Heading into Utica for the first time ever, the Checkers leaned on their high-powered offense and a strong performance in net to defeat the Comets 5-2.
The Checkers came out of the gates firing, breaking the ice with a slick conversion by Andrew Miller just 20 seconds into regulation and then tacking on another pair late in the frame. Despite a tally from Comets’ star Nikolay Goldobin, the home squad found themselves in a 3-1 hole through 20 minutes of play.
The second period started much like the second, with the Checkers striking within a minute of the puck drop thanks to a stellar individual effort from Lucas Wallmark. The Comets would push back, lighting the lamp late in the middle frame to cut the Checkers’ advantage in half, but it would be all Jeremy Smith from that point on.
The veteran netminder dug in down the stretch for the Checkers as Utica pressed hard, mounting a strong attack that outshot the visitors 14-4 in the third period. Smith never wavered, however, finishing the night with 33 saves and, thanks to an empty net tally from Warren Foegele, a 5-2 victory for his club.
This was the Checkers’ third straight victory, marking their longest win streak of the season … The Checkers improved to 7-1-0 on the road, with their seven road victories good for most in the AHL … With eight goals in 12 games, Zykov is already halfway to his career-high total of 16 that was set in 66 games last season. He finished the game tied for second in AHL goal scoring … This was Zykov’s third straight game with a goal (3g, 1a) … With an assist on Miller’s opener, Phil Di Giuseppe also extended his point streak to three games (2g, 2a) … The Checkers have scored three goals in the first period twice in their last three games. Prior to that, they had scored six total first-period goals in their first nine games of the season … Charlotte has hit the five-goal mark seven times in 12 games … The Checkers went a perfect 6-for-6 on the penalty kill while scoring on one of their two power plays … Charlotte improved to 2-1-0 against Utica, with all three games decided by at least three goals … Foegele’s empty netter gives him seven goals in his first 10 professional games … Wallmark left the game with an injury in the third period and did not return … Smith recorded consecutive victories for the first time this season … Defensemen Jake Chelios and Brenden Kichton missed the game due to injury … Forwards Mike Ferrantino, Nick Schilkey and Zack Stortini were healthy extras.
The Checkers will enjoy a day off tomorrow before hitting the ice in Utica for their fourth and final matchup with the Comets this season on Friday.
The Checkers' vice president of communications, Paul Branecky has been covering hockey in North Carolina since 2006, including five seasons with the Carolina Hurricanes.