The Checkers hope their second game in Abbotsford goes as well as their first as they conclude their two-game road trip with tonight’s rematch against the Heat.
Zac Dalpe and Brett Sutter had four points apiece and Justin Peters made 28 saves as Charlotte took a 5-1 win on Friday that gave it a 2-1-0 lead in the four-game season series that concludes tonight. After losing four straight games to Abbotsford over the last two seasons, the Checkers have now won each of the last two meetings.
Charlotte will be hoping to avoid a repeat of last year’s trip to Abbotsford in January, in which it recorded a 5-0 win in the first game but lost 5-2 the next day. The Heat lead the all-time series 4-3-0.
For the second time in less than a week, the Checkers set or tied a few franchise records in another big win – their fourth in their last five games. The four-point outings by Dalpe and Sutter tied career highs for each player and tied the franchise mark for most points in a single game, which has now been accomplished 12 times over the last three seasons.
Six of those four-point games have come this season, with Sutter chipping in a four-assist effort in last Saturday’s 8-2 win over Milwaukee, giving him eight points in his last three games. Dalpe now has three four-point games in his career, with Friday’s the first since he scored four in back-to-back games in January of 2011.
Both of Dalpe’s goals came shorthanded, making him the first Checker to score multiple shorthanded goals in one game. He now has three shorthanded goals on the season, setting a new team record. His strikes were part of a dominant performance on the penalty kill, which killed all seven Abbotsford power plays.
With the Checkers not pulling away until a three-goal third period (they actually gave up the first goal to the Heat’s Greg Nemisz), Peters made a string of good saves in the first two periods to keep things close. As tonight’s game is one of two in an 11-day stretch for Charlotte, Peters, who played in 14 of the last 17 games, could get right back in the net tonight.
Charlotte only has one other lineup decision to make at forward, with David Rutherford cleared for contact and eligible to return from a concussion that has cost him the previous six games. Brody Sutter, cousin of Brett, made his AHL season debut on Friday.
Following tonight’s game, the Checkers return home for a few days before making a one-game trip to Norfolk next week. They then play 14 of their next 17 games at Time Warner Cable Arena starting March 3.
While the Checkers are on another successful stretch of their season, Abbotsford is now winless in six games (0-5-1) – their longest such streak of the season and the longest active streak in the AHL. Friday’s game was their first at home following a five-game road trip.
Allowing five goals to Charlotte on Friday – the second time they have done so in as any meetings with the Checkers – knocked Abbotsford out of the AHL’s top spot in terms of team defense. The Heat, who had held that distinction for much of the season, are now second to the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins with an average of 2.38 goals allowed per game.
Goalie Barry Brust, a Western Conference teammate of Justin Peters at last month’s AHL All-Star Classic, has been in goal for each of the last two meetings with Charlotte. He has now given up five or more goals four times in his last nine appearances but still ranks seventh in the league with a 2.22 goals-against average.
One of the league’s deepest teams in terms of goaltending, the Heat could turn to veteran Leland Irving for tonight’s rematch. In his first AHL game in over a month after rejoining Abbotsford from its NHL affiliate in Calgary, Irving made 35 saves in a 4-3 shootout loss to Chicago on Wednesday.
Calgary also sent the Heat some firepower in recent days, with Roman Horak (a team-leading 14 goals) rejoining the team and NHL veteran Blair Jones making his Abbotsford debut on Friday.
More to Four
Checkers forwards Zac Dalpe (2g, 2a) and Brett Sutter (1g, 3a) tied their own career highs and tied a franchise records with four points apiece in a 5-1 win at Abbotsford on Friday. The feat has now been accomplished 12 times in team history, including six times this season and four times in the team's last three games.
Sutter is the only Checkers skater with two four-point games this season, both of which have come in his last three games (1g, 7a). Prior to that, he had never scored four points in a single game in 383 previous AHL contests. Dalpe has three four-point games in his career, with Friday the first since he recorded back-to-back, four-point outings in January of 2011.
