Defense had always been solid for the Checkers during their winless streak. On Friday, they finally got the offense to support it.
Zac Dalpe scored twice and Riley Nash tied a career high with three points (1g, 2a) as the Checkers backed Justin Peters’ 23 shutout in a 4-0 win over the Lake Erie Monsters. The win was Charlotte’s first in its last five games and marked its first win in four match-ups at Quicken Loans Arena over the last two seasons.
Peters’ shutout was his third of the season and second in his last six starts for the Checkers, who had tied a season high by scoring fewer than three goals in each of their last five games. Tim Wallace had the Checkers’ other goal, a shorthanded tally that iced the game with five minutes left in the third and avenged the team’s 2-1 overtime loss from one night earlier.
With a five-game road swing now in the books, the Checkers now head to Raleigh to play a “home” game at PNC Arena, home of the parent Carolina Hurricanes.
While the game’s final score may suggest a comfortable night for the Checkers, it wasn’t until the game’s midway point that they were able to beat goaltender Kieran Millan, a rookie making his first career AHL appearance. On a delayed penalty, Nash skated into the offensive zone, wound up and blasted a slap shot past Millan’s blocker for his fifth goal of the season.
It turned out that was all the offense the Checkers would need, though Dalpe was happy to add some cushion with back-to-back goals just over three minutes apart in the third period. The first came on another delayed penalty drawn by Chris Terry, who was hauled down behind the net but then got up and sent a centering feed to Dalpe for the one-time finish.
Dalpe struck again on a four-on-three power play just before the 10-minute mark of the third period as the result of a patient setup involving teammates Zach Boychuk, Justin Faulk and Bobby Sanguinetti. The play finished when Boychuk took a pass from Faulk to Millan’s right before managing to get a pass through to Dalpe on the other side for another quick goal.
The play marked the third consecutive game with a power-play goal for the Checkers, who previously went through a season-long, 0-for-18 drought. Prior to Dalpe’s goal, they failed to convert on a two-man advantage due to some good goaltending from Millan, who robbed Drayson Bowman on a doorstep, and a high-sticking penalty to Jeremy Welsh that canceled out the remainder.
Trailing 3-0 at that point, Lake Erie desperately needed to score on a power play with six minutes remaining in regulation after a holding penalty to Michal Jordan. Instead, it was Wallace who found the back of the net for his third point in his last five games, finishing a two-on-one pass from Nash, who also assisted on Dalpe’s first. The goal was the Checkers’ third shorthanded tally of the season and the eighth of Wallace’s AHL career.
Peters’ three shutouts are just one short of his single-season career high set with Albany during the 2008-09 season. The 10th of his AHL career was perhaps best preserved during a bizarre first-period play in which he came well out of his net to play the puck forward during a Checkers power play but did not see the Monsters’ Mike Connolly exiting the penalty box. Peters, still well out of position, then had to make a diving save to prevent the empty-net goal.
Dalpe’s two goals tied a season high set on Nov. 16 and a career high at the AHL level. Nash’s three points also tied a career-best set on two previous occasions over the last three seasons.
Though each team won two of four games, the Checkers technically prevailed in the four-game season series by way of Thursday’s overtime loss that gave them five points to Lake Erie’s four. The game showed signs of being the fourth meeting in a calendar month, as four separate fights broke out, two involving the Checkers’ Justin Soryal.
The Checkers were one game away from tying the longest winless streak in team history, an 0-5-0 stretch from earlier this season … Charlotte has now won by four or more goals four times this season … Justin Krueger’s second-period fight was the first of his AHL career … Lake Erie’s loss snapped a five-game winning streak at home … In addition to scoring a shorthanded goal, the Checkers’ penalty kill negated four Lake Erie power plays … Charlotte forward Nicolas Blanchard and defensemen Marc-Andre Gragnani and Rasmus Rissanen all missed the game due to injury … Forward Jared Staal and defenseman Tommi Kivisto were healthy scratches.
North Carolina Education Lottery Three Stars
1. Zac Dalpe
2. Justin Peters
3. Riley Nash