The storyline from the first 40 minutes of the Checkers’ game tonight in Norfolk seemed eerily similar to their previous one in Abbotsford. Road team jumps out to a 2-0 lead. They’re unable to put the game out of reach as they let some power play opportunities slip away with no results. Opponent cuts the lead in half with a goal late in the second period. Thankfully tonight’s story involved a much better third period with a very different ending as Charlotte brought home a 4-2 victory.
Captain Brett Sutter opened the scoring for Charlotte with his sixth of the season at 7:19 of the first frame. Sutter knocked the rebound from a Evgenii Dadonov shot out of mid-air and past goaltender Jaroslav Janus. The assist for Dadonov was his first point with the Checkers since being acquired in a trade from the Florida Panthers last week.
Drayson Bowman picked up his eleventh of the season in the first when he connected on a power play opportunity from Bobby Sanguinetti and Michal Jordan. Bowman’s goal moved him into second on the team in goals scored by active players (just one behind Zach Boychuk’s 12 goals). Charlotte went 2 for 6 on the man advantage tonight and has now scored at least one power play goal in each of their last six games.
With three minutes and change left in the second period, the Admirals’ scored a power play goal of their own to head into the locker room with just a one goal deficit.
Unlike last Saturday night, the Checkers came out hard to start the third and saw it pay off with an early power play goal. Matt Pistilli fired the puck at Janus and then potted his own rebound to restore a two goal lead at the 2:32 mark. With the secondary assist on Pistilli’s goal, Chris Terry extended his scoring streak to six games. During that stretch, Terry, a recent addition to the 2012 AHL All Star roster, has averaged two points a game, picking up 4 goals and 8 assists. Sanguinetti also added to the point totals in his streak with the primary assist (3G, 7A in last 6 games).
Dadonov nabbed his second point of the night, and first goal as a Checker, with an empty netter with just over a minute remaining in the game. The assist from Zach Boychuk extended his point streak to three games (3A).
A Michel Oullet powerplay goal with 10 seconds left in the game made it a 4-2 final.
John Muse continued his outstanding play in net as he was called upon at the last minute to make the start tonight after Mike Murphy was injured in warm-ups. There has been no word yet as to what the injury is or the seriousness of it. Muse finished the night with 29 saves for his fourth consecutive win.
A few notes from the game:
- We finally saw a complete 60-minute effort from the Checkers tonight. They have had too many games this season with severe lapses in the third period to blow games and tonight they controlled the tempo and the majority of the play throughout.
- Norfolk played a nasty game. There were several questionable hits against the Checkers tonight and it almost seemed like the Ads’ game plan early on was to try and take goaltender John Muse out as he was run into several times early in the game. With Mike Murphy injured, the Checkers were playing without a backup goaltender and an injury to Muse would have been ugly.
- Big props to the Checkers for standing up for Muse and having his back any time an Admiral player got near him. They were obviously not happy with their opponent taking liberties with their goaltender and showed good team toughness in response to Norfolk’s antics.
- Newly acquired Joe Sova looked strong on defence tonight. The Checkers’ introduction to him came in the form of a shot block in the crease behind Muse early in the game to keep it scoreless. That type of heads up play is a sure-fire way to endear yourself to new teammates and fans alike and was a great thing to see on one of Sova’s first shifts. Sova was obtained from the New Jersey Devils in exchange for Alexei Ponikarovsky over the weekend. Prior to coming to Charlotte, he split his time this season between the Albany Devils in the AHL and the Kalamazoo Wings in the ECHL.
- Evgenii Dadonov is looking better each game with the Checkers. He’s been solid on his skates and strong on the puck and has been generating several chances. He was finally rewarded with a goal and an assist tonight for his efforts.
The Checkers now return home for back-to-back games against division rival Rockford on Thursday and Friday. The Icehogs did the Checkers a great favour by defeating the Chicago Wolves twice and the Milwaukee Admirals once this past weekend. The losses for the Wolves and Ads allowed Charlotte to keep a 6 point lead in the Midwest Division heading into tonight. The Checkers’ win coupled with another Milwaukee loss gives the Checkers an eight point lead now, pending the outcome of Chicago’s game against Abbotsford tonight.