anton Lander and Brad Hunt with Rissanen serving a double minor for boarding former ECHL Checker Matt Ford.
Bachman, who earlier allowed Terry and Flood to score on innocent-looking shots from along the side boards, improved dramatically during Oklahoma City’s turn to seize the momentum, stopping rookie Victor Rask on a great chance to end the first period and Zach Boychuk on a power-play breakaway in the second.
Peters did his part to allow the Checkers and Sutter to strike the final blow, covering up for a few breakdowns including a one-time chance midway through the third period. The Barons also hit a post with two minutes remaining as they narrowly missed a chance to send the game into overtime.
Following Saturday’s game, the Checkers are off for two entire weeks before they resume their schedule with their home opener against the Iowa Wild on Oct. 19.