After the Admirals took a 2-1 lead with just under 10 minutes to play in regulation of a tightly-played game, Philippe Cornet tied it on Charlotte’s first power play of the night with 4:30 remaining, with Sean Dolan sealing the come-from-behind victory with 46 seconds on the clock.
Chris Terry also scored and Ryan Murphy extended his record assist streak for the Checkers, who clinched their second consecutive GEICO Challenge Cup – a trophy awarded to the team with the better head-to-head record in the eight-game season series that still has one game left to play.
With the teams tied 1-1 ever since the exact halfway point of the second period when Terry, untouched from center ice on, scored a breakaway goal to cancel out Emerson Etem’s opener late in the first, it seemed as though NHL veteran Dave Steckel’s goal could be enough for one of the AHL’s best defensive teams. It was a strange goal at that, with defenseman Alex Grant’s shot going off the glass behind Justin Peters and on to the goal line to the right, with Steckel swooping in to put it on net before Peters, who was playing the last game of his NHL conditioning stint, was fully prepared.
An anticipated match-up between the league’s second best power play and third-best penalty kill would occur for the first time three minutes later, when the Admirals’ Antoine Laganiere went to the box for hooking. The Checkers, who scored three times on six opportunities in their last game in Hershey on Sunday, made the rare opportunity count when Cornet banged home the rebound of Michal Jordan’s shot from the point with 4:30 to play.
Not settling for the single point, the Checkers then got the late winner when Aaron Palushaj rushed up the left wing and made a good move to open a passing lane to Dolan, who won a race to the net and beat goalie John Gibson for his second goal of the season.
Dolan’s goal improved the Checkers to 5-2-0 against Norfolk this season. Of the seven games played between the two teams, this was the first won by the road team.
With the primary assist on Terry’s goal, Murphy extended his assist and points streaks to 11 games, tying the franchise record set by fellow blueliner Bobby Sanguinetti two seasons ago and tying the fifth longest posted by any AHL player this season. His assist streak is the longest in the AHL since Binghamton rookie Mattias Karlsson had a 12-game streak in the 2008-09 campaign.
Peters, who is expected to return to the Carolina Hurricanes since the Checkers will not play again during the 14-day window of his conditioning loan, will leave the Checkers with a 4-1-1 record, 2.14 goals-against average and .932 save percentage at the AHL level this season. Though Steckel got the better of him in the third period, one of Peters’ better stops of the game came on a second-period breakaway by the Admirals veteran.
The Checkers now return home for less than two full days before departing on the third and final leg of their franchise-record run of 10 consecutive road games – a leg that begins with Friday’s game in San Antonio. They are 3-2-1 on that stretch so far, including a 3-1-0 record on the now-completed second leg that saw them play Norfolk and Hershey twice each.