Checkers Clamp Down Cleveland in 2-1 Win
CHARLOTTE, NC - It was a low-scoring affair in Charlotte, but the Checkers gutted out a critical win over the Cleveland Monsters by a 2-1 score.
Keith Kinkaid put on a show between the pipes for Charlotte, stopping 29 of the 30 shots he faced on the night. He saved his biggest for last, though, robbing the Monsters on a point-blank attempt with six seconds left in regulation to put the Checkers' win on ice.
Charlotte's offense came in an early burst. Max McCormick wheeled into the zone and wired a wrister into the top corner inside the first six minutes of play, then Stelio Mattheos banged home a power-play tally less than a minute later to double up the lead.
Cleveland would eventually break through on their own man advantage early in the third, but the Checkers locked things down from there. The Monsters outshot the home side 12-6 in the final frame but couldn't convert, and Charlotte banked a big two points in the standings.
Coach Ryan Warsofsky on the game
I'm glad we got the two points, but to be honest it wasn't our best. Our urgency level wasn't there and our desperation was there at times, but we've got to be a lot better tomorrow.
Warsofsky on if he was happy being up 2-0 in the first period
Nope. As funny as that sounds, I thought our first period was our worst period. Max's goal was an individual effort and Stelio got a goal that the goalie probably wants back. Other than that, we didn't do much of anything.
Warsofsky on Keith Kinkaid
Best player on the ice. He gave us a chance to win the hockey game and probably won the hockey game for us. He made some huge saves at the end there, but even going back to a penalty kill in the first period, he made some huge saves. He deserves the two points, really.
Warsofsky on responding to physical challenges tonight and in tomorrow's rematch
We're going to push back and stick together like we've been doing all year and come together as a newer group. We still believe we're a team that can go out and win hockey games if we play the right way. It's times that we don't play the right way, we're not urgent, we're not desperate and we don't realize that these are important, important hockey games is when we come off the gas and get in trouble. That's what we've got to learn here.
Keith Kinkaid on the game
From the start until we scored our goals, they came out flying and they were beating us to pucks. We readjusted and came out with a two-goal lead, but once they got that first goal they kept pushing and pushing. Luckily we fended them off.
Kinkaid on using his experience to his advantage
I think that's part of my job, to give them confidence and to trust in me, believe in me and have them grip their sticks too much. They did their job blocking shots, keeping them to the outside and not letting them get second chances. A good job all around.
Kinkaid on joining the team
Everything's been so positive. They've been so positive with me, which I really haven't had this year. It's been a load off my shoulders, and it's been great. Coaches, management and the guys especially have been very welcoming. I'm just having fun now.
Max McCormick on the game
We know these are crucial points this time of the year, but at the same time you've got to take it one game at a time and just go play hockey. I think we played a solid game and there are some things we can clean up for tomorrow. Keith was really big for us in net, so we'll regroup and try to build off that.
The Checkers have a six-point cushion over Springfield, the team most closely chasing them in the playoff race, with one fewer game played ... Kinkaid improved to 2-1-1 as a Checker. He has a 2.24 goals-against average and .924 save percentage during that time ... After going scoreless in his first 11 games, Mattheos has three goals in his last four ... McCormick's 16 goals are the second-highest total of his career (21 in 2016-17). With 34 points, he is only two away from his career high set that same season ... Forward Kamerin Nault and defenseman Tom Parisi made their Checkers debuts ... Forwards Brian Gibbons, Colin Markison and Spencer Smallman and defenseman Cavan Fitzgerald missed the game due to injury ... Defenseman Gustav Forsling served the first of a two-game suspension ... Forward Max Zimmer was a healthy extra.
The Checkers and Monsters square off one last time tomorrow night at 7 p.m.
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