Team captain Derek Ryan scored on a shorthanded breakaway in the first period to net the Checkers’ only goal. The result dropped the team to 1-3-0 on the season heading into its home-opening series against the Grand Rapids Griffins at Bojangles’ Coliseum on Friday and Saturday.
Charlotte has now scored a total of five goals in its three losses, which is the same amount that it scored in the first period of its only win, an 8-3 romp over the Wild on Friday. The opposing goaltender took first-star honors in two of the Checkers’ losses, including a 35-save effort by Iowa’s Alex Stalock in this particular contest.
Though they took longer to break through this time, the Checkers appeared to show signs of keeping their newfound offensive touch through Ryan’s opener near the end of the first period. With Brendan Woods in the box for hooking, Brock McGinn broke up an Iowa rush in the neutral zone and knocked the puck forward for Ryan, who rushed up ice and beat Alex Stalock for the early lead.
The goal at 15:10 of the first period was already the Checkers’ second shorthanded tally of the season, putting them in a three-way tie for the league lead.
After getting burned on Ryan’s goal, Iowa’s power play exacted revenge via Grayson Downing’s equalizer that came after Charlotte’s rookie netminder, Alex Nedeljkovic, had turned aside several good chances. The Wild would go on to take the lead for good in the second period on a sequence of sustained pressure made possible in part by Checkers defenseman Jake Chelios’ broken stick.
Stalock, who had spent much of the last three seasons in the NHL with San Jose, preserved the lead with several good stops down the stretch, including a point-blank save on an otherwise wide-open Charlotte’s Valentin Zykov on the doorstep.