Rookie forward Julien Gauthier provided all the scoring the Checkers would need as the team won an important divisional game 2-1against the Bridgeport Sound Tigers on Saturday.
It was the second multi-goal game of the season for Gauthier, who now has 11 goals on the season. Playing for the 24th time in 28 games and for the second consecutive night, Alex Nedeljkovic made 21 saves for his league-leading 24th victory.
With the win, the Checkers are now nine points clear of Bridgeport for the fourth and final playoff spot in the Atlantic Division. The teams meet again tomorrow afternoon at 3 p.m.
After Bridgeport scored the game’s first goal on a two-on-one break just 2:16 into the first period, Gauthier provided the necessary response. First, he took advantage of a turnover forced by Janne Kuokkanen in the offensive zone and beat Bridgeport netminder Eamon McAdam, who was making his first AHL start of the season, on a breakaway late in the first period. Early in the second, he gave the Checkers the lead for good with the deflection of Brenden Kichton’s shot from the point.
Though unable to add to their lead, the Checkers did enough to preserve it in a tighly-played third period that featured just 12 total shots.
Gauthier’s previous multi-goal game was on Dec. 9 … Kuokkanen had two assists for his third multi-point game in February. He has 12 points (3g, 9a) in 12 games this month … The Checkers did not score or allow a power-play goal for the fourth straight game … The Checkers’ four first-period shots tied a season low set six times previously … The Checkers improved to 13-13-2 on the road this season … Forward Andrew Miller and defenseman Jake Chelios missed the game due to injury … With Chelios injured, Dennis Robertson played for the first time since Jan. 21 after sitting 13 games as a healthy extra … Forwards Mike Ferrantino and Zack Stortini and defenseman Tyler Ganly were healthy extras.
The Checkers conclude their three-in-three weekend with a rematch in Bridgeport tomorrow at 3 p.m.
The Checkers' vice president of communications, Paul Branecky has been covering hockey in North Carolina since 2006, including five seasons with the Carolina Hurricanes.