Checkers Fall to Admirals 6-3 in Heated Battle
CHARLOTTE, NC - In a wild, high-scoring contest, the Checkers couldn't rein in the Milwaukee Admirals and fell by a score of 6-3.
It didn't take long for the home team to get on the board, with Brody Sutter ripping a quick wrist shot from the slot past Milwaukee netminder Jusse Saros five minutes in.
That lead wouldn't last, however, as blue liner Stefan Elliott knotted things up with a slick move to send the teams to the first intermission tied at one.
Things erupted in the middle frame, beginning with Sutter netting his second of the night off a nice cross-ice feed from Anthony Camara two minutes in. A pair of fights quickly followed as Justin Shugg and Kyle Hagel each dropped the mitts within four seconds of each. Milwaukee added a pair of quick strikes, including a shorthanded marker again off the stick of Elliott, but Shugg answered back shortly after, once again bringing the game to a deadlock midway through the second.
But the Admirals kept coming, pumping in back-to-back goals to cap off a frantic middle frame and head into the final 20 minutes ahead 5-3.
The Checkers kept the pressure up in an effort to spark a comeback, but the offensive well went dry and Adam Payerl's second of the night midway through the frame proved to be the final nail in the coffin as the Checkers skated away with a 6-3 defeat.
"It was not pretty to say the least," said head coach Mark Morris of his team's performance. "I thought that we were out of sorts from the get-go. I didn't feel it and I didn't see it. That was a very poor effort on our part."
Things came unglued in a second period that ended up being the difference in the game.
The Checkers struggled defensively, surrendering four goals on six shot in the frame.
"I didn't like their goals," said Morris. "I thought that they deflated our efforts. I didn't think our structure was all that good to begin with, but we needed a couple of saves and we didn't get them."
John Muse, who has shouldered the bulk of the workload for Charlotte since rejoining the team, was chased from the game midway through the second after allowing Milwaukee's third goal. Daniel Altshuller stepped in cold to relieve him and didn't seem to be able to find his footing, giving up three goals on nine shots the rest of the way.
For Morris, the key will be having the veteran Muse shake off his performance and bounce back.
"Anybody with that type of experience ought to be able to turn the page and move forward," he said. "That wasn't typical of what we've seen of his performances so far this year. He's a proud guy, so I'm sure that he's going to want to get back in the net as soon as he can."
If there was one positive note to take away from tonight's effort, it was the offensive start for the Checkers. Whereas the last two contests saw the team creating several chances but failing to connect, Charlotte's three goals tonight came from the group capitalizing on those opportunities.
"We'll take more of those as they come," said Morris of the goals. "We talked before the game about trying to get more bodies going to the net, playing with a lot more jam and everybody stepping up."
Two of the Checkers' three tallies came from Sutter, who was a force in the attack zone all night for a club that is without some of its biggest firepower.
"We didn't have everybody going, but luckily for us, it looked as though he was more dialed in than most," said Morris of Sutter. "I hope it continues and he can light the lamp for us, because without Derek Ryan (the team's leading scorer who suffered an injury in Carolina earlier this week) in there to settle things down and organize, it takes other guys to step up and he did that for us tonight."
"The first one was kind of a fortunate bounce and I made a good shot and the second one was off the d-man's skate," said Sutter. "I hadn't gotten many of those bounces this year, so I'll take it."
It will be a quick turnaround for the Checkers as they square off again with the Admirals tomorrow at noon for their home finale. With the race for the final playoff spot growing more intense by the day, they will need to regroup and find their winning ways once again.
"We're going to have to bury that one and try to think about how we're going to rebound here now," said Morris. "We're going to have to try to generate some chemistry and shore up the back end too. We'll continue to see what we can do to find guys that are thinking alike and can play hard for each other."
"You've got to be tight to your guy because this time of year everyone's pretty sharp," said Sutter. "We'll make sure we push tomorrow because we need the two points."
With the Checkers losing tonight, San Jose could pass them for the final spot in the Pacific Division with a win at Texas (Texas had come back from 4-1 down to take a 6-5 lead in the third period at the time of this release). If that were to occur, Charlotte could reclaim the spot with a win against Milwaukee tomorrow ... This was the first time since Feb. 13 that the Checkers lost in regulation when scoring three goals. They are now 30-6-4 when scoring three or more this season ... Milwaukee extended its point streak to an AHL-best 11 games (9-0-2) ... Muse and Altshuller combined to allow six goals on just 22 shots ... An assist on Shugg's goal extended Camara's point streak to four games (2g, 2a) and gave him eight points in 12 games since joining the Checkers ... Charlotte has now lost two in a row at Bojangles' Coliseum since its seven-game home point streak came to an end ... Forwards Dane Fox, Blair Jones, Andrew Miller and Valentin Zykov and defensemen Danny Biega and Rasmus Rissanen missed the game due to injury ... Defenseman Tyler Ganly was a healthy extra.
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