Sunday, March 30, 2014

Zach Boychuk sets Checkers’ scoring mark in shootout win

With a goal and an assist in the Checkers 5-4 shootout win over the Oklahoma City Barons in front of 8,011 on Sunday afternoon, Charlotte forward Zach Boychuk set a new franchise-record for points in a single season with 67 (32g, 35a).

The win was the 12 of this month for the Checkers, who improved to 18-17-1 at Time Warner Cable Arena this season.

“He’s just consistent,” said Checkers coach Jeff Daniels of Boychuk, whose 32 goals leads the AHL. “Game in and game out he’s providing offense for us and working hard away from the puck. Even the nights where he may be a bit off, he’ll still get an assist like he did (Saturday) night. He’s a guy, who when he gets the puck around the net, can finish, or make a play.” 

Joining Boychuk in the Checkers’ record books on Sunday was Charlotte goaltender John Muse, who entered the game midway through the second period in relief of Mike Murphy, who had allowed four goals on 12 shots.

Muse went on to stop all 23 shots he faced in regulation and overtime, and then four of five during the shootout to pick up his 43rd career win with the Checkers, tying him with Murphy for the most in the franchise’s history.

“He doesn’t get rattled,” said Daniels of Muse, who improved to 9-1-0 this month with the win. “For me, it all starts with his preparation, whether it’s a game day, or for a practice, or a day when he’s not scheduled to play, he’s ready.”

The Checkers win moved them into sole possession of seventh place (75 points) in the Western Conference for the time being, with eighth-placed Rockford (73 points and a game in hand) still to play. It also allowed the Checkers to jump four points ahead of the Barons (71 points), who now sit in ninth place.

Murphy got the start on Sunday despite losses in seven of his previous eight appearances, and early on things again failed to go in his favor.

Taylor Fedun put the Barons up 1-0 in the first on a shot that went off Murphy, landed behind him, and then was knocked in by Matt Corrente as he attempted to clear it.

Victor Rask, who has been centering a line of Boychuk and Matt Pistilli for the past four games, tied the score at 1 just under two minutes later. The goal was the 21-year-old rookie’s third in three games.

“I remember the first 10 games or so at the beginning of the year when I was playing with (Rask), I loved playing with him and we were really producing and playing well together,” said Boychuk, who has 10 points (4g, 6a) since joining up with Rask and Pistilli in Iowa four games ago.

The Barons took the lead early in the second, but again the Checkers had a response thanks to Chris Terry’s 28th goal of the season.

However, back-to-back goals by the Barons’ Will Acton and Steve Pinizzotto spelled the end of the night for Murphy.

Less than three minutes after his exit, the Checkers tied the score on goals by Boychuk and Jared Stall. That’s where the score stayed until the final shootout, where Terry and Shugg each scored to give Charlotte the 2-1 edge.

“The last few games have meant a lot and they’ve been good battles,” said Boychuk. “To get two huge wins this weekend is huge. We didn’t want to give up points both nights, but at least we’re moving forward and creating separation.”  

Notes: Brendan Woods (out for season), Greg Nemisz (out for season) and Aaron Palushaj (day-to-day) missed the game due to injuries. ... Dennis Robertson, Keegan Lowe and Phil Di Guiseppe were the healthy scratches. ... Mike Murphy (8 saves on 12 shots) has not recorded an AHL win since Feb. 16. ... John Muse has now won 23 of his last 30 decisions dating back to Nov. 23. ...The Checkers 12 wins this month are a franchise-record. The previous high water mark for a month was 10 wins in November of 2010. ... Barons goaltender Richard Bachman went 0-2 against the Checkers this weekend, despite stopping 65 of the Checkers 71 shots on net. 

Read more here: