The Checkers took another victory in nail-biting fashion Sunday, beating the Comets in overtime to extend their winning streak to six games.

Despite finding themselves in a hole late in the middle frame, the Checkers once again fought their way back to even the score on a Morgan Geekie deflection just second before the buzzer. Both teams would create their fair share of chances in the third but neither side could capitalize, sending the contest into overtime.

The extra frame didn’t last long as Aleksi Saarela broke in on an odd-man rush and buried a quick wrister just 22 seconds in to net two points for the home team.

Despite it being a low-scoring affair there was no shortage of offensive firepower in today’s game, but it was Callum Booth who emerged as the winner of the goalie duel, stopping 28 of the 29 shots he faced to pick up his fourth victory of the season.

QUOTES

Coach Mike Vellucci on the game
It was really tight. I thought Utica played really well. They came at us like we knew they would because they were sitting here last night waiting for us but our guys stayed with it. We were on fumes there in the third period and on our heels a little bit, but Boother held us in there. He played a really strong game, guys sacrificed their bodies and let it all hang out.

Vellucci on winning close games lately
It comes down to effort. It’s determination, effort and the will to do whatever it takes to try to win the game. The guys have been showing that.

Vellucci on Morgan Geekie
I told him that even before he scored the goal he has been playing way better defensively, he’s above his guy at the right times and he’s communicating. I knew he was going to have a good game because he was on his head and he was thinking about what he was doing defensively. He had a real solid game all over and was rewarded with a big goal for us.

Vellucci on Saarela’s goal
It was good to see Sal get a little redemption there. I picked him to do the (penalty shot) and they made a nice save on him there, but he got us a big goal. When he gets it on net it’s going to go through the goalie because he’s got the hardest shot in the league. We’ve just got to keep telling him to put it on net and it’ll go through him.

Aleksi Saarela on winning close games
I think we just keep going. We know that we’re such a skilled team that we can win the tight games too. Coaches are pushing us to not take away from the gas and keep working hard. I think that’s the biggest reason for us.

Saarela on pressing on against hot goalies
There’s so many good goalies so you kind of get used to it. There’s goalies every other day that can make unbelievable saves. You’ve just got to keep going and hope that you earn the goals. It’s nothing new for us.

Saarela on the team’s win streak
I think we’re playing really good as a team right now and the coaches are letting us take days off when we need them. Last year we had 12 rookies, but now we’re a year older and we know how to deal with things.

NOTES

The Checkers extended their win streak to six games, their longest since tying a franchise record with seven straight to end last season. They retain the AHL’s best record at 22-6-1 … They have won six straight at home, tying a franchise record set on Jan. 21-Feb. 17 of last season … Utica’s four-game win streak came to an end … The Checkers are 7-1 when going to overtime this season (6-1 during the five-minute period, 1-0 in shootouts) … Booth allowed just one goal in each of his last two starts. He is now 4-1-0 with a 1.89 goals-against average and .924 save percentage this season … The Checkers are 0-2 on penalty shots this season … Defenseman Josiah Didier missed the game due to injury … Forward Zack Stortini and defenseman Josh Wesley were healthy extras.

UP NEXT

The Checkers continue their pre-holiday run of home games Tuesday with a rematch against this Utica Comets team at 7 p.m.
Nicholas Niedzielski
Author: Nicholas NiedzielskiEmail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Director of Communications Nicholas Niedzielski joined the Checkers in the summer of 2014. A Texas native, he previously worked for the AHL's Texas Stars.