The Charlotte Checkers offense has been firing on all cylinders lately. Averaging five goals per game over their last two, the Checkers were able to keep that pace last night with a 5-0 shutout of the Abbotsford Heat. Charlotte’s offensive output was certainly a big question going into last night’s game. Zac Dalpe, the hottest Checker over the last few weeks, was on a six game point streak (5G, 3A) prior to his recall to the Carolina Hurricanes on Wednesday. On the same day, leading scorer Jon Matsumoto was traded to the Florida Panthers. The loss of those two left Charlotte with a big hole at center. So who was able to step up and create offense in their absence?
Riley Nash, suddenly thrust into the position of the team’s number one center, didn’t disappoint. Nash opened the scoring just 3:42 into the first period, deflecting a Bobby Sanguinetti shot past goaltender Danny Taylor on the Checkers‘ first powerplay. Nash also picked up an assist on the second goal of the game, a wrister from Nicolas Blanchard in the second period.
For the third time in as many games, a Charlotte defenceman picked up his first goal of the season. Rookie Justin Krueger got his first of the season, and first of his AHL career, in the form of an unassisted tally with less than a minute remaining in the second frame. Earlier in the week, Rasmus Rissanen and Bobby Sanguinetti also notched their first of the season.
Sanguinetti added to his goal total with his second of the year on a third period power play. Drayson Bowman would add to the Checkers’ strong power play numbers on the evening, knocking in a rebound from a Chris Terry shot later in the third. Bowman’s goal was the third power play goal of the night for the boys in red and saw them convert at a 50% rate for the game (3 for 6). The success on the man-advantage was especially impressive considering they were facing a Heat team that was ranked first in the AHL on the penalty kill heading into the evening (87.9%).
Not to be lost in the onslaught of goals, rookie goaltender John Muse picked up the Checkers’ first shutout of the season. Turning away all 26 shots he faced from the Heat, Muse has been making the most of the limited opportunities he has been given since being recalled from the ECHL’s Florida Everblades. Making only three appearances with the Checkers (two starts and one relief appearance for starter Mike Murphy), Muse has posted a 3-0-0 record on the season and has allowed only one goal for an outstanding 0.37 goals against average and a 0.989 save percentage.
The Checkers are right back in action tonight for a rematch with the Heat. You can catch the game on WBCN 1660 AM or on www.AHLLive.com. Be sure to follow @CheckersInGame on Twitter for live updates during the game.
A recent increase in offensive output for Charlotte has resulted in scoring streaks for several of the Checkers:
Chris Terry…Four game point streak (4G, 5A)
Bobby Sanguinetti…Four game point streak (2G, 5A)
Nicolas Blanchard…Four game point streak (1G, 3A)
Drayson Bowman…Two game point streak (2G, 2A)
John Muse…Three wins
Mike Murphy…Two wins