Other Checkers to record four-point games this season are Marc-Andre Gragnani (4a at Grand Rapids on Oct. 26), Tim Wallace (1g, 3a at Oklahoma City on Jan. 11) and Riley Nash (2g, 2a at Milwaukee on Feb. 16). All six four-point games this season have come on the road.
Dalpe Dangerous Shorthanded
Checkers forward Zac Dalpe scored two shorthanded goals against Abbotsford on Friday, making him the first Checker to score multiple shorthanded goals in the same game in the team's three AHL seasons. The goals gave Dalpe three shorthanded goals on the season, which also sets a new team record. Dalpe is the Checkers' all-time leader with seven shorthanded goals.
As a team, the Checkers have eight shorthanded goals this season (t-5th AHL) while boasting the league's No. 5 ranked penalty kill (85.8 percent). Dalpe is the only Checkers skater with more than one shorthanded goal this season.
Another Big Win
The Checkers' win over Abbotsford on Friday marked their eighth win by four or more goals this season - the most in the AHL. No other team has more than six (Syracuse and Toronto).
The Checkers are also tied with Syracuse and Toronto for the most wins by five or more goals (four), while their three wins by six or more goals are most in the AHL.
The Checkers out-scored Abbotsford 3-0 in the third period in Friday, improving their third-period goal differential to plus-28 (66 for, 38 against). That margin, along with the team's 66 third-period goals, is the best of any AHL team in any period.
The Checkers' differntial in each of the first two periods is much closer, as they are plus-1 in the first period (40 for, 39 against) and plus-3 in the second period (56 for, 53 against).
The Checkers, who have the AHL's best road power play at 27.4 percent, scored another man-advantage goal on Friday to improve to 12-for-28 (42.9 percent) in their last five road games. Meanwhile, the Checkers are 0-for-15 in their last four games at home, where they have the league's 29th-ranked power play at 11.6 percent.
Overall, the Checkers, who have a significantly higher amount of attempts on the road (135) than at home (86), rank fourth in the AHL 21.3 percent.
Gragnani's Helping Hand
Despite missing 21 games this season due to injury and illness, Checkers defenseman Marc-Andre Gragnani ranks third in the AHL and first among active defensemen with 16 power-play assists. Gragnani, the only player in the AHL to record four power-play assists in a single game this season (at Grand Rapids on Oct. 26), has five assists in his last four games, including four on the man advantage. Seventeen of Gragnani's 21 points this season have come on the power play.
Peters Shoulders the Load
Checkers goalie Justin Peters has played in 14 of the Checkers' last 17 games, marking the busiest stretch of any of the team's three goaltenders this season. It is also the busiest period for a Checkers goaltender since John Muse played 12 of 13 games from Jan. 24-Feb. 25 of last season.
For the season, Peters ranks eighth in the AHL with 35 games played and tied for fourth with 20 wins. He is also tied for second with a career-high five shutouts and is 12th with a 2.37 goals-against average.
The Checkers have compiled a record of 18-7-4 on the road, giving them a total of 40 points that ranks second in the league behind Syracuse's 42 (20-6-2). Charlotte is currently in the midst of a six-game road swing that marks the third time they have played six or more consecutive games away from Time Warner Cable Arena this season.
- Marc-Andre Gragnani has assists and points in each of his last four games (Feb. 14-22; 0g, 5a)
- Justin Shugg has points in each of his last two games (Feb. 15-22; 1g, 2a)
- Jerome Samson has points in each of his last two games (Jan. 4-6; 1g, 1a)
- David Rutherford (upper body, Feb. 5) - missed six games
- A.J. Jenks (upper body, Jan. 17) - missed 12 games
- Jerome Samson (upper body, Jan. 6) - missed 17 games
- Feb. 20 - (C) Brody Sutter recalled to Charlotte from Florida (ECHL)
- Feb. 18 - (C) Jeremy Welsh recalled to Carolina (NHL) from Charlotte
- Feb. 18 - (C) Riley Nash recalled to Carolina (NHL) from Charlotte