The game, part of the Checkers’ annual Race Night, pits the team against Rockford (18-21-5) for the second time in as many nights. On Thursday, Charlotte (26-15-4) prevailed 4-3 in a shootout despite giving up a three-goal lead. The win gave the Checkers points in the first five meetings against their Midwest Division rival (4-0-1), with three of those contests having gone to a shootout.
Tonight marks the Checkers’ last home game until Feb. 12, as they play six of their next seven on the road following the break.
Though Charlotte’s third-period difficulties came to a head again on Thursday – it’s the only period in which the team has a negative goal differential (-12) – they were able to escape with the two points. That hasn’t always been the case, as they’ve suffered five regulation losses this season when leading after two periods, at least two more than any other AHL team.
That stat is somewhat skewed by the fact that the Checkers have found themselves in that position a league-leading 26 times, posting a record of 20-5-1. Offensive performances such as the one they received Thursday, in which they converted all three of their power play chances in the first two periods, have helped them achieve that feat.
Speaking of the power play, it went three-for-three on Thursday, which allowed the Checkers to tie a team record by scoring at least one man-advantage goal for the seventh consecutive game. During that span, they’ve converted 13 of their last 35 opportunities (37.1 percent) and now rank fourth in the AHL with a season percentage of 21.9.
Two individual players can tie another team record tonight by recording a point for the eighth consecutive game. Chris Terry (14 points) and Bobby Sanguinetti (11 points) both have seven-game streaks, with Terry setting the all-time Checkers mark earlier this season.
With Mike Murphy out for at least one more game, rookie John Muse will make his third consecutive start for the Checkers tonight. Despite allowing as many goals on Thursday (three) as he had in his previous four appearances combined, Muse improved to 5-0-0 with the Checkers this season and 6-0-0 all-time at the AHL level. He now has a 1.25 goals-against average and .962 save percentage.
The Checkers reassigned defenseman Ryan Donald to the ECHL’s Florida Everblades on Friday morning. Donald had sat out each of the team’s last two games as a healthy scratch. Jared Staal has done the same for Charlotte’s last four contests.
15th Western Conference
GOALS / GAME
GOALS ALLOWED / GAME
PIM / GAME
Though their late rally, which included the tying goal with just 1:30 left in regulation, allowed the IceHogs to earn a point for the fifth consecutive game, it did halt their season-long win streak at four contests. They have not lost in regulation since dropping a 2-1 decision in San Antonio on Jan. 14.
Goalie Carter Hutton holds the same streaks, having started each of Rockford’s last seven games. The Checkers’ three goals on Thursday were the most he’s allowed in that span, illustrating why he is the reigning AHL Player of the Week. Alec Richards, who made 46 saves to beat the Checkers in Charlotte earlier this season, has been the backup during that time.
Thursday’s game showed the impact of top prospects returning to the AHL during their parent clubs’ All-Star breaks, with Rockford leading scorer Brandon Pirri (42 points) scoring the late equalizer to give him 3 goals in his last two AHL contests. Ben Smith, who accompanied Pirri on the trip back from the Chicago Blackhawks, earned an assist on the IceHogs’ first goal that started the rally late in the second period. Both players extended their AHL point streaks to five games. Rostislav Olesz, who started the season with Chicago, has a four-game streak.
Peter Leblanc, a lesser-known member of the Rockford attack, put in a two-goal performance on Thursday to get his team back in the game and set up Pirri’s late effort. The points ended a personal nine-game scoring drought.
• FINDING MUSE: In 287 minutes of AHL hockey this season, Checkers rookie John Muse has allowed just six goals, including his first career shutout on Jan. 20. Muse, who started the season with ECHL Florida, is 5-0-0 with a 1.25 goals-against average and .962 save percentage in five appearances with the Checkers. Thursday’s win over Rockford, which improved him to 2-0 all-time in AHL shootouts, marked the first time he has made consecutive starts this season.
• TERRY STREAKS AGAIN: Forward Chris Terry, who set a team record with an eight-game point streak earlier this season, has put together a streak of seven games dating back to Jan. 12. Though his current streak is still one game shorter than his record, he already has more points (14) than he did in his previous run (11). Terry, named to this year’s AHL All-Star Classic, also holds a share of the team’s longest goal (three games) and assist streaks (five games) this season. He is just one assist away from tying his career high of 30 that he posted in each of his first two AHL seasons and is on pace to set a new personal best with 67 points.
• SANGUINETTI ADVANTAGE: Defenseman Bobby Sanguinetti has 11 points (3g, 4a) during a seven-game streak that marks the longest of his four-season AHL career. All but one of those points has come on the power play, as he now ranks second on the team in power-play points (17) behind Chris Terry (20). Despite not playing in 11 games this season, he is on pace to set new career highs in assists (38) and points (43) and currently ranks third among active Checkers with 23 points in 34 games. That total also ties him for 14th in the AHL in scoring among defensemen.
• POWER SURGE: The Checkers have at least one power-play goal in each of their last seven games, trying a team record. They have scored multiple power-play goals in four of their last five, including two three-goal performances that tied their season high. They have converted 13 of 35 total chances during that span (37.1 percent) and have seen their AHL ranking climb from 12th in the league on Jan. 12 (19.1 percent) to their current ranking of fourth (21.9 percent).
• DIVISIONAL DOMINANCE: The Checkers are 11-3-1 against fellow Midwest Division teams this season, earning 23 of a potential 30 points (.767). That gives them the best combined record of any AHL team against its own division. Chicago is the only other Midwest team that is over .500 against the division (14-11-1).
• HOME ICE ADVANTAGE: The Checkers’ 33 points earned at home this season are the most in the AHL. With a record of 15-6-3 this season, the AHL Checkers have improved to 37-19-7 all-time at Time Warner Cable Arena.
• Bobby Sanguinetti has points in each of his last seven games (Jan. 12-26; 3g, 8a).
• Chris Terry has points in each of his last seven games (Jan. 12-26; 4g, 10a).
• John Muse has won each of his last five games (Dec. 16-Jan. 26).
• Zach Boychuk has assists and points in each of his last four games (Jan. 20-26; 4a).
• Drayson Bowman has points in each of his last two games (Jan. 24-26; 1g, 2a).
• Jan. 27 – (D) Ryan Donald reassigned to Florida (ECHL) from Charlotte
• Jan. 26 – (G) Pier-Olivier Pelletier signed to professional tryout contract
• Jan. 24 – (C) Zac Dalpe reassigned to Charlotte from Carolina (NHL)
• Jan. 23 – (RW) Matt Beca reassigned to Florida (ECHL) from Charlotte
• Jan. 20 – (D) Joe Sova acquired from Albany
• Jan. 20 – (C) Cedric McNicoll assigned to Florida (ECHL) from Charlotte
• Jan. 25 – (RW) Ben Smith reassigned to Rockford from Chicago (NHL)
• Jan. 25 – (C) Brandon Pirri reassigned to Rockford from Chicago (NHL)
• Jan. 25 – (C) David Gilbert reassigned to Toledo (ECHL) from Rockford