After a pair of sloppy performances this week, the Checkers were able to close out their home stand on a high note.
Chris Terry had two goals as Charlotte defeated Peoria 4-2 on Friday, ending its four-game stretch at Time Warner Cable Arena with three wins and improving its overall record to a league-best 9-3-1. Zach Boychuk and Justin Faulk also scored for the Checkers, who got 22 saves from goalie Dan Ellis.
Having experienced something resembling a slump while splitting each of their last two games, including a 5-4 overtime win against Peoria one night earlier, the Checkers feel they shook that sloppiness and got back to the form that got them to where they are atop the AHL standings.
“Without a doubt,” said coach Jeff Daniels. “I was really happy with the effort tonight and the way we played systems wise.”
“I thought we executed very well tonight,” said Ellis, whose team won the shots battle by a decisive 43-24 margin. “You’re going to have those games early in the season where you get away from your identity. We worked ourselves out of it and were able to find our game, find our system and play it to a tee tonight, and it showed up on the scoreboard. That we only took two games to get out of it is a testament to the character and leadership in our room.”
The game marked the seventh win in as many meetings with the Rivermen, including four this season. The Checkers have not lost to Peoria since March 21 of last season, and have scored 35 goals during their streak, an average of five per game.
As much as the Checkers seem to have this particular team’s number, the onus on Friday was about fine-tuning their own game.
“We had a meeting before the game and the only video we showed was of us,” said Daniels.
“We paid more attention to turnovers and stopping on the puck,” said Terry. “We want to play that game no matter who we’re playing, and we think that will give us a chance to win every night.”
An evenly-played start saw the Checkers fall behind 1-0 on a first-period, two-man advantage goal by Taylor Chorney, the defenseman whose turnover led to Zach Boychuk’s overtime winner the night before. Boychuk would then tie the game in the second period the very second a Peoria penalty, one of two that had given Charlotte a lengthy two-man advantage of their own, expired.
Any celebrations from that goal were short lived, as Peoria’s Derek Nesbitt reclaimed the lead 13 seconds later, setting up what Daniels viewed to be an important test for his team. It was one that they ended up passing.
“When we went down 1-0 we didn’t change anything, and when we tied it and gave up another goal right away we didn’t change anything,” he said.
Before the second period had concluded, Terry, who already had a five-game point streak coming in, scored twice in just under four minutes to give the Checkers their first and final lead of the game. The first goal came on the power play when he floated a shot from the right point through a Riley Nash screen and on net, while the second came when he skated in on a one-on-one situation, faked a shot and used the defenseman as a screen while he fired a perfectly-placed wrist shot over goalie Mike McKenna’s glove.
Terry now has six goals during his current six-game streak that is divided evenly by a three-game elbowing suspension he served last week.
“He’s done it very quietly, and you forget he missed three games,” said Daniels. “He’s always been one of our leading scorers, and he’s going to be right up there at the end of the year.”
Terry, who led the Checkers with 34 goals two seasons ago but fell to 16 last season, had previously spoken of Daniels’ desire for him to shoot more often. That advice has had an impact this season, tonight included.
“Definitely on the second one,” said Terry, who admitted he otherwise may not have elected to shoot with a defender positioned between himself and the goal.
“I’m always on him to shoot,” said Daniels, chuckling. “He can do a lot of things well and he can make plays, but I sometimes get frustrated with him when he doesn’t shoot because he’s got one of the best shots on the team.”
After Terry’s goals, it was all Checkers for the rest of the game as the team out-shot Peoria16-6 in the third period, including several odd-man rushes and a goal by Faulk, who crashed the net and knocked home a Nicolas Blanchard shot from the left wing to provide some extra cushion.
Now that they’ve played four times in six nights during their home stand, the Checkers will now enjoy six days between games. Then, they depart for a four-game trip that includes an interestingly-scheduled, three-in-three cluster that starts in San Antonio, moves to Austin to play the Stars and then back to San Antonio for the third game.
As comfortable as the Checkers are on the road, having gone 6-2-1 on their nine-game swing to start the season, they’re happy to have taken care of their business at home.
“Obviously we had a couple of clunkers in the middle, but we ended up with three wins,” said Daniels.
“Six out of eight points is a heck of a good week,” said Terry.
Terry had three point streaks of five or more games last season, including two eight-game streaks that tied his personal best … With an assist on Faulk’s goal, Brett Sutter extended his own point streak to six games, while Riley Nash’s assist gave him a three-game streak … Boychuk, who entered the game tied for the league lead in power-play points, had the secondary helper on Terry’s man-advantage goal … Peoria forward T.J. Hensick had five assists in the two-game series … Peoria had just one power-play goal in nine games before scoring in back-to-back games against the Checkers … Defenseman Marc-Andre Gragnani missed the game with a lower-body injury suffered in the third period of Thursday’s game … Forwards Sean Dolan, A.J. Jenks and Justin Soryal were healthy scratches.