February 11, 2012 9:52 PM
The Checkers’ first-ever visit to Peoria was not a memorable one.
It took over fourth months for Charlotte to visit its new divisional rival, with the Rivermen providing a rude welcome in the form of a 5-2 victory on Saturday. Jerome Samson and Zach Boychuk scored third-period goals for the Checkers, who were out-shot 47-24.
Boychuk’s goal with 3:19 to play prevented the loss from being his team’s most lopsided of the season, as they have yet to lose by more than three. Both of Charlotte’s goals came with the team already down 5-0, with the Rivermen maintaining control throughout the night.
Despite allowing five goals, tying the most given up by a Charlotte goalie in regulation time this season, goalie Dave Caruso, who signed a professional tryout contract with the Checkers earlier in the week, made 42 saves in his first AHL start of the campaign. That ties him with John Muse for the second-most made by a Charlotte netminder this season, with the now-injured Mike Murphy making a season-high 44 on Oct. 23.
The 47 shots allowed by Charlotte were a season high, narrowly topping the old mark of 45 taken by Norfolk on Oct. 23. Norfolk is coincidentally the Checkers’ next opponent, as the team returns home to complete a three-in-three set in a televised game on Sunday (6 p.m., Time Warner Cable channel 520).
Saturday’s game, the first between the Midwest Division opponents since the Checkers opened the home portion of their schedule with a two-game sweep in mid-October, marked just the third loss in 11 games for Charlotte, which fell to 29-17-4. It was also the first time they’ve lost the middle game of a three-in-three set, falling to 5-1-0.
Though Peoria dictated the play from the start, out-shooting the Checkers 12-2 in the first period, they didn’t break through Caruso until Derek Nesbitt and Anthony Nigro scored 1:13 apart near the end of the frame. Nesbitt’s goal came on a one-timer from the right circle, while Nigro deposited a puck that squirted out to him in the slot during a goalmouth scramble.
Things again settled down until the midway portion of the second, when defenseman Cade Fairchild came up the left wing and beat Caruso inside the near post from a sharp angle. Echoing the quick burst from the previous period, Tyler Shattock scored just under two minutes later as he was left alone in front of the net to finish a one-timer from Stefan Della Rovere.
Things didn’t get much better in the third, with the Rivermen, already up 4-0, enjoying a full two-minutes of a five-on-three power play as Sean Dolan was whistled for tripping during a double-minor taken by Checkers defenseman Bobby Sanguinetti. T.J. Hensick, the AHL’s third-leading scorer heading into the game, scored just 30 seconds after Dolan’s penalty for his 18th of the season.
Though Samson scored an unassisted goal just a few minutes later as he came in alone from the right side and collected his own rebound that hit the post, the Checkers would find the hill too steep to climb, with Boychuk’s goal in the final minutes serving as consolation.
Though Sanguinetti’s team-record point streak ended at 11 games, making it the third-longest posted by any AHL player this season, Samson’s goal gave him 4 points (3g, 1a) in four games since returning from the NHL’s Carolina Hurricanes last week. Boychuk’s goal, a nifty forhand-to-backhand deke after A.J. Jenks had sprung him from the breakaway, ended a personal 10-game drought.
For better or worse, the Checkers will not have to wait nearly as long for their next visit to Peoria, as they return next Friday to begin another three-in-three set that will also see them play two games in Chicago.
NOTES: Caruso, who the Checkers signed from ECHL Trenton, was making his first AHL appearance since April 8, 2011. The 29-year-old now has 52 games of AHL experience … The Checkers’ two shots taken in the first period tied a season low, while their 20 shots allowed in the third period was a new season high … Jenks was the only player to record an assist on the Checkers’ two goals … The Checkers finished 0-for-2 on the power play, while Peoria was 1-for-8 … Defenseman Mathieu Roy was the only Checker to record a positive plus/minus rating (plus-1) … Center Riley Nash, who left Friday’s win in Milwaukee in the first period and did not return, did not play due to injury. Also injured were forward Chris Durno, defenseman Chris Murray and Murphy ... Defenseman Joe Sova was a healthy scratch for Charlotte.