For all the Checkers’ recent success on long road trips, it’s their relatively short one-game drives to Norfolk that are proving difficult.
After carrying seven wins in eight games into their previous 3-1 loss to the Admirals on Jan. 23, the Checkers missed a chance to pick up their sixth win in seven outings via a 6-2 loss on Friday. After winning each of the first three meetings with their regional rival this season to take a commanding lead in the GEICO Challenge Cup, Charlotte has now lost two straight to Norfolk.
Chris Terry and Zac Dalpe scored for the Checkers, who stormed out to a 2-0 lead less than eight minutes into the first period before allowing the Admirals to score six unanswered goals – the third-most they’ve allowed all season. John Muse, who had won each of his previous three starts this season, made 33 saves to suffer his first loss at the AHL level since Feb. 25, 2012.
Dalpe also had an assist in his first game since the Carolina Hurricanes reassigned him to Charlotte earlier in the day, but left the game in the second period with an apparent lower-body injury and did not return. Andreas Nodl, another player suiting up for his first game with the Checkers after an NHL stint, suffered the same fate after taking a hard hit along the boards in period three.
Peter Holland, the Admirals’ leading scorer who recently completed an NHL stint with the Anaheim Ducks, scored a natural hat trick with each of Norfolk’s last three goals.
Most of the Admirals’ damage came early in the second period, when the home team was able to build on a first-period goal by Brandon McMillan that made the score 2-1 less than a minute after Dalpe had scored his 19th of the season on a short-side snipe against Norfolk goalie Frederik Andersen, a former Hurricanes prospect.
Before the middle frame was eight minutes old, Norfolk had scored three times, first via McMillan’s second of the game in which the forward pounced on a loose puck in the slot that Checkers defenseman Michal Jordan was unable to clear.
Two minutes later, Chris Wagner scored the eventual winner by finishing a Jordan Hendry feed from the corner. Another two minutes after that, Holland took a Devante Smith-Pelly pass from behind the net and had enough time to hold the puck and out-wait Muse for his 17th of the season.
Terry, who had earlier scored his 21st goal of the season on a one-time blast from the right point on a four-on-three power play, appeared to claw one back for the Checkers on a five-on-three advantage to halt Norfolk’s momentum in the second period. However, referees disallowed his goal scored on a play similar to his first goal after ruling that Andersen had knocked his own net off its moorings earlier in the sequence.
Even with the disallowed goal, Terry now has 27 points (12g, 15a) in his last 22 games. Dalpe has 10 (6g, 4a) in his last eight at the AHL level.
It was more of the same in the third period, with Holland recording his second on a two-on-one break just after an unsuccessful Checkers power play had expired. The former first-round draft choice completed the hat trick with nine seconds remaining, stuffing home the rebound of a shot taken from well out.
Checkers forward Nicolas Blanchard attempted to spark his team on a few separate occasions, engaging in a successful fight with former Hurricane Troy Bodie after Norfolk’s fourth goal. He also received a minor penalty for checking to the head – the same infraction that earned Brett Sutter a one-game suspension served in this particular game - and a 10-minute misconduct with five minutes remaining in regulation.
The Checkers conclude their six-game road swing with a record of 4-2-0 and now head back to Charlotte to begin a stretch of playing 14 of their next 17 games at home. First up are the Oklahoma City Barons, who visit Time Warner Cable Arena for back-to-back games on Sunday and Monday.
In addition to Dalpe and Nodl, Jordan, Marc-Andre Gragnani and Jeremy Welsh were also playing their first AHL games following NHL stints … Terry’s power-play goal was the 14th in the Checkers’ last 32 road opportunities (43.8 percent). However, they would miss their next seven chances on the evening … Dalpe’s 19th goal surpasses his total from all of last season … Gragnani picked up his sixth assist in his last six games on Terry’s goal and is now tied for second in the AHL with 17 power-play assists … The Checkers were 4-for-4 on the penalty kill, improving their record to 20-for-20 over their last five games … Forwards David Rutherford and Brody Sutter and defenseman Tommi Kivisto were healthy scratches … Sutter missed the game to serve a one-game suspension, while fellow forwards A.J. Jenks and Jerome Samson missed the game due to injury.
North Carolina Education Lottery Three Stars
1. Peter Holland (Norfolk)
2. Brandon McMillan (Norfolk)
3. Dan Sexton (Norfolk)