CHARLOTTE 9, WILKES-BARRE/SCRANTON 5
Former first-round draft pick Zach Boychuk tallied a hat trick and added an assist for a four-point afternoon as Charlotte ventured into Wilkes-Barre for the first time ever and torched the league-leading Penguins for a 9-5 win on Sunday at the Mohegan Sun Arena.
The Checkers, who had dropped four in a row to Wilkes-Barre on home ice to begin the season series, produced their greatest offensive output since collecting a 10-3 win over Syracuse on Dec. 6.
Boychuk, drafted 14th overall by the parent Carolina Hurricanes in 2008, scored twice at even strength in the first period before completing his hat trick with a third-period power play marker.
Boychuk, who also assisted on a goal by 2011 AHL All-Star defenseman Bryan Rodney, now shows 39 points (15-24-39) in 31 games with the Checkers this season.
Goaltender Justin Pogge emerged with the victory after making 28 saves for Charlotte, which remained tied with Hershey for third place in the East Division race.
Brett Sterling tallied a pair of goals to lead the Penguins’ offense, and Chris Collins, Tim Wallace, and Eric Tangradi scored once apiece. Wilkes-Barre/Scranton is now 34-11-0-0 on the season and still holds an 11-point edge on Norfolk atop the East.
MANITOBA 5, ABBOTSFORD 3
Manitoba rallied back from a 2-1 deficit early in the second period to claim a 5-3 win over Abbotsford on Sunday afternoon before 8,509 fans at the MTS Centre.
With the victory, the Moose earned a sweep of their two-game set with the Heat and moved within one point of first-place Hamilton in the North Division race.
Garth Murray and defenseman Mark Flood rounded out Manitoba’s offense, Mario Bliznak posted two helpers, and Moose goaltender Tyler Weiman made 29 saves on 32 shots between the pipes, standing tall as his club faced a 27-12 shots disadvantage over the second and third periods combined.
Cam Cunning, Jon Rheault, and defenseman Josh Meyers netted goals for the Heat, who will continue their lengthy road trip with a three-game tour of Texas, beginning on Wednesday morning in San Antonio.
PEORIA 3, LAKE ERIE 1
Peoria’s dormant offense exploded for three goals in less than seven minutes during the third period, and the Rivermen road that outburst to a 3-1 road win over Lake Erie on Sunday at Quicken Loans Arena.
The Rivermen, who had been blanked in each of their previous two games, entered the third period of this one down 1-0 courtesy of a first-period power play goal by Monsters forward Justin Mercier.
But Anthony Nigro finally snapped Peoria’s drought at 2:36 of the third frame, and the Rivermen took the lead for good just 1:21 later when Chris Porter scored on the power play. Nicholas Drazenovic, who assisted on Porter’s game-winner, provided insurance at the 9:33 mark, with Porter earning a helper.
Peoria goaltender Ben Bishop stopped 29 of 30 shots in net and improved to 11-10-1 on the season.
With the win, the Rivermen moved back into sole possession of first place in the remarkably tight West Division, one point ahead of Milwaukee, Oklahoma City, and Houston, and just two points up on San Antonio.
Lake Erie has now lost two straight games on the heels of a five-game winning streak.
SPRINGFIELD 4, BRIDGEPORT 2
Dane Byers led the way with two goals and an assist as Springfield doubled up visiting Bridgeport, 4-2, for a much-needed win on Sunday at the MassMutual Center.
Prior to Sunday, Byers had not tallied a goal since also recording a two-goal, three-point effort against the Sound Tigers in Bridgeport back on Dec. 17.
He now shows 28 points (10-18-28) in 48 games for the season, split between Connecticut and Springfield, and 10 of those (6-4-10) have come at the expense of Bridgeport.
Falcons goaltender David LeNeveu turned aside 29 of 31 shots in net, as Springfield moved into a three-way tie for fifth place in the Atlantic Division with Providence and Bridgeport. That trio is still seven points back of Connecticut and Binghamton for the Eastern Conference’s final guaranteed playoff spots.
PORTLAND 5, WORCESTER 4 (SO)
Two-time AHL All-Star Mark Mancari netted his second hat trick in as many days, and Portland went on to a 5-4 shootout win over host Worcester on Sunday at the DCU Center.
Mancari scored at even strength in the opening period and shorthanded in the second frame before sending the game to overtime with the tying goal at 19:32 of the third period.
