In a Saturday afternoon matinee against the Abbotsford Heat, the Checkers once again allowed adversity to erase a good start in what turned out to be a 2-1 loss at Time Warner Cable Arena. Mathieu Roy scored the goal and Justin Peters made 38 saves for Charlotte, which lost its third consecutive game, all at home.
At the conclusion of the game, the Checkers retained the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference, but they could potentially drop to 10th depending on the day’s later results. Beginning with tomorrow’s rematch against the Heat, they have just five regular-season games remaining.
“We’ve just got to stay positive,” said coach Jeff Daniels. “We’re going to have to go 5-0 or 4-1 to make the playoffs.”
Staying positive may be the only answer left as to how the Checkers can remedy their recent inability to respond when the tide turns against them during games. In each of the last three losses, they’ve enjoyed strong first periods but suffered from a noticeable lull when their opponents fought back.
“Mentally, we’re having a tough time shaking off goals against" said Daniels. “When you’re not scoring goals it’s tough to recover from that, and we never did tonight.”
“You could just feel it – the sag,” said captain Brett Sutter.
In this particular game, the turning point came in the second period, erasing a strong first that saw the Checkers take a 1-0 lead on Roy’s power-play goal – a wrist shot from the right circle that appeared to catch goalie Danny Taylor by surprise. With Abbotsford already enjoying a 10-3 shot advantage in the first eight minutes of the second, Krys Kolanos broke through on a rebound goal to tie the game.
Other than a brief flurry at the end of each period, the Checkers never showed a serious threat of scoring another goal, with Kolanos sealing the victory when he found time to aim a wrist shot from the slot that beat Peters in the first five minutes of the third period for his second of the game.
With his two-goal performance, Kolanos extended his goal and point streak to six games (9g, 4a).
“Give credit to them, they played real well in the second period,” said Daniels. "We had a couple of penalties kind of disrupt the flow, and they had one of the better goal scorers in the league making a difference out there."
Despite having all of their top scorers in the lineup – forward Drayson Bowman recently returned from the NHL and defenseman Bobby Sanguinetti played for the first time since suffering an upper-body injury on March 25 – the Checkers also continued to have trouble generating offense. They scored a total of just three goals during their current three-game skid.
“Except for a few games when we’ve been able to score, we’ve been averaging around two goals a game for the last little while,” said Daniels. “Scoring one is just not enough.”
“The biggest thing was just our execution tonight was a little sloppy,” said Peters. “It's definitely not for a lack of effort - the guys are trying hard - but those little details in the game seem to be the difference.”
After allowing Roy’s goal, Taylor came up big to deny Jerome Samson and Bowman in the first period, before again stopping Bowman in the final seconds of the third with Peters pulled for the extra attacker. On the other end, Peters’ 38 saves tied his season high set in the Checkers’ first game of the season in Norfolk on Oct. 7.
The Checkers will now have a chance to rebound in another afternoon matinee on Sunday (3 p.m. start). That game marks the final home game of the regular season before the Checkers depart on a season-long, four-game road trip that will take them through the finale in Milwaukee on April 15.
“When you win, you have that swagger about you where you think you can win every night, and we’ve kind of lost that,” said Sutter.
“We’re going to need a little more character and a little more grit tomorrow.”
NOTES: This streak marks the Checkers third losing streak of three or more games this season. Their season high is four … Abbotsford’s 40 shots were the most allowed by Charlotte since Feb. 25 – a span of 15 games … The Checkers scored first for the first time in five games … The Checkers have lost six of their last seven home games … Roy’s goal, his fifth of the season, is one shy of AHL career high set in 2006-07 … Abbotsford extended its point streak to six games (5-0-1) … Defenseman Joe Sova (healthy) and forwards Nicolas Blanchard, Sean Dolan and A.J. Jenks (injury) did not dress for Charlotte … Fans named Roy winner of the Roll up Your Sleeves Hardest Worker of the Game Award.