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AHL Game Recap/Analysis

Guzda Earns First Pro Shutout in Win Over Utica

#AHL | The @CheckersHockey looked to get back in the win column against the @UticaComets, and skated out with a 4-0 win riding on a milestone performance from a rookie goaltender. @FPHCheckers breaks down Wednesday night’s big win

Charlotte Checkers goaltender Mack Guzda Courtesy of Rebecca DaSilva//Field Pass Hockey

Guzda Earns First Pro Shutout in Win Over Utica

CHARLOTTE, N.C. – The Charlotte Checkers had some hump day hockey as they traveled to Utica to play the Comets. Charlotte looked to bounce back from Sunday’s loss at home to get back in the win column. While sporting their home white jerseys, the Checkers avoided the Comet strike and achieved a career milestone for a particular player to take home a 4-0 shutout win.

First Period

The Checkers came out of the gates with the intent to control the tempo of the game from the opening puck drop. Within the first three or so minutes of the game, they were already up five shots to one against the Comets. The first period was relatively quiet for the most part, with only one penalty in the first 20 minutes of the game. Although, the Checkers would strike first for the lone goal of the period.

Charlotte’s first goal of the game honors will go to Connor Bunnaman at the 11:10 mark of the period. Bunnaman, after receiving the puck in the Comets’ zone from Gerry Mayhew, took a few strides into the left faceoff circle and shot the puck on the net. The puck snuck through the legs of Utica’s goaltender Nico Daws, for a brilliant five-hole goal to give the Checkers a 1-0 lead just over halfway into the first period.

Charlotte looked to respond after the loss on Sunday with a plethora of shots in the first period and the Bunnaman goal was a reward for their efforts. Bunnaman’s goal was his seventh of the season and Mayhew gets credited for his ninth assist of the year.

Second Period

Unlike the first period, the Checkers did not have to wait long for their second goal as it came within the first two and a half minutes into the period. In his first game back after an injury, Justin Sourdif doubled the Checkers’ lead at the 2:15 mark of the second period. The Checkers had a two-on-one odd-man rush going into the Comets’ zone with Sourdif on the left-hand side of the ice and Anton Levtchi with the puck on the right. Levthci keeping his head up saw Sourdif streaking open down the left side and sauced over the puck cross-ice. Sourdif was able to corral the puck and backhand it over Daws’ blocker side to make it a 2-0 Checkers lead early in the second.

The goal was Sourdif’s fifth of the season along with Levtchi’s ninth assist of the year. Furthermore, Checkers’ captain, Zac Dalpe, would pick up his seventh assist of the season as well.

Just like the first period, there was only one penalty in the second frame, this time to the Comets. This would prove costly for Utica on their first penalty kill of the game. Charlotte would not be done scoring goals in the period as Riley Nash made it 3-0 at the 14:08 mark of the second period. The Checkers were on the ensuing powerplay were moving the puck around the Comets’ zone. Lucas Carlsson at the point would try to set up Logan Hutsko for a one-timer. Although, Daws would make the initial save on the Hutsko shot from above the left faceoff circle. Luckily for the Checkers, Nash was in the right place at the right time as he put home the rebound to make it a 3-0 Checkers lead.

The powerplay goal was Nash’s 16th of the season as well as Hutsko’s ninth assist of the season. Carlsson would also be credited for his 13th assist of the year as well for the defenseman. Furthermore, what makes this goal even more impressive was that it was Nash’s eighth point in his last five games. The Checkers’ points leader is playing some fantastic hockey right now for a team fighting to stay in the top three in the Atlantic Division. At the end of the second period, the Checkers went into the second intermission leading Utica in shots-on-goal 20-8.

Third Period

Going into the third period, it seemed that Utica had nothing to show in the game as they had eight shots – eight – through two periods. Although, they came out flying to start the period by leading the Checkers at one point seven to three in shots-on-goal. There was a controversial call in the third period as the Comets thought they scored at the 14:29 mark of the period. At first glance, the Comets did score a goal on a one-timer from the left faceoff circle and into the net. Although, it was immediately waived off by the referees. Initially, it seemed that it was called off for goalie interference but it wasn’t clear specifically if it was or not. Either way, the goal was erased and the score stayed 3-0 for the Checkers.

The fans let their frustrations show as they chanted after the goal was waived off and not reviewed. To make matters worse for Utica, the Checkers would get their fourth and final goal of the game. At the 6:38 mark of the period, Mayhew would rush to the Comets’ net to make it a 4-0 game for the Checkers. What started the play initially was a great passing sequence by Carlsson finding Hutsko in the slot in front of the Comets’ net. Hutsko would quickly pass the puck off to Mayhew who rushed to the net and went forehand to backhand to slip it by Daws. The goal showed great silky hands by Mayhew to get the puck around Daws to give him his second point of the game and his ninth goal of the season.

Hutsko and Carlsson would both be credited with their second assists’ of the game: two primary assists for Hutsko while Carlsson had two secondary helpers. The two assists pushed Hutsko’s assist total to 10 and Carlsson’ to 14 on the year.

After the goal, Utica’s bench would receive an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty for abusing the ref after the Checkers goal. Not certain, but that could have been after the Comets’ goal was disallowed and the Checkers eventually scored their fourth to ice the game for Charlotte.

The game would eventually end with the Checkers getting back into the win column after a score of 4-0.

Checkers Special Team Steps Up

Throughout the game, the Checkers were playing sound hockey on special teams which is what head coach Geordie Kinnear emphasized after their loss on Sunday. He stated after the game that the special teams needed to be on the plus side of the stat line in that aspect and in this game, the Checkers did just that. Kinnear must have said something because the Checkers’ special team went 2-for-2 on the penalty kill and 1-for-3 on the powerplay. Safe to say that the Checkers stepped up in that department.

Guzda Gets First Pro Shutout

Mack Guzda 2 Field Pass Hockey

Charlotte Checkers goaltender Mack Guzda
Courtesy of Rebecca DaSilva//Field Pass Hockey

What makes this win even more special for the Checkers is that rookie goaltender Mack Guzda ended up getting the first pro shutout of his career. The 22-year-old Knoxville, Tenn. native will remember this one for a long time especially after saving all 19 Utica shots that he faced. In the Ontario Hockey League, Guzda did manage nine shutouts in his junior career with the Barrie Colts and Owen Sound Attack. That is a huge milestone and hopefully, many more shutouts will come to Guzda in his career. What a night for Guzda and the Checkers.

Final Thoughts & What’s Next?

The Charlotte Checkers are now 21-15-2-2 with 46 points on the season after 40 games played. They’re still currently third in the Atlantic Division now three points ahead of the Lehigh Valley Phantoms who are in fourth place with 43 points. Charlotte is although eight points behind second-place Providence Bruins.

Charlotte stays on the road having a two-game set Friday and Saturday against the Rochester Americans on January 27th and 28th to finish off the month. Friday’s game starts at 7:05 p.m. Eastern, and Sunday’s game starts at 6:05 p.m. Eastern. The Checkers look to build off Wednesday’s win and finish off January with a winning streak. It’s a possibility if they play the way they did on Wednesday.

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