Division champion checkers continue to roll, top Lehigh Valley, 5-1
Despite earning themselves a division title before the game even started, there was no letdown in energy for the Checkers as they welcomed the Lehigh Valley Phantoms to town with a 5-1 pummeling.
The Checkers hammered the visitors relentlessly out of the gate, outshooting the Phantoms 19-3 in the opening frame and building a two-goal lead behind a nifty no-look rebound attempt by Tomas Jurco on an early man advantage and a slick breakaway conversion from Aleksi Saarela.
There was no relief for the Phantoms in the middle frame, as Saarela found the back of the net for a second time just past the midway point followed by 19-year-old Stelio Mattheos notching his second career goal minutes later to keep Charlotte’s staggering pace through 40 minutes of play.
Lehigh Valley finally provided a real pushback early on in the third, when an inadvertent offensive zone turnover ended up in the back of the Charlotte net, but it would be too little, too late. Julien Gauthier poked home his 22nd of the year minutes later to regain the home team’s lead and the Checkers would ride out the rest of regulation.
Alex Nedeljkovic didn’t face a ton of action from Lehigh Valley, but was strong when called upon, stopping 16 of the 17 shots he saw to extend his league lead in wins.
Lehigh Valley 0 0 1 – 1
Charlotte 2 2 1 – 5
1st Period-1, Charlotte, Jurco 9 (Gauthier, Bean), 2:33 (PP). 2, Charlotte, Saarela 26 (Poturalski, Geekie), 14:46. Penalties-Palmquist Lv (hooking), 1:14.
2nd Period-3, Charlotte, Saarela 27 (Schilkey, Poturalski), 12:18. 4, Charlotte, Mattheos 2 (Carrick, Poturalski), 17:13. Penalties-Friedman Lv (holding), 10:02.
3rd Period-5, Lehigh Valley, Aube-Kubel 15 (Froese), 4:04. 6, Charlotte, Gauthier 23 (Renouf, Roy), 9:08. Penalties-Aube-Kubel Lv (roughing, roughing), 9:15; Froese Lv (roughing), 9:15; Samuelsson Lv (roughing), 9:15; Carrick Cha (roughing), 9:15; Jurco Cha (roughing), 9:15; Renouf Cha (roughing), 9:15; Bardreau Lv (slashing), 19:07; Lorentz Cha (unsportsmanlike conduct), 19:07.
Shots on Goal-Lehigh Valley 3-6-8-17. Charlotte 19-9-10-38.
Power Play Opportunities-Lehigh Valley 0 / 0; Charlotte 1 / 3.
Goalies-Lehigh Valley, Lyon 16-16-3 (28 shots-24 saves); McKenna 7-7-0 (10 shots-9 saves). Charlotte, Nedeljkovic 33-8-5 (17 shots-16 saves).
Referees-Mitch Dunning (43), Guillaume Labonte (35).
Linesmen-Julien Fournier (73), Shane Gustafson (18).
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