Saarela Scores Twice But Comeback Comes up Short
LEHIGH VALLEY, PA - The Checkers and Phantoms locked in another Atlantic Division heavyeight bout, but this time it was Lehigh Valley who came out on top, snuffing out a Charlotte comeback to win 3-2.
After an opening frame that saw the Checkers dominate the shot count 13-3 and carry most of the action, the Phantoms turned the tables in the second. Colin McDonald converted on an odd-man rush to break the ice early, then Mike Vecchione lit the lamp twice within five minutes, once on the man advantage and once on a shorthanded breakaway to build the home side a sizeable 3-0 lead through 40 minutes of play.
Never ones to roll over, the Checkers snatched the momentum back quickly in the third as Aleksi Saarela redirected a Josiah Didier point blast and then threaded home a wrister on the power play minutes later to pull Charlotte within one before the midway point of the period.
The Checkers would continue to push from there, including on a key man advantage late in regulation, but couldn't find a way to put the equalizer behind Alex Lyon before the clock hit zero, snapping Charlotte's four-game winning streak.
Tonight was Aleksi Saarela's third multi-goal game of the season and he became the second Checker this season to hit the 20-goal mark ... Three of the five meetings between Charlotte and Lehigh Valley this season have been decided by one goal ... Prior to tonight the Checkers had not allowed a second-period goal in four straight games ... The Checkers have allowed three shorthanded goals in their last three games ... The Checkers have scored a power-play goal in each of their last three games ... Patrick Brown, Trevor Carrick and Nick Schilkey all extended their point streaks to three games ... Janne Kuokkanen and Spencer Smallman missed the game due to injury ... Zack Stortini, Dennis Robertson and Bobby Sanguinetti were healthy extras
After an unusual day off in between, the Checkers and Phantoms will square off once again on Sunday for a 1:00 p.m. puck drop.
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