The Charlotte Checkers finished up 2011 with a five game point streak (4-0-1) and are looking to extend that streak into the new year as they take on the San Antonio Rampage in a two-game set at Time Warner Cable Arena on Tuesday/Wednesday. The four-game series is currently tied at one game apiece with the Checkers taking a 4-1 victory in October and the Rampage taking the second meeting by the same score in December.
The Checkers find themselves kicking off the year at the top of the Midwest Division and in second place in the Western Conference. Their most recent outing, a 4-1 win over the Chicago Wolves, was a complete 60-minute effort that saw players stepping up in all aspects of the game – a powerplay (1/1) and penalty kill (3/3) that were perfect on the evening, outstanding goal support, and exceptional goaltending.
Special teams continue to be a positive for Charlotte. Their powerplay is currently 9th in the AHL, converting at a rate of 19.6%, but has been particularly impressive of late with goals in six of their last seven games. During that stretch, the Checkers went 8 for 28 on the man-advantage (28.6%). The penalty kill sits 7th in the AHL at 84.4% and has not allowed a goal against in the last six games. In Chicago Saturday afternoon, they were able to hold the Wolves without a shot on goal on a 45 second two-man advantage.
Mike Murphy has been making the most of his new status as the Checkers’ number one goaltender. Since his return from his first stint in the NHL, and Justin Peters’ subsequent call-up, Murphy has made six consecutive starts and posted a record of 3-1-1. The highlights of this stretch for Murphy have come in his last two games. In the 4-3 shootout win over Rockford, Murphy made 26 saves, including a dandy with just four seconds left in overtime. He followed that OT save up with three consecutive shootout stops and has now denied 12 of 13 shootout attempts on the season. The next night in Chicago, he was able to withstand a flurry of activity in the third period, stopping fourteen shots in the third period alone (and 28 on the game).
The top offensive talents for Charlotte are stepping up and producing points for their team. Jerome Samson has been the hottest forward over the last few weeks and comes into the games riding a five game point streak (4G, 1A). Samson’s goal against Chicago moved him into the team lead for goals with fourteen. His eight powerplay goals also leads the team. Forward Zach Boychuk has a three game point streak going (1G, 3A) and has six points in his last five games (2G, 4A). Jon Matsumoto has chipped in five points (3G, 2A) in his last five games, captain Brett Sutter has four points (1G, 3A) in his last four, and Chris Terry has four (1G, 3A) in his last five. From the blueline, Bobby Sanguinetti has been showing great play-making abilities and now has five assists in seven games since returning from his broken foot.
Rookie forward Justin Shugg will remain out of the lineup with an injury.
The Rampage are currently fourth in the West Division and eleventh in the Western Conference with 32 points. Like the Checkers, the Rampage are coming off a win on the final day of 2011, posting a 4-3 win over the AHL leading Oklahoma City Barons.
With three of their top five scorers this season currently playing with the parent club Florida Panthers, San Antonio is led by center Bracken Kearns (10G, 10A) and defenceman Colby Robak (5G, 14A). Kearns was the last player to score a powerplay goal against the Checkers back on 11-Dec-2011.
The Rampage have been struggling on special teams, sitting at the bottom of the AHL in powerplay percentage and 27th in the penalty kill, though they’ve been slightly better on the road, ranking 26th and 21st, respectively.
Goaltender Jacob Markstrom (2.75 GAA, 0.909 SAV%) has started six of the last seven games for the Rampage, and seven of their last ten, posting a 4-2-1 record over that span. Markstrom made 28 saves in his most recent game against the Barons on Saturday. Back-up Dov Grumet-Morris (1.68 GAA, 0.936 SAV%) has gone 1-1-1 his last three decisions. The two will likely split the games in Charlotte.
Series tied 1-1-0-0
Saturday, 29-Oct-2011: Checkers 4, Rampage 1
Friday, 11-Dec-2011: Rampage 4, Checkers 1
Tuesday, 03-Jan-2012: Rampage at Checkers, 7:00pm EST
Wednesday, 04-Jan-2012: Rampage at Checkers, 7:00pm EST
|NHL Affiliate||Carolina Hurricanes||Florida Panthers|
|Record||19-11-2-1 (11-4-1-1 at home)||15-15-2-0 (7-6-2-0 on road)|
|Standing||1st in Midwest Division
2nd in Western Conference
|4th in West Division
11th in Western Conference
|Goals per Game||2.82||2.34|
|Goals Against per Game||2.58||2.91|
|Powerplay||Overall: 31 for 158 (19.6%) –
9th in AHL
Home: 15 for 82 (18.3%) –
15th in AHL
|Overall: 13 for 120 (10.8%) –
30th in AHL
Road: 6 for 44 (13.6%) –
26th in AHL
|Penalty Kill||Overall: 114 for 135 (84.4%) –
7th in AHL
Home: 58 for 68 (85.3%) –
7th in AHL
|Overall: 115 for 149 (77.2%) –
27th in AHL
Road: 52 for 66 (78.8%) –
21st in AHL
|Penalty Minutes per Game||14.76||15.47|
|Team Leaders||Points: Jon Matsumoto (29)
Goals: Jerome Samson (14)
Assists: Chris Terry (18)
Shots: Jerome Samson (143)
+/- : Justin Shugg (+5)
PIM: Justin Soryal (70)
Wins: Mike Murphy (12)
GAA: Mike Murphy (2.48)
SAV%: Justin Peters (0.920)
|Points: Bracken Kearns (20)
Goals: Bracken Kearns (10)
Assists: Colby Robak (14)
Shots: Greg Rallo (100)
+/- : Colby Robak (+12)
PIM: Eric Selleck (88)
Wins: Jacob Markstrom (6)
GAA: D. Grumet-Morris (1.68)
SAV%: D. Grumet-Morris (0.936)
|Current Team Streak||4-0-1-0||1-0-0-0|