Checkers Come Back to Claim Point But Fall in OT
CHARLOTTE, NC - The Checkers clawed their way back and earned a point in the standings Saturday night, but dropped an overtime decision to Springfield 4-3.
Charlotte's penalty kill was put to work throughout the game, facing a man advantage six times. That included a stretch of three straight penalties down the stretch of a tie game - including a 5-on-3 deficit - followed by another one just 25 seconds into overtime. The Checkers came up big on that kill and thwarted the visitors, but were called for another penalty just 19 seconds after that one expired. That proved to be one too many, as Springfield finally converted and earned the extra point.
The Checkers faced an uphill battle to force overtime and claim the point in the standings. After Oliwer Kaski opened the scoring with a power-play rip, the home squad fell behind 3-1 nearing the second intermission. Before the buzzer Janne Kuokkanen redirected a point shot home to cut into the lead and give Charlotte some life, then Derek Shepperd punched in a rebound goal early in the third to even the score.
Alex Nedeljkovic played a key role in Charlotte's point of success, finishing the night with 33 saves and shutting down more than a few quality chances from the visitors.
Coach Ryan Warsofsky on the game
We weren't very good. Ned was stellar and he was the reason we got a point. We worked hard. We just couldn't execute. We couldn't get to our game soon enough. A big goal in the third to get us the point, but we hung on for dear life there.
Warsofsky on if getting away from the team's identity contributed to the slow start
Yep. 100 percent. We tried doing it ourselves. For whatever reason we get in these funks when we're struggling to create offense that we think we can just go end-to-end and toe drag guys, but that's not our team. No matter who you are, that's hard to do in the American Hockey League. We got away from it, which is good, in the third period and started playing more as a team and together as six guys on the ice, but it's got to be more consistent.
Warosfsky on the penalty kill
Our PK was good. The five-on-three was a huge kill that got the crowd into it. You can't give them too many because eventually it's going to hurt you, and that's what happened. The refereeing in this league is something else. It's really something else.
Warsofky on goaltender Alex Nedeljkovic
He was outstanding. He made big saves. A big save at the end of the second period where we make it a hockey game with the late goal and then he comes back and makes a 2-on-0, highlight-reel, best save of the year probably. Even on the PK he was dynamite and saved the Saarela shot on the goal line there. He was really good and locked in. We have to thank him for that point, for sure.
Warsofsky on tomorrow's rematch with Springfield
You could see they were desperate. They've lost some games in a row, they're fighting for their lives playoff-wise and we have games in hand. We have to match that. We have to be desperate. We have to be determined. We have to fight for every inch of ice, win races and play within our structure. We just have to get back to being urgent with and without the puck. It's a big key for us.
The Checkers' five-game win streak came to an end, but their point streak is extended to six games (5-0-1), tying their longest of the season ... This was the team's first overtime loss since Nov. 22. Two of their four overtime losses this season were at home to Springfield ... Sheppard scored a goal for the second consecutive game. They are his only two goals in 27 career regular-season games ... Stelio Mattheos has three points, all assists, in his last two games ... Oliwer Kaski's 10th goal of the season ranks second among AHL defensemen ... Jake Bean has points in three straight games (5a) ... Steven Lorentz extended his point streak to five games (1g, 4a) ... The Checkers' 12 shorthanded goals allowed are tied for second most in the AHL ... Forwards Brian Gibbons and Colin Markison missed the game due to injury ... Forward Jacob Pritchard and defenseman Cavan Fitzgerald were healthy extras.
The Checkers finish off their home stand tomorrow with a 1 p.m. bout against Springfield.
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