Checkers Raise Cup Banner, Drop Home Opener
CHARLOTTE, NC - On the night they raised their Calder Cup championship banner into the rafters, the Checkers came up just short against Bridgeport, falling to the Sound Tigers 4-2.
After the pregame festivities came to an end the Checkers jumped off to a hot start, with Eetu Luostarinen redirecting a cross-ice feed from Morgan Geekie less than 6 minutes in to put Charlotte on top. That lead wouldn't escape to the intermission, however, as Bridgeport knocked home their opening goal in the waning moments of the frame, then snatched a lead of their own thanks to a Sebastian Aho tally late in the second.
Trailing by one with 20 minutes to play, the Checkers once again came out of the locker room firing, with Gustav Forsling threading a wrister home from the point early on. That deadlock ended up being short-lived, though, as Jeff Kubiak answered just 41 seconds later to once again swing the advantage back to Bridgeport's side.
The Checkers continued to push down the stretch, launching 17 shots in the third period alone and 44 in the game overall, but couldn't solve a phenomenal Christopher Gibson. An empty netter in the final moments of the contest sealed Charlotte's fate and a 4-2 loss on home ice.
Coach Ryan Warsofsky on the game
I thought we worked hard. Our power play struggled just with making that next play. We've got to work a little harder away from the puck. It was a good effort but we've just got to give a little bit more.
Warsofsky on how to turn the team's high shot total into more goals
We've got to get more traffic. When you say traffic it's not just one guy. We need to have more guys at the net. If you want to score in pro hockey you've got to go to the dirty areas. We were a little on the perimeter at times and when the rebounds were there we just weren't there quick enough. That's going to be one of the things we work on.
Warsofsky on giving up the winning goal less than a minute after tying the game
That's tough. That's not what you want. You want to keep the momentum and we just didn't have a good shift. They put one in the back of the net, and that's hockey. We kept playing and kept chugging along, but we just couldn't get that next one.
Warsofsky on tomorrow's rematch
No one's happy losing and I probably take it the hardest. I know we have a bunch of competitors in that room that hate to lose, so we'll go back to the drawing board in the morning and we're going to show up tomorrow and put our work boots on. We'll be ready for puck drop, I'll tell you that.
Defenseman Roland McKeown on the pregame ceremony leading into the game
I thought we got off to a nice start. It's really nice to see the support from the fans coming back like that full throttle and being loud like that for a ceremony that means a lot to the team, so that's really nice to see. I thought we got to our game right away.
McKeown on the team's high shot total
Obviously the shot differential was huge tonight but there weren't that many wasteful shots. There was a lot of time in the offensive zone and we were down and didn't score so we were pressing a lot and that kind of tilted the ice like we saw. We've just got to bear down on our chances and capitalize.
McKeown on the team's progress to start the season
We're coming together. I thought we were a lot better tonight than we were last weekend just structure wise and as a team. Tonight I thought we came out and dominated but the score didn't tell that story. We'll stick with the program and trust the system we have in place here and good things will happen.
The Checkers fell to 1-2-0 on the season ... Luostarinen's goal was his first in North America ... With an assist tonight, Geekie is the only Checkers skater with at least one point in all three games (1g, 2a) ... The Checkers only hit the 40-shot mark three times during their championship season. They had 44 tonight ... Geekie led the team with six shots while Luostarinen had five ... The teams went a combined 1-for-10 on the power play ... Forwards Max McCormick and Spencer Smallman missed the game due to injury ... Forward Stelio Mattheos and defensemen Cavan Fitzgerald, Derek Sheppard and Kyle Wood were the other scratches.
The Checkers will get a shot at redemption tomorrow with a rematch against Bridgeport at 6 p.m.
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