Saturday, February 1, 2014

Boychuk steals spotlight from Ward in Checkers win

Checkers forward Zach Boychuk stole the spotlight from Cam Ward on Saturday night, recording his second hat trick in his last three games in a 5-3 win over the Lake Erie Monsters at Quicken Loans Arena.

Ward (1-1), with the Checkers (22-20-1) on a conditioning stint, turned away 24 shots after stopping 35 in Friday's 1-0 loss to the Monsters, to pick up the win. Overall, the veteran goaltender stopped 59 of the 63 shots he saw in the past two games.

Charlotte took a 3-0 lead in the second period thanks to a goal from Mark Flood (1g, 1a) and Boychuk's first two strikes of the night. However, the Monsters rallied to score the game's next three goals, tying things up at the 11:35 mark in the third period.

The Monsters (19-21-4) got their first goal a little over half way through the second period, when Mitch Heard cleaned up the rebound from a shot that Ward did well to stop in the first place.

Heard was again in the right place at the right time just over five and a half minutes later, when he batted home another Ward rebound to cut the Checkers lead to 3-2 entering the third period.

The game-tying goal was more on the Checkers than the 2006 Conn Smythe Trophy winner.

With an offensive zone face-off and one second remaining on a power-play, Charlotte completely forgot to check Mark Olver as he came out of the box for a breakaway goal.

Aaron Palushaj, who had a seven-game point-streak snapped in Friday's shutout, got back on track with the game-winner with just under three minutes to play. For good measure, Boychuk capped off his hat trick with an insurance goal 26 seconds later.

Palushaj has now recorded points in 17 of his last 20 games (10g, 16a) for the Checkers, while his roommate, Boychuk, has points in nine of his last 12 (12g, 5a).

The Checkers, who have won eight of their last 10, now travel to Abbotsford for a two-game set with the Heat (27-14-1) beginning on Tuesday at 10 p.m. Based on the way the Hurricanes handled Anton Khudobin's condition stint, it's unlikely that Ward will travel with the Checkers and a recall to the NHL may be in short order.

Notes: Boychuk's first goal of the night was the 100th of his AHL career and his second goal secured his fourth consecutive 20-goal season. ... Defenseman Ryan Murphy recorded an assist in the win and now has four points (4a) in three games with Charlotte. ... Flood's goal was his 10th of the season and tied him with Bobby Sanguinetti (2011-12) for the most goals by a defenseman in a season all-time for the Checkers. ... Chris Terry added two more assists in Saturday's win and now has seven helpers in his last four games. ... The Checkers went 0-for-4 on the power play and are 0-for-their-last-10 overall, after connecting on franchise-record 5-of-7 chances in last Friday's 9-3 win over Oklahoma City. If there's a silver-lining it's that Charlotte has now killed off 13 of its last 14 penalties. ... Matthew Pistilli, Keegan Lowe and Mike Murphy were Saturday's healthy extras.

* Sean Dolan, who was sent to the ECHL's Florida Everblades on Thursday, recorded a goal and an assist Saturday night. In two games back in the ECHL, the former University of Wisconsin Badger has a goal and two assists.