Charlotte Checkers Game Recap

Wild Rout Puts Checkers in Playoff Position

Charlotte Checkers at Iowa Wild
The Checkers are in playoff position for the first time in nearly five full months, having announced their presence with authority.

Zach Boychuk set a new franchise record with five points (2g, 3a) as his team matched the largest winning margin in team history with a 7-0 thumping of the Iowa Wild on Wednesday. John Muse made 22 saves for his sixth career shutout and 24th win of the season, the latter of which extended his own team record. Brett Sutter (two), Victor Rask, Justin Shugg and Philippe Cornet also found the back of the net in a game that steadily spiraled out of control with 230 total penalty minutes in the third period alone.

In his first game back from the NHL’s Carolina Hurricanes, defenseman Ryan Murphy picked up an assist to set a new team record with points in 12 consecutive games (1g, 14a). Chris Terry had three assists to tie Boychuk’s franchise record for most points in a single season (65) set in 2010-11 and extend his point streak to nine games, tying a personal high set earlier this season.

By sweeping back-to-back road games against Iowa to conclude a season series in which the road team won all four, the Checkers now have a one-point lead over Rochester, which lost its eighth straight game on Wednesday to allow Charlotte to claim the eighth seed in the Western Conference. The Checkers are tied on points with seventh-place Rockford, though both Rockford and Rochester still have a game in hand.

The Checkers, who have nine games remaining in the regular season, now return home to play 10th-place Oklahoma City, which trails them by just two points, on Saturday and Sunday.

The first point in Boychuk’s record night came in a first period that saw the visitors dictate the pace of play with nothing to show for it until the skilled forward potted his 30th of the season on a cross-ice pass from Jared Staal. He then spring Sutter on a breakaway just 20 seconds into the Checkers’ first power play of the game in the second period, scored a five-on-three goal on a pass through the crease by Shugg and took a shot that Sutter tipped home early in the third.

Tempers from the Wild, who own the Western Conference’s worst record, came to a boiling point when Victor Rask scored to make it 5-0 with just 3:55 gone in the third period. Raphael Bussieries became the first Iowa skater to earn a game misconduct as the third man in on an already established fight between Nicolas Blanchard and Carson McMillan.

Leading by five, Checkers coach Jeff Daniels opted to use depth players on the resulting power play, only to see Wild forward Marc Hagel make no effort to avoid Muse on a shorthanded rush. He reverted back to his first unit on the subsequent five-on-three, with Boychuk assisting on a goal by Shugg.

The Checkers finished the night 4-for-5 on the power play, improving them to 10-for-22 over their last four games. They have a season-long success rate of 23.3 percent, good for second in the AHL. Charlotte could have tied a franchise record with a fifth power-play goal, though Cornet’s strike with 5:15 remaining in regulation came just seconds after another two-man advantage had expired.

Included in the third period penalties were game misconducts to five players, including Charlotte’s Sutter and Keegan Lowe, both of whom participated in secondary altercations. Eight fights took place, which from the Checkers’ side included the above two, two by Nicolas Blanchard and bouts featuring Mark Flood, Matthew Corrente and Boychuk.

Although he never came close to throwing a punch while Iowa’s Riley Brace attacked him while he was still on one knee following a collision with Wild goalie John Curry, Boychuk nonetheless skated away with his first career Gordie Howe Hat Trick (a goal, an assist and a fight). He narrowly missed a chance at his fourth actual hat trick since Jan. 24 on a second-period breakaway attempt that Curry blocked.

Thanks to that final period, the game obliterated franchise records for most penalty minutes by the Checkers (86), by an opposing team (162) and by both teams (248). The previous records stood at 48, 82 and 124, respectively.

NOTES

Prior to Boychuk’s five-point night, the team record of four had been set on 15 separate occasions, including three by Boychuk … Boychuk’s second point was his 250th in the AHL … The Checkers had won by seven goals on two previous occasions – a 10-3 win over Syracuse in 2010 and a 7-0 victory over Oklahoma City last season … Boychuk’s 31 goals are three away from the franchise record set by Terry in 2010-11 … Murphy’s assist streak is the longest by an AHL defenseman since the 2008-09 season, another 12-game run by Binghamton rookie Mattias Karlsson. His point streak breaks the team record set by Bobby Sanguinetti in 2011-12 … Defenseman Michal Jordan extended his point streak to five games (1g, 5a) with an assist on Boychuk’s second … The Checkers went 1-for-1 on the penalty kill, improving their record to 28-for-29 over their last eight games since March 12 … Checkers forwards Greg Nemisz, Aaron Palushaj and Brendan Woods missed the game due to injury … forward Matt Marquardt was a healthy extra as the team dressed seven defensemen, as was blueliner Dennis Robertson.
Paul Branecky
Author: Paul BraneckyEmail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
The Checkers' vice president of communications, Paul Branecky has been covering hockey in North Carolina since 2006, including five seasons with the Carolina Hurricanes.