GAME Checkers Drop Nail-Biter as Wolves Even Series
CHARLOTTE, NC - After a one-sided affair to kick off the series, the Central Division Semifinals took a turn for the dramatic in Game 2, with Chicago squeaking out a 3-2 victory.
As expected, the visitors pushed hard right off the bat, breaking through for the first time in the series with a rebound goal early in regulation, followed by a back-and-forth battle for the remainder of the frame. The Checkers' sticks came alive in the middle frame, evening the score on tally from the red-hot Andrew Miller, but the Wolves responded less than two minutes later with another go-ahead strike. That advantage wouldn't escape the period, however, as Dennis Robertson caught an eye-popping saucer pass from Danny Kristo and ripped a cannon of a shot to the back of the net to send the game into the third tied at three.
The two squads alternated chances throughout an end-to-end stretch in the final frame, but neither side could pull ahead until the final five minutes of regulation, when Adam Musil wrangled a loose rebound in traffic out front and tucked it just under the crossbar. The Checkers attempted one last rally with an extra attacker, but it was to no avail, and the series now shifts to Chicago deadlocked at one game apiece.
[On the game] I thought it was a pretty even game out there. I saw a desperate Checkers team as well and the margins were small. There were a lot of great battles out there. We had a couple of great looks at the end there to put the game away but we weren't quick enough. It could have gone either way.
[On the final sequence] They defended well and kept it out the outside so we weren't able to make any high-skilled plays from the blue line. We had a couple of looks at the end too, so it was a hard-fought game. The boys played hard.
[On Andrew Miller] Miller is feeling it right now. He's skating really well and he looks extremely fast out there. He's having a great time.
[On Game 3 in Chicago] The next game is obviously going to be a huge game. There's going to be some nerves in it and there's going to be some excitement. Both teams are going to be all in in the next game because it's obviously a very important game.
[On Chicago's game] They definitely brought more energy than the game before - it was definitely more of a battle out there. We had control of the first game from the drop of the puck and this was a back and forth tilt and what we expected the series to be. It was tough to drop that one but we know what we're up against.
[On how the Checkers played] We'd like to be crisper, definitely. We don't want to get into a track meet with these guys because as you can see their offense is pretty skilled, especially off the rush. We want to limit those opportunities but we want to play fast at the same time, so it's definitely a double-edged sword out there.
[On his playoff production] I'm more comfortable than I was at the beginning of the year, but my linemates have been making me look good a lot of the time. If we play with the puck a lot we're a better line.
[On his line with Lucas Wallmark and Valentin Zykov] We all want to make plays, we want to move the puck and we want the puck. (Zykov) does a great job of making little plays and being in front of the net, and Wally and I seem to have good chemistry and think the game pretty much the same way. Z compliments us perfectly because he's big and strong and has a great shot.
[On the mood in the locker room] I don't think we really have a mood. We don't have time to really dwell on the past. We'll fix a few things and go over some video, but all in all I think we're going to try to play the same game. We knew it was going to be a long series and a battle, and hopefully we can put a good next game together.
Prior to tonight, the Checkers had not lost in regulation in their last eight games overall (5-0-3) and also in their last five home games (5-0-0) since April 4. Both of those streaks began following losses to Chicago ... The Checkers fell to 28-11-1 at Bojangles' Coliseum this season ... Miller has 35 points (11g, 24a) in his last 36 games ... The line of Lucas Wallmark (four points), Miller (three) and Valentin Zykov (2) are the only Checkers with multiple points thus far ... Forward Erik Karlsson and defenseman Jake Bean missed the game due to injury ... Forwards Clark Bishop, Kyle Hagel, Janne Kuokkanen, Kris Newbury and Sergey Tolchinsky, defenseman Tyler Ganly and goaltender Daniel Altshuller were healthy extras.
The series now shifts to Chicago for Game 3 on Sunday, with the puck dropping at 3 p.m.
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