The 25-year-old Mancari is now on four-game goal-scoring streak (8-2-10) and shows a league-leading 26 tallies (26-25-51) in 42 games for the season.
Portland goaltender Jhonas Enroth made 32 saves through the first 65 minutes before stopping all of Worcester’s four shootout bids.
With the win, Portland (27-13-4-1) moved into sole possession of first place in the Atlantic Division, one points up on Manchester.
The Sharks recovered from a 3-0 deficit to grab a 4-3 lead before Mancari sent the game to overtime. Defensemen Matt Irwin, Nick Schaus, and Jay Leach all scored for the Sharks, as did Andrew Desjardins. Worcester is now winless in its last three games (0-2-0-1).
OKLAHOMA CITY 2, CHICAGO 1
A pair of power play goals lifted Oklahoma City to a 2-1 road win over Chicago on Sunday at Allstate Arena. The Barons earned their third straight win and ended a seven-game road trip at an impressive 6-1-0-0.
Colin McDonald tallied his 23rd goal of the season to put Oklahoma City up 1-0 at 5:50 of the second period, and Brad Moran made it 2-0 midway through the third period. Alexandre Giroux and defenseman Anthony Aiello assisted on both markers.
The Wolves got on the board when Jared Ross netted his 14th goal of the season at 17:15 of the third period, but they could not find the equalizer.
Barons goaltender Martin Gerber earned the victory with 19 saves on 20 shots, improving to 16-10-2.
PROVIDENCE 2, MANCHESTER 1 (SO)
Providence continued its season-long domination of Manchester on Sunday with a 2-1 shootout win over the Monarchs in front of 6,577 fans at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center.
Zach Hamill, Maxime Sauve, and Trent Whitfield all tallied shootout goals for the Bruins, who improved to 6-2-0-0 vs. Manchester this season after posting a miserable 1-8-1-0 mark in last year’s season series.
Rookie forward Joe Colborne put the Bruins on top 1-0 with a power play goal at 18:35 of the first period. A former first-round draft pick, Colborne has now scored six of his 11 goals this season against Manchester.
Manchester is now winless in three straight games (0-2-0-1) but still sits just one point back of first-place Portland in the Atlantic Division race.
Bruins goaltender Nolan Schaefer (7-12-1) made 41 saves on 42 shots through the first 65 minutes before stopping four of Manchester’s six shootout bids, and the veteran picked up his first win since Dec. 19.
HERSHEY 5, ADIRONDACK 1
Hershey continued its midseason drive up the East Division standings with a 5-1 win over visiting Adirondack on Sunday before 9,305 fans at the Giant Center.
The Bears went 3-0-0-0 in three home games this weekend and moved to 10-2-1-1 in their last 16 games. That surge has lifted Hershey into a third-place tie with Charlotte in the East, just two points back of second-place Norfolk.
Bears forward Andrew Gordon reached the 20-goal plateau for a third consecutive season, and Hershey also got scores from forwards Francois Bouchard and Brian Willsie along with defenseman Patrick Wellar and Sheldon Souray.
Goaltender Dany Sabourin stopped 19 of 20 shots in net for the Bears, who are now one victory shy of matching a season-high four-game winning streak achieved from Dec. 3-10 and again from Dec. 19-30.
Michael Ryan notched the lone goal for the Phantoms, who dropped to 13-28-2-3 on the season.
TORONTO 4, HOUSTON 2
Defenseman Simon Gysbers led the way with a goal and two assists as Toronto doubled up red-hot Houston by a 4-2 count on Sunday afternoon at Ricoh Coliseum.
Gysbers, who entered the day having totaled three assists in his previous 12 contests, scored the eventual game-winning goal at 16:04 of the third period, breaking a 2-2 deadlock.
Houston grabbed a 2-0 lead after the opening period on goals by Carson McMillan and Warren Peters, but Marlies forward Jeff Cowan cut the lead in half late in the second period and Matt Caruana tied it with an unassisted marker 3:38 into the third.
Gysbers recorded the eventual game-winner late in the third and then assisted on an empty-net clincher off the stick of Cowan. Mike Zigomanis assisted on both scores for the Marlies.
Toronto goaltender Jussi Rynnas earned the victory with 24 saves on 26 shots, as the Marlies won their second straight game and pulled two points up on Lake Erie for sole possession of third place in the North Division race.
The Aeros lost in regulation for the first time since a 4-0 blanking at San Antonio on Jan. 8 but are still just one point back of Peoria for first place in the West Division.