Checkers Fall to Bulldogs 3-1
The Checkers returned to Time Warner Cable Arena in search of their first home win of the season, but came away empty-handed, falling to the Hamilton Bulldogs by a score of 3-1.
With both teams entering the game in search of their third wins of the season, the Checkers got on the board first thanks to a Chad LaRose backhand that chipped past Hamilton goalie Mike Condon with just eight seconds left in the frame, giving the Checkers the lead heading into the first intermission.
The Bulldogs broke through in the second, however, striking twice in under a minute to pull ahead. The Checkers were unable to overcome the deficit, and the Bulldogs iced the game with an empty-netter, snapping a three-game losing skid.
After last weekend's series with Iowa, one that saw the team's strongest offensive performance followed by a disappointing one, the Checkers once again could not get much of anything going offensively. The team scored just one goal for the fifth time in the first eight games of the season. The Checkers out-shot the Bulldogs 27-23, the second straight game that has seen the team out-shoot their opponent, with those two games being the only instances this season. But even with the better shot production, the team couldn't find the scoreboard once again.
"It's got to be a quicker release or changing the angle of your shot to having the guys in front of the net doing a better job of taking away his eyes when the puck does get through," said head coach Jeff Daniels. "We've talked all year about our mentality to put pucks on net and get bodies at the net. Guys are trying to do that, and right now the pucks aren't going in."
Defenseman Ryan Murphy made his AHL season debut for the Checkers. The 21-year-old possesses an offensive flair to his game, and while he was held in check, he is someone that could possibly help the team in the areas where they are struggling the most.
"He's got to play within the structure of the team, but he's capable of taking the puck up ice, making plays at the blue line and getting shots through," said Daniels. "It's a nice addition to have, and I think as we move along while he's down here he'll hopefully provide a spark for us offensively."
Murphy, who spent the beginning of this season and part of last season in the NHL with the Carolina Hurricanes, has been around their veterans and seen how they handle the frustrations that come with a slow start.
"There are a lot of great guys, a lot of great veterans who have a lot of games under their belt like Jay Harrison, Tim Gleason and Ron Hainsey," said Murphy. "Those guys you can learn off of every day. They can shake off a loss and come to the rink with a smile the next day ready to work. Things like that are key to bring down to this team."
While the offensive drought has added to the Checkers' early-season troubles, it was two quick defensive lapses in the second period that were the team's undoing.
"It's a battle and we're trying to squeeze some guys to get some offense from them, but I think we've got to be sharper there and also mentally stronger," said Daniels. "We had two bad plays back-to-back and all of the sudden it's a 2-1 game. They scored the empty-net goal, but really that's what lost us the game."
Heading into Sunday afternoon's rematch with the Bulldogs, Daniels pointed to a simple key to getting the team back on track.
"We're a desperate team and they're going to come out desperate," said Daniels. "Our will tank's got to be bigger than theirs and we've got to be more desperate to score goals. We've got to be hungrier to score goals."
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