Checkers Lose Early Lead in Grand Rapids
CHARLOTTE, NC - One night after ending the longest winless streak in their history, the Checkers weren't able to build any momentum in the opposite direction as they fell 5-2 in Grand Rapids on Saturday.
Ethan Werek and Justin Shugg scored power-play goals in the first and second period, respectively, to build a 2-0 lead for the Checkers, only to see the Griffins go on to score five unanswered goals to earn the split in the two-game series between the clubs.
Filling in for an injured Drew MacIntyre, who took the previous night's win in Grand Rapids, rookie Anthony Peters made 44 saves, which was the most by a Checkers goaltender this season.
Charlotte will now complete their first time playing three games in three nights this season as they hop on the overnight bus and prepare to take on the Chicago Wolves at 4 p.m. Sunday.
The game started in promising fashion for Charlotte, which had ended a 10-game winless streak with the previous night's 4-2 win over the Griffins. The Checkers, who entered the game ranked second in the AHL in terms of power-play proficiency, scored on each of their first two advantages this evening, first getting on the board when Ethan Werek collected a centering feed from T.J. Hensick and deposited it past Griffins netminder Tom McCollum at the six-minute mark of the first period.
After a wild sequence in which the Griffins' Tyler Bertuzzi was caught for a retaliatory cross check against Brock McGinn after the Checkers forward had leveled him with a hard hit, Shugg, who has missed several games due to injury, scored his first goal since Jan. 9 to give the Checkers the two-goal lead early in the second period.
The tide would quickly turn over the course of the middle frame, however, with the Griffins scoring twice on 22 shots, the most Charlotte has allowed in a single period this season, to take their first and final lead of the evening. First, Mitch Callahan tipped Brian Lashoff's point shot following a faceoff win in the offensive zone. Two minutes later, Anthony Mantha tied it on a fine individual effort in which he wheeled around the zone with impunity before depositing a shot past Peters.
With 1:50 to play in the period, the winning goal came off the stick of Andy Miele, who collected the rebound of Ryan Sproul's point shot and beat Peters on the rebound.
At the end of the period, Checkers forward Brendan Woods had an opportunity to stop the bleeding on a penalty shot as he was hauled down on a breakaway in the final minute. However, McCollum blocked his attempt to go five-hole in the Checkers' first penalty shot attempt of the season.
For good measure, the Griffins would add third-period goals from Callahan and Bertuzzi to seal the victory. The home team took 49 shots on the night, which marked the most the Checkers have allowed this season.
The outcome marked the first time this season that the Checkers, who led 1-0 after the first period, have lost a game in regulation when leading at either intermission this season. They are now 12-1-3 when leading after the first period.
Peters became the fourth goaltender to play for the Checkers this season (MacIntyre, Daniel Altshuller and Rasmus Tirronen) ... Werek has goals in back-to-back games since ending a 10-game drought. Five of his eight goals this season have come against Grand Rapids ... The Checkers own a 3-3-0 record against Grand Rapids this season, with the teams splitting each of three two-game sets this season ... The Checkers' only other power-play opportunity came shortly after Shugg's goal, making them 2-for-3 on the night ... The Checkers' previous penalty shot opportunity came on Jan. 31, 2015 ... Defenseman Danny Biega and MacIntyre missed the game due to injury ... Forward David Wohlberg and defenseman Tyler Ganly were healthy extras.
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