Charlotte snapped out of its team-record, five-game losing streak on Friday, defeating the Lake Erie Monsters by a score of 5-1. The win was the team’s first since Nov. 21, with all five defeats coming during the team’s season-high run of 10 straight games at home that concludes with two games against Milwaukee (today and Tuesday) and two against Houston (Friday and Saturday).
The Checkers have faced the Admirals in Milwaukee during their nine-game road swing to start the season, with each team winning one game. Charlotte built an early lead and held on to win 4-3 on Oct. 19, while the Admirals got the last goal in a back-and-forth, 5-4 affair on Oct. 31. The teams will play each other eight times this season.
The Checkers needed a victory however they could get it on Friday, but ended up earning a few extra style points in one of the team’s most entertaining games of the season.
Starting with a Lake Erie goal against Dan Ellis in the second period that tied the score at 1-1, the teams combined for three goals and two fights in exactly 60 seconds of game time to give the Checkers a lead they would not relinquish. The five goals were the most that the team, which was the league’s No. 1 offensive team heading into its slump, had scored since its previous win in Norfolk over two weeks earlier.
"We wanted to get a win and we got it," said a relieved Jeff Daniels after the game. "There's a little more life in the room right now."
Five different players scored goals in the win, with Drayson Bowman recording a Gordie Howe Hat Trick by adding an assist on Justin Krueger’s goal and a fight against the Monsters’ Mike Sgarbossa. Though Bowman is now tied for second in the league with 13 goals, his performance included just his fifth assist and first fight of the campaign, making the feat an unexpected one.
“I’m not sure what the Vegas odds would have been on that,” said Daniels. “Fighting’s not normally something he does, but he is here to be tough to play against.”
“We needed a win in the worst way, and when that happens you start to get into it a little bit,” said Bowman. “They weren’t going to back down either.”
Though Ellis made 36 mostly-outstanding saves on Friday, the Checkers will likely go back to Justin Peters as they continue their even rotation today. Defenseman Rasmus Rissanen remains out due to a personal matter.
The Admirals, tied with Lake Erie for the most road games played in the league (15), continue a three-game trip with their upcoming two-game set against the Checkers. Prior to starting the road swing with a 5-3 loss in Rockford that dropped them back to .500 on Friday, Milwaukee had earned points in five straight games (3-0-2).
Rookie Austin Watson, Nashville’s first-round pick (18th overall) in 2010, leads the team in scoring with 15 points in 21 games. Since scoring his first professional goal in the last meeting with the Checkers, he’s gone on to score seven more in his next 14 games to rank second on the team behind AHL All-Star Chris Mueller.
Together with Patrick Cehlin, Mattias Ekholm and Daniel Bang, Watson is one of four first-year players in the team’s top six in terms of point scoring. Relative to other teams in the AHL, the Admirals rank 19th in goals per game (2.76) and 25th on the power play (12.5 percent).
In goal, workhorse Jeremy Smith has played 18 of the team’s 21 games, going 6-11-2 with a 2.62 goals-against average and .899 save percentage, numbers far better than those of rookie backup Magnus Hellberg, who is 3-0-0 with a 3.82 GAA and .862 SV%, including a win in the second game against the Checkers. Smith, who has played each of the team’s last four games, is fourth in the AHL in minutes played (1,030) and leads the league in losses (11).
Top defensive prospect Ryan Ellis is expected to play his first game against the Checkers this season, having missed the first two due to injury.
The Checkers' 5-1 win over Lake Erie on Friday snapped a five-game losing streak that set a pair of team records for longest overall losing streak and longest losing streak at home - a slide that had broken previous highs of four games. The Checkers' five goals in the victory were the most since their previous win on Nov. 21, while their four fights also marked a season high.
Forward Drayson Bowman recored a Gordie Howe Hat Trick (one goal, one assist and one fight) on Friday, marking the first of his four-year professional career. Bowman became the second Checker to accomplish the rare feat, joining Brad Herauf, who had one goal, one assist and one fight in a 10-3 win against Syracuse on Dec. 6, 2010, exactly two years and one day prior to Bowman's effort. Aside from Bowman, the only other active Checker to record a Gordie Howe Hat Trick is Tim Wallace, who did so in Bridgeport's 5-4 overtime loss to Manchester on Nov. 27 of last season.
Anything You Can Do...
Forwards Drayson Bowman and Zach Boychuk have exchanged ownership of the team's goal-scoring lead throughout the season. Bowman, who set a team record with goals in eight consecutive games earlier in the campaign, shot out to an early lead before Boychuk scored in five consecutive home games to surge ahead. Thanks to Bowman's goals in the team's last two games, the two are currently tied with 13 goals apiece, ranking second in the AHL. Both players are on pace to shatter their AHL career highs of 22 goals (Boychuk) and 17 goals (Bowman) while breaking Chris Terry's team record of 34 goals from the 2010-11 season.
One of the league's least-penalized teams throughout the season, the Checkers participated in a season-high four fights as they snapped their team-record, five-game losing streak against Lake Erie on Friday. Coming into that game, the Checkers had just 12 major penalties in 22 games, tied for third-fewest in the league.
After scoring twice in his last three games, Checkers captain Brett Sutter ranks tied for third on the team with eight goals. That has him on pace for 24, a mark that would top his career high of 13 set last season. Next to Nicolas Blanchard (365 games), Sutter, now in his sixth pro season, is the second-most-experienced AHL player on the Checkers' roster (358 games).
The Checkers have three of the AHL's top individual performers on the power play in forwards Drayson Bowman and Zach Boychuk and defenseman Marc-Andre Gragnani. Bowman and Boychuk are tied for the AHL lead with six power-play goals apiece, while Gragnani, who has missed eight games this season due to illness and injury, is tied for the league lead with nine power-play assists. The Checkers lead the league with a 23.0 percent success rate on the man advantage.
Drayson Bowman has points in each of his last three games (Dec. 2-7; 2g, 2a) and goals in each of his last two (Dec. 6-7; 2g).
Jerome Samson has points in each of his last three games (Dec. 2-7; 2g, 1a) and goals in each of his last two (Dec. 6-7; 2g).
Bobby Sanguinetti has assists and points in each of his last two games (Dec. 6-7; 0g, 2a).
Jeremy Welsh has assists and points in each of his last two games (Dec. 6-7; 0g, 2a).
Justin Faulk has assists and points in each of his last two games (Dec. 6-7; 0g, 2a).
Rasmus Rissanen (personal) - out through games of Dec. 9. Missed two games.