The Checkers conclude their six-game home stand tonight with a rematch of their previous night’s win over the Lake Erie Monsters.
Charlotte (15-7-2) prevailed over Lake Erie (10-11-2) thanks to a goal by former Monster Chris Durno in the closing minutes of the third period that broke a 3-3 tie. The Checkers had led 3-1 going into the third period, but a Lake Erie rally had set the stage for overtime before Durno tipped home a Michal Jordan shot for his third goal of the season. With the win, Charlotte increased its Midwest Division lead to five points over the idle Milwaukee Admirals.
The Checkers are now 4-1-0 on their home stand, with the only blemish coming in a loss to Texas on Saturday – just their second regulation loss at home this season. The Checkers have been the AHL’s best home team this season, securing a league-high 19 points out of a possible 24. Tonight’s game will also conclude the Checkers’ fifth three-in-three set this season.
Coming off what players and coaches alike called the team’s worst effort of the season in Saturday’s 4-2 loss to Texas, the Checkers were pleased with their response the following night. Although they did lose their two-goal lead in the third period, the ability to keep pressing in search of the winning goal proved to be a crucial difference from a series of blown leads that marked the team’s first month of the season.
“It was tough to give up the two goals late, but to see some character show up there and Durno get one against his former team, it feels good,” said Zach Boychuk.
“Our compete level was a lot better than it has been over the last week and our skating was a lot better than it’s been over the last week,” said coach Jeff Daniels. “When you do those things, you’re going to win a lot more games than you don’t.”
Reigning AHL Goaltender of the Month Justin Peters is likely to earn the start on Monday, taking his turn in the Checkers’ even rotation that saw Mike Murphy make 27 saves on Sunday. With the Checkers still carrying 14 healthy forwards plus the injured Cedric McNicoll, two players will again serve as healthy scratches tonight. On Sunday, Matt Pistilli and Jared Staal found themselves as the odd men out, with rookie Justin Shugg re-entering the lineup after a two game absence.
10th Western Conference
GOALS / GAME
GOALS ALLOWED / GAME
PIM / GAME
Sunday’s loss was just the third in nine contests for Lake Erie, which has rallied to get back near the .500 mark after losing the season’s first six contests. They find themselves right on the bubble of the Western Conference playoff picture, currently trailing Rochester by just one point for the No. 8 seed.
A key part in the Monsters’ recent resurgence has been forward Hugh Jessiman, a player perhaps best known in the hockey world for being the last first-round draft choice from the stellar 2003 draft to suit up for an NHL game. The 12th overall pick by the New York Rangers accomplished that feat just last season, going scoreless in two games with the Florida Panthers.
Now with the Colorado Avalanche organization, Jessiman, who played parts of two seasons with the Checkers during the ECHL era, is suddenly on pace to shatter his AHL career high in goals. He scored his ninth of the season on the power play to start the Monsters’ third-period rally on Sunday, giving him goals in six of his last seven games. Teammate Greg Mauldin, who intercepted an intended pass by Murphy behind the Checkers’ net to set up Evan Brophey’s subsequent equalizer, holds the Monsters’ longest active scoring streak with points in each of his last four games (2g, 2a).
Murphy’s misplay was reminiscent of one made by Monsters goalie Trevor Cann in the second period that allowed Chris Terry to score the Checkers’ fourth shorthanded goal of the season and second in as many games. Cann, who has started the last four games in place of the AHL’s best statistical goalie in Cedrick Desjardins, made 32 saves on Sunday. He is backed up by rookie James Reid, who has appeared in just three professional games, all this season.
• With shorthanded goals in each of their last two games, the Checkers have entered a five-way tie for the most in the AHL (four). Defenseman Mathieu Roy has factored in on three of those (1g, 2a), tying him for the overall league lead in shorthanded points. Charlotte has also allowed a shorthanded goal in each of its last two games, bringing their season total to three.
• The Checkers will conclude their fifth of eight three-in-three clusters tonight. Over the course of this season, they have posted a record of 2-2-0 in the third game. Sunday’s victory improved their record in game two to a perfect 5-0-0, while they sport their worst record of the three games in game one (1-4-0).
• The Checkers have been the AHL’s best second-period team this season, sporting a +14 goal differential in the middle frame. Their 30 goals scored in the second period are tied with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton for the most in the league, while their 16 goals allowed are the third-fewest.
• Checkers forward Jon Matsumoto currently holds the team scoring lead with 23 points through 24 games played, tying him for 10th in AHL scoring. The fifth-year pro has eight points (4g, 4a) in his last seven games, and holds a team and career high plus-7 plus/minus rating. Matsumoto leads the Checkers in goals (10) and ranks second behind Chris Terry in assists (13).
• Charlotte forward Jerome Samson is the AHL’s leader in shots on goal once again with 107 – 10 more than any other player. He has recorded five or more shots in 13 of his 23 games this season, including a season-high nine on Oct. 30. During Sunday’s win over Lake Erie, he recorded a game-high six shots on goal, which marked his highest total since posting seven on Nov. 13. Samson is tied for second on the team in scoring with 20 points (9g, 11a) and leads the team with five power-play goals.
• Since returning from a four-game stint with the NHL’s Carolina Hurricanes, forward Brett Sutter has points in three consecutive games (2g, 1a), the longest active streak of any Checkers player. He now ranks sixth on the team in goal scoring with four, two of which have come in his last three games. He is one of just five Checkers forwards without a power-play point this season.
• Nov. 29 - (C) Brett Sutter reassigned to Charlotte from Carolina (NHL)
• Nov. 28 – (G) James Reid recalled to Lake Erie from Allen (CHL)