Five different players score in 5-4 win over Abbotsford
Having run out of time in their comeback attempt one night earlier, the Checkers made sure to get things going with plenty of time to spare.
Charlotte erased an early 2-0 deficit against the AHL’s best defensive team in a 5-4 win over the Abbotsford Heat on Saturday afternoon. Luke Pither, Brett Bellemore, Michal Jordan, Tim Wallace and Bobby Raymond scored for Charlotte, which avenged a 4-3 loss to the Heat on Friday.
The result ended Abbotsford’s league-best, five-game win streak and gave the Checkers their first win in three games heading into the AHL All-Star break. It also allowed Charlotte to regain sole possession of the top spot in the South Division and in the AHL, though plenty of other games still remained on the Saturday schedule.
The game wasn’t quite the full 60 minutes that the team was looking for after it fell just short of a three-goal comeback in their first meeting with the Heat, but coach Jeff Daniels’ group had a response for everything that went against them.
“The bench was very positive and upbeat, saying we needed to keep it at it and grind it out,” said Daniels. “It was a win that we needed.”
“It’s definitely tough when you go down early in a game, but we showed what kind of team we are,” said Jordan, whose five goals on the season are a new career high.
Even after a first-period goal by Pither, who finished a Justin Shugg centering feed, and a second-period goal by Bellemore, who beat goalie Barry Brust five-hole on a slap shot from the point, the Checkers still had to regain control of momentum throughout the contest.
When the Heat took a 3-2 lead midway through the second and tied the game 4-4 early in the third, the Checkers responded within minutes each time against Brust, statistically the league’s best goaltender coming in. Jordan’s goal was a blast from the top of the circle that came 1:19 after his team again fell behind. The game-winner by Raymond, a rebound finish for the defenseman’s first goal in 51 regular-season games at the AHL level, came 3:17 after Akim Aliu had canceled out a go-ahead goal by Tim Wallace with 11 seconds left in the second period.
Adding to fatigue caused by the 12 p.m. start after the teams had played the night before, the back-and-forth was exhausting to the players, particularly Jordan, who was minus-3 at the time of his goal.
“It was an emotional rollercoaster for me,” said Jordan, who fans voted as a Western Conference starter in Monday’s All-Star Classic, along with teammate Justin Peters, earlier Saturday. “It’s not nice when I’m on the ice when the other team scores, and that made me kind of mad. I found a way to suck it up, and I thought we dominated in the second half.”
The goal was Jordan’s fourth in nine days since his initial selection to the All-Star team on Jan. 17.
“I’ve had streaks in the past where I got really hot,” said Jordan. “I’m just trying to do what the coaches tell me to do and shoot a lot of pucks.”
“He’s very consistent and reliable,” said Daniels of Jordan. “It’s really good to see players who compete day in and day out get rewarded.”
A few other Checkers continued productive offensive stretches, as Pither’s goal and two assists gave him nine points (4g, 5a) in six games as a Checker and Shugg’s two assists gave him eight points (1g, 7a) in his last eight games.
Additionally, Chris Terry’s two assists, including an excellent cross-ice pass on Wallace’s goal, gave him 15 points (6g, 9a) in his last 13 games.
“He’s stepped his game up, and he has been for a couple of weeks now,” said Daniels of Terry, who scored two goals in Friday’s game. “He had a rough stretch in the middle of the season but he’s playing with a lot of confidence now. He’s a very talented scorer.”
Daniels, Jordan and Peters, who had his first night off since Jan. 13 in favor of John Muse, now head to Providence, RI, to take part in Sunday’s skills competition to kick off the All-Star Classic. The game itself will take place on Monday night.
“The league is recognizing what we’ve done as a team,” said Daniels. “It’s an honor for the guys and a chance to get away for a couple of days.”
“It’s awesome,” said Jordan. “I’ve never been a part of anything like that. I’m pretty happy to represent the Charlotte Checkers organization.”
NOTES: The noon start was part of a doubleheader with the Charlotte Bobcats, who play Saturday night … Pither’s three points tied a career high set on Jan. 20 … Wallace and Pither had game-high, plus-3 ratings … Jordan took a game-high six shots on goal … The Checkers ended a four-game losing streak against Abbotsford and beat the Heat for the first time in four tries at Time Warner Cable Arena … Bellemore’s goal was his second of the season, tying his single-season career high. His nine points are one away from his career high … Forwards David Rutherford and Justin Soryal and defenseman Beau Schmitz were healthy extras, while forwards A.J. Jenks and Jerome Samson missed the game due to injury.