Just when it seemed as though the Checkers’ start to the season couldn’t get any better, they did this.
Captain Brett Sutter’s first career hat trick and Justin Peters’ 19-save shutout propelled the Checkers to a 6-0 win in Peoria on Sunday, improving their league-best record to 6-1-1. Drayson Bowman set a new team record by scoring a goal for the sixth consecutive game, with Zach Boychuk and Nicolas Blanchard rounding out the scoring for Charlotte.
With the win, the Checkers won three games in three nights for the first time in their three-year history. They remain the only AHL team that has yet to play a home game, as they conclude their nine-game road swing in Milwaukee on Wednesday.
The game also marked the first time the Checkers have posted back-to-back shutouts, with Dan Ellis keeping a clean sheet in Saturday’s 4-0 win against the Rivermen. Charlotte has not allowed a goal since the second period of Friday’s game in Grand Rapids, a span of nearly 159 minutes. During that time, they have outscored the opposition 15-0.
The Checkers also continued their recent success against Peoria, having won each of the last five meetings dating back to March 21 of last season. During that time, they outscored the Rivermen 26-4.
With both teams playing the tail end of a three-in-three set, the first period gave little indication of what was to come, with the teams rarely threatening to score on one another. However, the Checkers’ league-leading power play got things rolling midway through the second when Boychuk came down the left wing and roofed a backhand past goalie Jake Allen.
With the goal, Boychuk tied defenseman Justin Faulk, who earned the night off to rest, for the team scoring lead with his ninth point in eight games (5g, 4a).
The only Charlotte skater who could claim to rival Boychuk’s offensive consistency is Bowman, who finished the game tied for the AHL lead with seven goals, all of which have come during his six-game streak that broke teammate Zac Dalpe’s record from the team’s inaugural season. A pass from rookie Jeremy Welsh found Bowman alone with time of space in front of goal just over two minutes after Boychuk’s to give the Checkers a 2-0 lead.
From there, Sutter took over, scoring his first goal of the season when Jerome Samson forced a turnover behind the Peoria net and sent a centering feed to the team’s captain late in the second period. Sutter added a second midway through the third before completing the hat trick with 1:31 left on a rebound from 19-year-old rookie Victor Rask.
Prior to Sutter’s third goal, Nicolas Blanchard scored his first of the season on an unconventional power play, as coach Jeff Daniels had elected to leave his skill players on the bench with a late 4-0 lead. It proved to make no difference, with the veteran tipping home a point shot from Justin Krueger.
That goal made the Checkers 2-for-2 on the man advantage for the night, improving their season mark to 36.6 percent. The team has scored at least one power play goal in all eight of its games this season.
Though Peters only had to make 19 saves to earn the eighth shutout of his AHL career, he was good when called upon in the midst of the Checkers’ offensive onslaught. He and Allen went toe-to-toe on a few occasions when the game was still scoreless, with the teams trading a pair of odd-man rushes.
After their Halloween-night match-up in Milwaukee, the site of a 4-3 victory on Oct. 19, the Checkers will return home to prepare for their home opener, the latest of any AHL team, against the Chicago Wolves on Sunday, Nov. 4.
The Checkers are now 5-1 all-time in Peoria, with all six meetings coming in the last two seasons. The Rivermen head to Charlotte for two games in early November as part of the eight-game season series … In 16 previous sets of three games in three days, the Checkers’ best record was 2-0-1, set three times during the 2010-11 season … In addition to his shutout, Peters picked up an assist on Boychuk’s goal, the fifth of his AHL career … Defensemen Michal Jordan and Rasmus Rissanen each had two assists, with Rissanen’s night marking his first career multi-point game … Rask, Boychuk and Samson each extended their point streaks to four games … Justin Soryal made his season debut for Charlotte, marking his first game since suffering a season-ending leg injury in March … Forward Chris Terry served the first game of a three-game suspension for elbowing … Forwards A.J. Jenks and Jared Staal and defenseman Faulk were healthy scratches for Charlotte.
1. Brett Sutter
2. Justin Peters
3. Zach Boychuk