Morgan Geekie scored in each period to complete a hat trick and lead the Charlotte Checkers to a 6-3 victory over the Hershey Bears Sunday on the Giant Center ice.
The scoring started early with the Checkers taking a 2-1 lead just 3:27 into the contest.
Stelio Mattheos scored his first goal of the season on a quick shot past Bears goaltender Pheonix Copley at 1:06, then Matt Moulson netted his 20th of the season to make it 1-1 at 2:56. Geekie nailed his first of the game when Colby Williams lost his stick in the defensive end, and Geekie sent a shot wrist shot past Copley’s glove hand to regain the lead for Charlotte.
Geekie started the second stanza scoring cashing in on a loose puck sitting in the low-slot at 8:40. Fifty-six seconds later the Checkers stretched their lead to 4-1 after Steven Lorentz had a highlight-reel goal while falling down for his 21st of the season.
Hershey’s Brian Pinho made it 4-2 at 18:17 taking a pass from Williams for a breakaway opportunity.
“We didn’t have a lot of jump and you could tell there were few times when we showed a little fight but a lot of credit goes to Charlotte because they had a couple guys step up when they were in a tough spot of a third game in three days,” Hershey coach Spencer Carberry stated. “Our guys maybe thought things would come easy because last night went the way it did and Mike Sgarbossa is back in the lineup so maybe I can cruise around the outside and get some points.”
Philippe Maillet scored his 15th of the season at 6:14 to cut the deficit to one, but Charlotte countered with two more to ice a 6-3 final. Mattheos scored his second of the game at 10:33 and Geekie completed his hat-trick at 11:29.
Keith Kinkaid stopped 28 of 31 shots to win his Charlotte debut in goal and Copley stopped 28 of 34 attempts.
The Bears return to action on Friday for the first of back-to-back road tilts in Hartford, then finish the three-game trip in Providence on Sunday.
“We’ll get to work Tuesday and Wednesday watching video and work with guys individually to prepare for the weekend games then travel Thursday because we are going to have to be better Friday and going forward,” Carberry said about the key weekend trip against the two teams that are chasing the Bears.
The Bears (76 points) remain in first place in the Atlantic Division but Providence’s (74 points) win over Hartford (73 points) moved the Bruins into second place. Charlotte is fourth with 68 points. All three have games-in-hand over the Bears.
Hershey forward Mike Sgarbossa returned to the lineup Saturday, skating for the Bears for the first time since Jan. 5, missing 21 games with a lower-body injury. He had two goals and an assist in Hershey’s win to extend his point streak to eight straight games with three goals and 10 assists. The last game Sgarbossa failed to record a point was Dec. 21 versus Springfield.
The Bears have scored five or more goals in three consecutive games, including a six-goal outburst in Tuesday’s win over the Checkers. In each of Hershey’s past six wins, the club has notched five or more goals. In the month of February, Hershey scored 40 goals over 11 contests, good for 3.64 goals per game.
Garrett Pilon led the way for Hershey with six goals in February, while Brian Pinho added five goals in the month. With Hershey’s strong recent offensive success, the Bears were averaging 3.05 goals per game going into Sunday’s game.
Since Hershey hosted Charlotte on Tuesday, the Checkers added two experienced goaltenders to the roster. Mike Condon, a veteran of 129 NHL games, and Keith Kinkaid, who has played 157 NHL games, have both been loaned to the Checkers by their respective NHL clubs.