For the first time since April, professional hockey finally returned to North Carolina as the Charlotte Checkers defeated the Chicago Wolves 4-1 in the Checkers' home opener at TWC Arena on Sunday afternoon.
A lively crowd of 7,719 was on hand to welcome the Checkers as they returned from a nine-game road trip with an impressive 6-2-1 record to make their first appearance on home ice this season.
The Checkers started off a little sluggish (perhaps they forgot to set their clocks back an hour?) and although shots were relatively even with no score at the end of the first, the Wolves held a slight edge in controlling the tempo.
The intensity picked up in the second period, with none other than Drayson Bowman breaking the seal at the 6:25 mark with a backhand flip off a pass from Bobby Sanguinetti to tally his ninth goal of the season. It was Bowman's eighth straight game with a goal (a team record).
Scoring broke open later in the period when Checkers goalie Justin Peters saved a shot from Wolves defenseman Brad Hunt but left a rebound that was quickly punched in by forward Brett Sterling to tie the game at 1-1. Barely a minute later, Zach Boychuk redirected another Bobby Sanguinetti pass to regain the lead for the Checkers, and just 58 seconds later Brett Sutter tipped in a Jerome Samson rebound to bring the score to 3-1. Riley Nash added an insurance goal early in the third off a spectacular centering pass from Justin Faulk.
Other game notes:
- Three stars: #3 Justin Faulk, #2 Bobby Sanguinetti, #1 Justin Peters
- Justin Peters made 27 saves and was credited with an assist on the Nash goal, his second of the season (and one more than Drayson Bowman).
- Captain Brett Sutter has his own goal streak in progress, scoring in three straight games.
- Faulk had two assists and remains at the top of the team leader board in points with 13 (second in the league behind Justin Schultz).
- The Checkers 7-2-1 record leads the AHL.
- I have a few photos from the game on flickr (album), check back as there are more to follow later today.
- Recap from Paul Branecky at GoCheckers.com: Checkers Resume Winning Ways at Home
- Post-game quotes from Justin Peters, Justin Faulk, Drayson Bowman, and Jeff Daniels (video). Note - this bears a mention as it seems to have conveniently escaped the published interviews:
RT @PaulBranecky In praising hard work in front of him, Peters pointed out that Krueger took blocked shot in the groin. "That one was for the boys"
The Checkers continue their home stand with a repeat against the Wolves on Tuesday night, followed by back-to-backs with Peoria on Thursday and Friday.