It may have looked like just another win, but the Checkers were able to accomplish a rare feat on Saturday.
In beating Milwaukee by a 3-2 score at Time Warner Cable Arena, the Checkers ended the Admirals’ AHL-record road point streak at 23 games. Zach Boychuk scored twice for Charlotte and Mike Murphy earned the win in goal to help hand Milwaukee its first regulation loss on the road since Jan. 13, 2011.
Despite the victory, the Checkers’ second in a row at home, head coach Jeff Daniels was again critical of his team’s overall performance.
“We got lucky,” he said. “I’m pretty disappointed with the way we played tonight. They came at us hard for 60 minutes and we just weren't skating."
However, Daniels, who had a similar reaction to the team’s previous home victory, admitted that it was encouraging to take the full two points from such situations.
“It’s a sign of a good team to find a way to win even when you probably didn’t have your best effort,” he said.
Though maintaining that the majority of his team was out-worked and out-skated by the Admirals, who now trail the Midwest-Division-leading Checkers by five points in the standings, Daniels did single out the play of Boychuk. The 22-year-old forward, playing his second game following a reassignment from the NHL’s Carolina Hurricanes last week, scored one goal in the first period before adding the would-be winner in the third.
“He was probably our best forward tonight,” said Daniels. “He was one guy that had some jump.”
“(The Hurricanes) told me to keep a positive attitude, go down and play your way back up,” said Boychuk, who now has 6 goals in nine AHL games this season. “It’s nice to come down here and get some confidence.”
Boychuk’s first goal was reminiscent of two highlight-reel goals from previous Checkers games, where he came down the left wing with speed before attempting to dodge the goaltender’s poke check and finish with his backhand. It’s a move so effective that it works even when it doesn’t work, as a Milwaukee defender swiped the puck away from him, only to see it bounce over netminder Jeremy Smith’s head and into the net just 1:22 into the game.
“I was going to try to do my classic move,” he acknowledged.
“Even though it was a lucky goal, his speed created it,” said Daniels.
His second came almost equally as early in the third period, as he put home a Jerome Samson rebound at the 1:59 mark to make the score 3-1, which was all they would need despite Milwaukee’s Chris Mueller scoring his second power-play goal of the game on a two-man advantage just minutes later.
Mueller’s first goal that tied the score at 1-1 with five minutes left in the opening period came on an attempted centering feed that went off a Checkers defenseman and into the net behind Murphy. Although frustrated with his luck at the time, he rebounded with a strong second period to keep the Checkers in the game as they were being out-shot heavily at the time.
“Those things happen, and you can’t let them get to you,” said Murphy, who made 28 saves to earn his first win since Nov. 6. “As a goalie you have to make key saves at the right time, and I felt like I was able to do that tonight.”
Perhaps most notable of those was a sliding pad save to deny Milwaukee what should have been an easy back-door tap in late in the period.
“It was a good save that we needed to get out of the period up 2-1,” said Daniels.
Chris Terry scored the Checkers’ third goal, taking a short pass from rookie Justin Shugg and beating Smith cleanly on a wrist shot from the top of the circles. Though the goal, Terry’s third of the season, was his first since he tallied twice on Oct. 29, he did extend his point streak to a six games (1g, 7a).
“It was definitely a goal that he needed,” said Daniels of Terry, who led the team in goal scoring with 34 last season. “I know he’s got some assists, but he’s a guy that prides himself on goals and that was a big one for him.”
The teams will meet again tomorrow, as the Checkers and Admirals finish a back-to-back set that opens the Checkers current six-game home stand.
: Five of Boychuk’s 6 goals this season have come at home … Murphy earned an assist on Boychuk’s first goal, his second of the season and fifth of his career … Defenseman Michal Jordan also assisted on Boychuk’s first, extending his career-best point streak to four games (1g, 4a) … Shugg’s assist was his first AHL point … Forward Jared Staal sat out his second consecutive game as a healthy scratch, while defenseman Bobby Sanguinetti missed his fourth consecutive game due to injury ... Fans voted Boychuk the winner of the Roll up Your Sleeves Hardest Worker of the Game.