The Checkers continue to impress early in the season, routing the Peoria Rivermen 6-0 on Sunday to extend their best start in Franchise History.
The win, which was their third straight, marked the first time the Checkers at the AHL level have won three games in three nights. Their best record previously in three-in-three sets was 2-0-1. They remain the only team in the AHL that has yet to play a home game, and they will conclude their nine-game trip in Milwaukee on Wednesday.
Captain Brett Sutter led the way on Sunday, earning his first career hat trick, and Justin Peters’ stopped all 19 shots, to guide the Checkers to the win, improving their record to 6-1-1, which is the best record in the AHL.
Drayson Bowman set a new team record, scoring in his sixth consecutive game. Zach Boychuk and Nicolas Blanchard also scored for the Checkers.
Another first for the Checkers’ is posting back-to-back shutouts, with Dan Ellis having the clean sheet in Saturday’s 4-0 win over Peoria. Charlotte has not allowed a goal since the second period of Friday’s game against Grand Rapids, when the team was down 4-1. In that span of nearly 160 minutes, the Checkers have outscored their opposition 15-0.
Both teams were playing at the end of a three-in-three set, the first period was rather sluggish, and gave little indication of what was to come. What got the scoring going was the Checkers’ league leading power play. Midway through the second period, while on the power play, Boychuk came down and roofed a backhand shot past goalie Jake Allen.
With the goal, Boychuk tied defenseman Justin Faulk, for the team scoring lead with his ninth point in eight games (5 goals, 4 assists). Faulk having played the first two games of the three-in-three was given the night off.
Boychuk is having a terrific and consistent beginning to the season, but might be overshadowed right now by the consistency of Bowman, who finished the game tied for the AHL lead with seven goals, all of which coming from this six game scoring streak he is currently on. Zac Dalpe previously held the Checkers’ scoring record in the team’s inaugural season.
A pass from Jeremy Welsh found Bowman alone, with plenty of time and space which Bowman capitalized on to give the Checkers a 2-0 lead. This happened just minutes after Boychuk’s power play goal.
From there, look no further than the Checkers’ captain, Brett Sutter. Jerome Samson forced a turnover behind the Peoria net, sent a centering feed to Sutter, who capitalized on the chance late in the second period, for Sutter’s first goal of the season. Sutter added another midway through the third, before completing the hat trick with 1:31 left on a rebound from rookie Victor Rask.
Prior to the Captain’s third goal, Nicolas Blanchard scored his first of the season on the power play. Jeff Daniels elected to keep his skill players on the bench with a late 4-0 lead, but proved to not make a difference as Blanchard tipped in a point shot from Justin Kruger.
That goal made the Checkers 2-for-2 on the power play for the night, improving to 36.6 percent. The team has scored at least one power play goal in all eight of its games this season.
The offense was certainly there, but we shouldn’t forget the great work of the defense. Justin Peters with the shutout, making 19 saves to earn his eighth shutout in his AHL career, he was good when needed, and there was a showdown early in the game between him and Peoria goalie Allen, both having to make great saves on odd-man chances. Peters would end up getting the best of the night though, getting a shutout after having to be pulled from Friday’s game after the team was down 4-1 in the second period.
Eight game down in the nine game road swing, leaving their Halloween match up with Milwaukee the only game remaining before their home opener on Sunday, November 4. Milwaukee fell to the Checkers 4-3 on October 19. The Checkers’ will face the Chicago Wolves on November 4 at Time Warner Cable Arena at 3 pm. Tickets are still available at www.gocheckers.com/tickets.