Jimmy Hayes barely squeaked the tying goal past Checkers goalie Allen York midway through the third period, setting up a 2-1 shootout victory in Charlotte’s second game of a three-in-three set on Saturday. York, playing his first game with the team since signing a professional tryout contract on Friday, finished with 29 saves, while defenseman Mark Flood scored his team-leading fifth goal of the season.
The Checkers, who kicked their six-games-in-nine-nights trip off with a 5-0 win in Grand Rapids one night earlier, are 3-0-1 on the road this season. They now head to Chicago to take on the Wolves at 4 p.m. on Sunday.
After Flood finally broke through late in the second period of what had been a scoreless game despite several good scoring chances both ways, Hayes gave the home team life when his wraparound attempt crossed the goal line at the near post by what must have been mere centimeters. The referee on the ice did not signal for a goal at the time, though the light had gone on and IceHogs players were celebrating. After an official review, the play was confirmed to be a goal, despite York’s continued protests.
York, the fifth goalie the Checkers used in their first six games of the season, was otherwise perfect until allowing Viktor Svedberg and Garret Ross to score on the IceHogs’ final two shootout attempts in the fourth and fifth rounds, respectively, answering Chris Terry’s initial goal in round three. The 24-year-old, formerly of the NHL’s Columbus Blue Jackets who the Checkers signed from ECHL Evansville, was playing his first game at any level this season.
With both of the Checkers’ PTO signings excelling in the last two days – Muse arrived from ECHL Fort Wayne on Wednesday – the team now appears to have some unexpected goaltending depth despite the absences of Justin Peters and Mike Murphy, who are in Carolina to cover for injuries. That depth increased further during Saturday’s game, with the New York Post first reporting that the Checkers had signed longtime New York Islanders goalie Rick DiPietro to similar tryout deal.
Flood, who got things going with a blast from the left point that beat goalie Antti Raanta (also 29 saves) through traffic, now has goals in three consecutive games. The 29-year-old, who had just one goal with the KHL’s Lokomotiv Yaroslavl last season, is already close to halfway to his AHL career high of 11 goals set during the 2010-11 season with the Manitoba Moose.
Terry, who scored his sixth career shootout goal, assisted on Flood’s tally, extending his point streak to six games (4g, 2a). He is the only Checkers player to record at least one point in each of the team’s games.
During Saturday’s game, Charlotte and Rockford combined for just one power-play goal on 11 opportunities, courtesy of Flood. Many of the game’s best scoring chances actually came from the teams killing penalties, including a clear breakaway by Hayes that York stopped with the game tied late in the third period. That came during what set up to be a key power play for the Checkers, who benefited from Brad Winchester’s goalie interference penalty with just over five minutes remaining.
While that breakaway attempt may have been York’s most important stop during conventional play, he received plenty of action early. The IceHogs, off since Wednesday, took the game’s first seven shots on goal, with Zach Boychuk, who saw his do-or-die attempt to extend the shootout stopped by Raanta, finally getting his team on the board with 12 minutes remaining in the opening period.