OKLAHOMA CITY -- For someone who had never scored a regular-season goal in the AHL one week ago, Bobby Raymond has quickly discovered a flair for the dramatic.
The 27-year-old defenseman, initially recalled from the ECHL’s Florida Everblades one month ago, scored the game-winning, power-play goal with 21 seconds remaining in regulation as the Checkers pulled out a 2-1 win over the Oklahoma City Barons on Thursday. The game was the first of two back-to-back games in Oklahoma City, where the Checkers are now 6-1-0 in seven all-time visits.
Jeremy Welsh, who had the primary assist on Raymond’s goal, opened the scoring with his seventh of the season in the first period. All-star netminder Justin Peters had 23 saves as the Checkers finished the month of January with a record of 9-3-1, good for the third-best month in team history (19 points).
Raymond, who scored his first goal in 51 career AHL games to break a 4-4, third-period tie against Abbotsford on Saturday, saved his best for his final shift against the Barons. With the Checkers on their seventh power play of the game after NHL veteran Brett Clark tripped Luke Pither with 1:37 left in the third period, Raymond crept in from the right point and finished an excellent cross-crease pass from Welsh for the winning goal.
In doing so, Raymond became the first player in the Checkers’ three-season AHL history to score game-winning goals in consecutive games. Raymond, who initially signed a professional tryout contract with the Checkers on Dec. 30 before upgrading to an AHL contract on Jan. 22, was the Everblades’ top-scoring defenseman with 19 points (8g, 11a) in 30 games at the time of his initial recall.
The Checkers’ other goal on the night also came on special teams, with Welsh cleaning up a rebound from Chris Terry’s point shot on a power play early in the first period. The goal was Welsh’s first since his last game at Oklahoma City on Jan. 11, another power-play strike in the Checkers’ 7-0 win. He had spent much of the interim in the NHL with the Carolina Hurricanes, where he played one game on Jan. 22.
The Checkers, in the early portion of a four-minute power play at the time, had an immediate chance to add another goal while still on the man advantage but took a penalty of their own to cancel it out – the first of two such instances on the night.
Charlotte finished 2-for-7 on the power play against the Barons, who ranked last in the AHL in penalty killing (77.3 percent) entering the game.
Most of the game was played on even terms, with the Barons’ Nathan Deck tying the game with five minutes left in the opening frame. Deck, who also started the season in the ECHL, scored his first career AHL goal after a turnover in the Checkers’ zone.
Peters, who picked up the Top Goaltender award at Sunday’s All-Star skills competition, ended a two-game losing streak with several sharp saves. Many of those came early in a second period that saw the Barons out-shoot the Checkers 7-0 in the first five minutes, while his best may have come shortly before the game’s final power play as he covered up for another defensive-zone turnover to keep the game tied.
At the other end, Barons rookie Olivier Roy did the same, making an outstanding post-to-post glove save to robb the Checkers’ Justin Shugg of what looked to be a sure goal in the second period. Roy finished with 27 saves.
The Checkers now get set to play their final game of the season in Oklahoma City on Friday night before going on a seven-day break between games – the longest of the season. The Checkers currently lead the AHL with 46 games played.
NOTES: The road team has won all five games in the season series between Charlotte and Oklahoma City … Terry’s assist gives him 12 points in his last 11 games and five in his last four. He also took a game-high five shots on goal … Raymond was one of three players to take a game-high four penalty minutes … Peters has played in all five games against the Barons … With only 22 healthy players, the Checkers did not make a healthy scratch for the first time this season … Forwards A.J. Jenks and Jerome Samson missed the game due to injury.