Sunday, January 4, 2015

Justin Shugg's three-point afternoon helps Checkers pummel Stars, 5-2

The Checkers tapped their sticks against the boards a bit louder than usual as Kyle Hagel made his way from the penalty box to the bench early in the first period of Sunday afternoon’s game.

Hagel, who earned the sign of respect from his teammates -- as well as what will likely be pretty decent shiner -- set the tone early for what became a 5-2 Checkers' win over the Texas Stars at Time Warner Cable Arena with his 12th fighting major of the season.

After squandering a third-period lead in a loss to the Stars on Saturday, Charlotte (12-18-3-1) came out of the dressing room flying, and held Texas (14-11-8-0) without a shot for the first eight minutes of regulation.
By the time the horn signaled the end of the first period, the Checkers – thanks to goals by Justin Shugg and Keegan Lowe – held a 2-0 lead and had firmly established themselves as the more physical of the two teams on the ice on Sunday.
Drew MacIntyre, who missed the previous four games while competing for Team Canada in the Spengler Cup in Switzerland, returned to the net for Charlotte and finished the game with 26 saves to help the team snap a four-game winless streak.

The goal for Shugg (one goal, two assists), which came on a second effort after his initial shot was stopped by Jussi Rynnas (20 saves), was his second in lass than 24 hours and extended his team-leading total to 12 on the season.

Shugg’s line (Shugg-Ben Holmstrom-Phil Di Giuseppe) struck again at the midway point in the first when the puck zipped from the tape of Holmstrom’s stick to Shugg’s before finding Lowe (one goal, on assist) for the one-timer.

Patrick Brown redirected a shot in early in the second for first professional goal to gave Charlotte a three-goal edge and Alex Aleardi (recalled from the ECHL earlier in the day) helped the Checkers respond to a Texas goal with his third tally of the season.

Trevor Carrick added a short-handed empty-netter with a little more than six minutes to play in the third period to cap the Charlotte scoring.   

It was the 12th time this season the Checkers – who entered the day 29th in the AHL in scoring (2.18 goals per game) -- have scored three or more times in a game. The five-goal outburst was one short of the team's season high, which came in a 6-2 win over Norwich on Nov. 18.

The Checkers -- who moved two points ahead of the last-place Iowa Wild in the West Division -- will now head out on a four-game road trip, beginning with two games against the Grand Rapids Griffins.

Notes: Justin Shugg (12-5-17) has goals and points in each of his last three games (Dec. 31-Jan. 4: 3g, 2a). In just 23 games this season, the fourth-year forward is now just four goals shy of his career high set in 75 games last season. ... Today's game concluded a stretch in which Charlotte played 11 consecutive games against the West Division. The Checkers are 7-11-3 in divisional play this season. ... The Checkers are a perfect 22-for-22 on the penalty kill over their last seven games dating back to Dec. 19, their longest streak of the season.