Red and Black Hockey
by David Lee on 12/12/10 at 11:30 PM ET
On Sunday night, the Charlotte Checkers completed a two game home set with the defending Calder Cup champion Hershey Bears. After a frustrating 2-1 shootout loss on Friday, Charlotte came out with guns blazing, scored goals in bursts, and even got their hands dirty a few times. The end result was a convincing 5-3 win, which allowed the Checkers to leapfrog the Bears in the standings.
Charlotte got a lot of production from the heavy lifters, as the top line of Zach Boychuk / Zac Dalpe / Jacob Micflikier accounted for three goals and seven assists. Micflikier had two goals and an assist; Dalpe had a goal and two assists; Boychuk had four assists. They swept the three stars of the game. The Checkers also got goals from Matt Pistilli and defenseman Bryan Rodney.
The Bears got one goal from Sheldon Souray, who is getting paid $5.5 million after the Edmonton Oilers kicked him out of training camp and then loaned him to the Capitals organization. For the record, it was a five-on-three goal. They also got a shorthanded goal by Jay Beagle and a four-on-four goal from Lawrence Nycholat.
As expected, Mike Murphy took his turn in nets for the Checkers, and he was pretty sharp, stopping 28 of 31 shots. The shorthanded goal was one that he wants back, but the other two were great goals by the Bears.
The first period was action packed, and the Checkers set the tone early. Zac Dalpe tipped one it at 3:31 to give Charlotte a lead that they would never relinquish. Zach Boychuk came charging down the left wing and dished a perfect pass to Dalpe, who had two Bears behind him by half a stride. Jacob Micflikier got the secondary helper.
At 8:34, Micflikier cashed in on a second chance rebound after Boychuk’s bid was turned aside by Bears netminder Braden Holtby. Boychuk ended up behind the net with the puck and just sort of threw it towards the front. Micflikier banged away at it and finally got it in. Dalpe got the other assist.
Before the goal was announced, Charlotte struck again. Matthew Pistilli, who was just called up from the Florida Everblades of the ECHL, scored his first AHL goal of the season at 8:47. To be honest, I’m not even sure how it happened. Jon Matsumoto and Oskar Osala got the assists.
A minute and a half later, Zack FitzGerald of the Checkers and Grant McNeill of the Bears had a pretty good fight. Tempers were flaring all night long on Friday, but nothing came of that. There had already been a bunch of pushing and facewashing after the whistles in this game, but the linesmen were quick to step in. They couldn’t stop this one, and it went on for quite a while. FitzGerald has been endearing himself to the Checkers faithful with his rough and tumble play, his willingness to drop the mitts, and his team-first attitude. On top of that, he’s a pretty solid defenseman. I know I’m a fan.
Later on in the period, the Checkers were on a power play with a chance to really put a dagger in the heart of the visitors, but they fell asleep at the wheel and allowed Jay Beagle to scrap together a shorthanded goal. Boyd Kane, who spent a few years in the Rangers organization and played for the ECHL Charlotte Checkers, had an assist. That goal came at 13:49 of the first.
There was only one goal in the middle frame, and it came off the stick of a Five-and-a-half Million Dollar Man. Zack FitzGerald was sent to the box with a double minor for roughing (although his combatant in the tussle only got a single minor). It should have been five for fighting to both gentlemen, but that’s not the way it was called. A few seconds later, Casey Borer was sent off for slashing. The Bears had a lengthy five-on-three, and the Edmonton Oilers cast-off ripped a one-timer past Murphy to narrow the margin to 3-2. Horrific visions of overtime and shootout danced in my head.
The third period was a bit like the first in that there was a burst of goals and a lot of rough stuff.
Midway through, the Checkers found themselves on a two-man advantage, and they cashed in both ends of the power play. Bryan Rodney scored a five-on-three goal at 10:26, assisted by Matsumoto and Boychuk.
Before the PA announcer could finish the announcement, Charlotte lit the red lamp again. Bears netminder Holtby had been wandering pretty far out of his net all night long. This time, he came all the way out near the right wing faceoff dot, and he was forced to pay the price when MicFlikier shot the puck into a vacant cage. Dalpe got his second assist of the night and Boychuk his fourth.
In the waning moments, while Checkers fans were hoping for a sixth goal (and free chicken wings), Lawrence Nycholat scored a meaningless goal to make it look closer than it was. The four-on-four goal came just seconds after the administration of game misconduct penalties to Brad Herauf of the Checkers and Zach Miskovic of the Bears. A donnybrook nearly erupted, but after a short while, cooler heads prevailed
The two teams have met five times this season, and the Checkers have a 3-1-0-1 lead.
The Checkers will now embark on a five game road trip, and they won’t see home ice again until New Year’s Day. The first of those five road games will be Friday night at Providence (Boston Bruins).
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About Red and Black Hockey
David Lee is a restaurant manager with an unused degree in political science. He can be found at Carolina Hurricanes games, Scrabble tournaments and indie-rock shows. Sometimes, all in the same day.