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Checkers' Skid Continues with 4-1 Trouncing by Texas

January 3, 2015 - American Hockey League (AHL) - Charlotte Checkers News Release

Four unanswered goals from Stars run Charlotte's winless streak to four games

The Checkers' slide continued into the New Year as they dropped their first game of 2015 to Texas 4-1.

After struggling through a winless three-game road trip after the holiday break, the Checkers returned to Charlotte looking to get back on track against their division rival Stars.

The two squads played to a stalemate for much of the first two frames until Justin Shugg, sprung on a breakaway by Danny Biega, slid the puck five-hole to give Charlotte a 1-0 lead heading into the final period.

Texas responded quickly in the third, with Brendan Ranford ripping a one-timer past John Muse to tie the game just 1:41 in. The teams again exchanged chances throughout the period until Gemel Smith broke through for the Stars with under seven minutes remaining in regulation, chipping in a puck from in front of the net to give Texas the lead. The Stars then pulled away, with Ranford lighting the lamp for a second time less than two minutes later and Radek Faksa notching an empty netter to secure the 4-1 victory for Texas.

For the 13th time this season, the Checkers were unable to score more than one goal, and the team's inability to put points on the board once again cost them a victory.

"It comes down to we can't score goals," said head coach Jeff Daniels. "You're asking a lot from the goalies to keep it to one or two goals a night, and every time you make a mistake it's magnified a lot. You look at four two-on-ones and breakaways and you've got one goal. You're not going to win a lot of games scoring one goal."

Daniels has stressed all year that the way this team would score goals would be by committee. Coming into this game with the second-worst goals-per-game average in the AHL and with their second-leading goal scorer (Greg Nemisz) on the shelf for the rest of the season, the Checkers need their younger talent, players who are seeing much more playing time than they would on other teams, to step up now more than ever.

"It's not about one guy," said Daniels. "They've got to recognize the opportunity they're getting that normally they probably wouldn't get this early in their career from the ice time to the power-play situations. It's up to them to take advantage of it."

The Checkers' roster is currently very thin, with no healthy extras available for this contest. The defensive corps has taken the brunt of those absences, with Ryan Murphy and Michal Jordan both playing with the Hurricanes. This shortage has led to younger players getting more minutes in bigger situations, and they have, for the most part, put the team in a position to win.

"Guys are playing different roles and guys have different responsibilities," said Biega. "It's up to them to step up, and I think our D corps have done a good job with it with the call-ups we've had and the adjustments we've had to make. I think we've been pretty solid in doing so."

"They battle," said Daniels. "As a group, the whole team battles and the D are no different. We're probably playing some guys too much just based on our situation right now, but it is what it is."

Prior to the holiday break, the Checkers had been playing some of their best hockey, earning points in four of the last five games before Christmas. Since that break, they have struggled, dropping four straight. It's easy to point to that layoff as a factor to the team's skid, but the team is not willing to do so. They point to bigger issues.

"It's always difficult coming right out of a break, but we've played enough games now where that's not an excuse," said Biega. "It's a bunch of other things, and I don't think that's what it was at all."

"It's not one specific thing, it's a whole group of things," said goalie Muse, who finished with 30 saves. "It's everybody out there. You don't put the blame on the D, you don't put the blame on the goalies or the forwards. It's a team game and right now as a team we're not getting it done."

The Checkers will have a quick turnaround, as they will face this same Stars team tomorrow afternoon in a rematch. Despite the turbulent stretch they've been in, the team knows what it will take to break out of this rut.

"We've got to just go back to the drawing board and figure some stuff out," said Biega. "We've got to find a way to put the puck in the back of the net. There's a couple of other things we've got to work on, but we've just got to stay optimistic and keep at it."

"It's how we come out after a goal or whatnot," said Muse. "I think everybody has to bring it for a full 60 minutes, goalies included."

"We're not going to make excuses," said Daniels. "We've just got to compete and battle."


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