In the third game of a best-of-five first round playoff series, the Checkers came away with a 6-1 win over the Oklahoma City Barons tonight in Charlotte. They now lead the series 2-1.
While there were only 3021 in the building (as opposed to the nearly 7000 average the Checkers had this season), the energy was infectious, and seemed to carry onto the ice.
Yann Danis, last season’s AHL Goaltender of the Year, struggled from the beginning, allowing six goals on 33 shots. In the previous two games against Charlotte, Danis was the difference maker in both the OT game on Friday and the Barons 5-2 victory on Saturday.
Stellar goaltending from the Checkers Rob Madore kept the Checkers in the game from the beginning. He only allowed one goal on 38 shots, during one of three lengthy 5-on-3 penalty kills the Checkers had to overcome.
The Checkers got on the board early, and scored three goals in a six-minute span of the first period with an even-strength goal from Matt Marquardt, and two #Terryiffic power play goals from Chris Terry.
Five Checkers had multi-point nights. Chris Terry had two goals, Zach Boychuk had three assists, Jeremy Welsh had two assists, Dan Biega had two assists, and Tim Wallace had one goal, one assist.
For the first time this playoff series, the Checkers played a complete game from start to finish, with an exceptional performance by special teams. The power play contributed three goals, and the penalty kill was nearly perfect with only one goal allowed in nine opportunities by the Barons.
“As a team, I think we want to be more disciplined,” said coach Jeff Daniels in response to the nine penalty kills the Checkers had to overcome, “We don’t want to be giving up five-on-threes and being in the box so much, but the penalty killers did a great job.”
Moving forward to game four following a 6-1 win against the Barons, the Checkers will need to continue to play at the same level they did Wednesday night in Charlotte.
“The first two games we did a lot of good things, but the one thing we didn’t do is play a solid 60 [minutes] and I thought we were pretty close tonight. Come Friday night, again it’s 0-0 and you’ve got 60 minutes to be great again.”
Momentum going forward is going to be crucial for continued success against the Barons in this playoff series.
“We finally played a full 60[minutes] and that’s what we were looking out to do,” shared Zach Boychuk, who finished the game with three assists, “We got some big powerplay goals so we’ve got to keep that up and keep playing physical.”
Tim Wallace, Jared Staal and Nicolas Blanchard returned to the lineup after playing in the Carolina Hurricanes final game oer the weekend. All made their first playoff appearance for the Checkers this season. Each added a physical presence to the game, and Wallace contributed an even-strength goal during the second period.
So far, all three playoff games has had a different lineup for the Checkers with the addition of players from the NHL club and players returning from injury. Though last night’s lineup found a great deal of success against the Barons, it may continue to change moving forward. After having as many as a dozen players injured at one time during the regular season, the Checkers currently have 17 healthy forwards, and 8 healthy defensemen, and more players may join the roster after last night’s loss by the Florida Everblades, and the WHL playoff completion by Victor Rask in Calgary.
Coach Daniels seems to feel reassured that the number of choices he can make in the lineup will help the team moving forward.
“It’s nice to have options after a month and a half without options, and we’re all in this together.”
Scoreboard watching around the AHL:
- The Toronto Marlies are the only team to have swept their opponents (so far). They defeated the Rochester Americans in three games.
- The Texas Stars lead the Milwaukee Admirals 2-1 in their series.
- Grand Rapids is up 2-1 over the Houston Aeros.
- In the Eastern Conference, the eighth seed Hershey Bears lead the first seed Providence Bruins 2-0
- The second seed Springfield Falcons are up 2-0 over the Manchester Monarchs
- The Syracuse Crunch, who’s players won the Calder Cup last season in Norfolk, have won both games against the sixth-seed Portland Pirates.
- Fifth place Wilkes-Barre/Scranton is up 2-0 over the fourth place Binghamton Senators.