The Charlotte Checkers went into the weekend with a 3 point lead in their division over the second place Milwaukee Admirals. With the Admirals having three games in hand over the Checkers, the four points on the line were especially important.
In the first of the back-to-back games Saturday night, Charlotte held on to pull off the 3-2 victory and handed Milwaukee their first regulation road loss of the season. This afternoon the Checkers managed to put together a much more complete game, defeating the Admirals by a score of 5-1 and earning their fourth straight win behind strong performances by forward Matt Pistilli and goaltender Justin Peters. The four points the Checkers took from the Admirals this weekend increases their division lead to seven points.
Much like the night before, the Checkers were able to get on the board early when Pistilli forced a turnover in the Admirals’ zone and fired a wrister past netminder Atte Engren at the 2:07 mark of the first period. Just 1:16 later, rookie Justin Shugg picked up his first career AHL goal when he also capitalized on a Milwaukee turnover in their own zone.
That would be all the action that Engren would see for the Admirals, having let in two goals on two shots in the first three minutes of the game. Coming into the game in relief of Engren, Jeremy Smith stopped 14 of the next 15 shots from the Checkers in that first period. Pistilli scored his second goal of the night at 12:26, picking up a rebound after some hard work by Jon Matsumoto at the side of the net. Drayson Bowman picked up the second assist on Pistilli’s goal for his first point in the last four games.
After dominating much of the play in the first period, the Checkers would head to the lockerroom with a 17-6 advantage in shots on goal and a 3-0 lead on the scoreboard.
Milwaukee came out strong to start the second period, putting much more pressure on the Checkers, but Justin Peters was ready and made some incredible saves to keep the Admirals off the score sheet. Chris Terry scored the only goal of the period to increase the lead to 4-0. Zac Dalpe tore down the right wing and wrapped around the goal, dishing a pass across the crease to Terry who netted his fourth of the season. The goal extended Terry’s point streak to seven games (2G, 8A), tying his career high. Justin Shugg grabbed an assist on the play for his second point of the night and his first career multi-point game.
Drayson Bowman ended an eight-game goal drought when he chipped a pass from Matt Pistilli past Smith at 15:12 of the third period, giving the Checkers a 5-0 lead. The assist gave Pistilli his first three-point game in his career.
Milwaukee’s Gabriel Bourque broke Justin Peters‘ bid for his first shutout of the season with just 56 seconds remaining in the game. Peters stopped 31 of 32 shots en route to his sixth win of the season and has been red hot in November, posting a 5-1-1 record, 1.63 goals against average, and a 0.949 save percentage.
Head coach Jeff Daniels, who was not happy with the previous night’s performance by the Checkers despite the win, liked today’s performance much better. Praising the team’s game, especially the play in the first period, Daniels said, “We really came out and played with a purpose and played with some passion…overall it was a real solid game.”
See more thoughts on the game from Daniels as well as post-game comments from Pistilli and Peters here.
Game Sheet: click here
Game Photos: click here
The Checkers play the third game of their current six-game homestand on Wednesday, 30-Nov-2011 at 7pm EST at Time Warner Cable Arena. Go to www.gocheckers.com for tickets to see our future Canes in action and be sure to watch for a Game Preview here on Cardiac Cane on Wednesday morning.