The Charlotte Checkers swept a two-game set against the Grand Rapids Griffins at TWCA and extended their lead in the Midwest Division to four points. Both games saw the Checkers celebrating the first career AHL goal of a teammate, but the overall efforts in the two games couldn’t have been more different – the first a hard-fought, solid battle; the second a high-scoring affair, rife with wild momentum swings and defensive breakdowns.
Sunday afternoon’s 4-2 win featured a rookie defenceman in the role of hero. The Checkers enjoyed a two-goal lead through most of the second period on goals by Justin Soryal and Zac Dalpe, but saw that lead evaporate after the Griffins scored a goal late in the frame followed by another midway through the third.
It didn’t take Charlotte long to respond, however. Less than two minutes after Grand Rapids tied the game, rookie Rasmus Rissanen put together a beauty of a play that Dalpe jokingly likened to Bobby Orr (see video of Dalpe’s comments in post-game link below). Rissanen rushed up the ice with the puck, skating around a couple defenders before beating goaltender Joey McDonald for the eventual game winner. The bench erupted in celebration, not only in response to taking the lead in an important Western Conference match-up, but also in a display of pure joy for their hard-working teammate’s first career AHL goal.
Chris Terry added an empty net goal in the final minute of play to seal the victory for the Checkers.
Last night’s rematch was a strange affair that saw both teams jump out to big leads only to relinquish them and have to battle back in. Grand Rapids controlled much of the play at the start of the game and just over six minutes in already had a two goal lead.
The Checkers seemed to gain some momentum after killing off their first penalty and were a little stronger as the period went on. Goals by Bobby Sanguinetti, his first of the season, and Chris Terry saw them heading into the first intermission even at two goals a piece.
Coach Jeff Daniels must have rallied the troops at the break because they came out buzzing. Terry picked up his second goal of the game just 18 seconds into the period when he threw the puck toward the net and caught a deflection off a Griffins’ defenceman. Just over two minutes later Drayson Bowman scored on the powerplay to make it a 4-2 game. Bowman, who had been held scoreless in the five games since his return from a stint in the NHL, had three points on the night, also assisting on both first period goals for the Checkers.
Another career first would come just a minute after Bowman’s goal. Sean Dolan, just six games into his professional try-out (PTO) with Charlotte, scored his first AHL goal at 3:38 of the second. The goal put the Checkers up 5-2 and chased Griffins’ goaltender Tom McCollum from the net. In his six games with the Checkers, Dolan has been a pleasant surprise, picking up four points (1G, 3A) and making a strong case to stick with the team .
The Checkers laid off the gas again once they had the big lead and defensive lapses allowed Grand Rapids right back into the game. Two second period goals by Matt Lashoff and Chris Minard made it a one goal game going into the third.
By picking up an assist on Sanguinetti’s goal in the first frame, Zac Dalpe extended his current point streak out to a career best six games. Dalpe added to the point total in that streak (5G, 3A), scoring an unassisted goal, his ninth of the season, at 7:55 of the third. Dalpe’s goal would become the eventual game-winner as with just over two minutes remaining in the game, Chris Minard cut the Checkers’ lead back to one with his second of the night for the Griffins. Mike Murphy was able to hold off the Griffins’ attack for those last two minutes and preserve the 6-5 win for the Checkers. Murphy ended with 31 saves.
The two wins give Charlotte a 3-0 series lead over the Griffins with the final game to be held in Grand Rapids on 30-Mar-2012. The Checkers now head out on a three game roadtrip with two games in Abbotsford, BC and one in Norfolk, VA before returning to Charlotte next week for back-to-back games against division rival Rockford.
A recent increase in offensive output for Charlotte has resulted in scoring streaks for several of the Checkers:
Zac Dalpe…Six game point streak (5G, 3A)
Chris Terry…Three game point streak (4G, 1A)
Jon Matsumoto…Three game point streak (5A)
Bobby Sanguinetti…Three game point streak (1G, 4A)
Nicolas Blanchard…Three game assist streak (3A)
Sean Dolan…Two game point streak (1G, 2A)
Michal Jordan…Two game point streak (2A)
This morning, the Checkers received their captain Brett Sutter back from an emergency recall with the Carolina Hurricanes. Sutter will be a big addition to the Checkers defensively as he is one of their best two-way forwards and always pulls in big minutes on their penalty kill.
Zac Dalpe will be headed back up I-85 to Raleigh. His hot hand of late has not gone unnoticed and he is likely to get decent minutes on one of the top two lines under Coach Muller. This morning saw him practicing on a line with Jeff Skinner and Jussi Jokinen. Caniacs are excited to have Dalpe back up with the big club and are no doubt thrilled to see what he’ll do on a prime scoring line!