Charlotte Checkers Ontario Reign
Former Checkers came back to haunt current Checkers as Charlotte’s road winless streak hit seven games following a 3-2 loss in Ontario.

T.J. Hensick opened the scoring and former captain Brett Sutter scored the winning goal with just 33 seconds left in regulation as Charlotte fell to 0-3-0 on the first half of its six-game journey through California. Kris Newbury and Levko Koper had scored their first goals as Checkers to erase a 2-0 deficit prior to Sutter’s dagger.

Charlotte, which is on the longest road winless streak posted by any AHL team this season, is now just one game away from tying the franchise record set in 2014-15. The team, which returns to action Wednesday at Stockton, has gone 0-6-1 on the road since Nov. 11.

This game did not seem destined for its eventual late drama when the Reign jumped out to a 2-0 lead on either side of an unusual break between the first two periods. The unscheduled hiatus was caused by the team’s “Teddy Bear Toss” promotion that calls for fans to throw stuffed animals on the ice following the home team’s first goal.

With Hensick’s tally to trigger the toss coming with 5:15 left in the first period, officials elected to start the intermission early and add the time on to what became an elongated middle frame. Oddly enough, it was Hensick’s second Teddy Toss goal in as many seasons as the veteran forward scored the Checkers’ version last year.

After the Reign’s Jonny Brodzinski intercepted an attempted pass between Checkers defensemen and went the length of the ice for a breakaway goal against Charlotte’s Alex Nedeljkovic, the visitors struck back to tie it, first on Newbury’s rebound goal on the doorstep and then on Koper’s intended centering feed from the corner that snuck by Ontario netminder Jack Campbell.

Newbury’s goal was part of the night’s trend, as the veteran forward and recent professional tryout signing spent last season with the Reign. It came in his 791st career AHL game, which is the most of any active AHL player, while Koper’s first AHL tally came in just his fifth career outing.

Overtime never seemed a sure thing with each side pressing down the stretch in the third, but it wasn’t until the waning moments that Sutter collected a loose puck in front and placed a well-placed shot through a mass of confusion in front of goal to bury his former squad. Sutter, who spent parts of four seasons with Charlotte from 2010-14 and was its captain for most of that time, still ranks fourth on the organization’s all-time list with 142 points in 255 career games.

With the loss, the Checkers fell to 3-9-1 on the road this season, with their nine losses marking the most of any AHL team. Meanwhile, they are 6-2-0 at Bojangles’ Coliseum, where they next play on Dec. 13.

NOTES

Erik Karlsson assisted on both goals, marking his second career multi-point outing and doubling his point total from his previous 14 games … Koper has three points (1g, 2a) in five games with the Checkers this season. He had sat out the last two games as a healthy extra … The Checkers have scored two goals or fewer in nine of their last 11 games. They are 1-11-1 when scoring two or fewer and 8-0-0 when scoring three or more … The Checkers went 0-for-2 on the power play, extending what is now an 0-for-24 skid over their last six games. The Reign scored on their lone opportunity via Hensick, an opportunity that was drawn by Sutter … Charlotte fell to 0-7-0 against the Pacific Division this season … Forwards Connor Brickley, Patrick Dwyer and Brendan Woods and defensemen Trevor Carrick and Haydn Fleury missed the game due to injury … Forward Cason Hohmann and defenseman Kevin Raine were healthy extras.
Paul Branecky
Author: Paul BraneckyEmail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
The Checkers' vice president of communications, Paul Branecky has been covering hockey in North Carolina since 2006, including five seasons with the Carolina Hurricanes.

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