KALAMAZOO, Mich. -- The Charlotte Checkers out-shot and out-chanced the Kalamazoo Wings and came up empty-handed as they dropped a 4-2 decision on Sunday afternoon.
The Checkers got some help prior the game as goaltender Miika Wiikman was returned from Hartford (AHL), however defenseman Julien Brouillette, who leads all Charlotte blueliners in points, was called up to the Wolf Pack. Wiikman made 24 saves in a losing cause in his first start since Jan. 29, a 5-2 win over Johnstown.
With the loss, the Checkers drop to sixth place in the American conference, one back of Florida with two games in hand. Charlotte holds an eight point lead over ninth-place Gwinnett in the hunt for playoff positioning as the top eight teams in the conference qualify for postseason action.
Kalamazoo got things going early when Brian McGuirk stepped over the blueline and beat Wiikman over the blocker side and off the crossbar for the 1-0 lead. The goal was unassisted and was McGuirk’s fourth point in four games against the Checkers.
Charlotte answered back just two minutes later when Michelle Leveille decided not to shoot and fed a nice pass over to Tyler Doig. Doig then one-timed the puck into the empty net past a sprawling Kalamazoo goaltender to tie the game.
Shortly after the Checkers’ tying goal, Wings forward Darryl Lloyd beat Wiikman but the goal was waved off because of a high-sticking infraction.
The disallowed goal would benefit Charlotte as Kevin Schaeffer scored a shorthanded marker less than a minute later. The goal came at the 8:27 mark of the first period and was Schaeffer’s third in the last four games and second shorthanded tally in the last three contests.
With less than five minutes to play in the period, the Checkers were assessed a holding penalty and Kalamazoo went to work on the power play. Just 10 seconds into the man advantage, Wings forward Dean Strong let a shot go that beat Wiikman glove side to tie the game at 2-2.
The second period was all Checkers as they outshot Kalamazoo 14-6 but were unable to solve goaltender Ryan Nie.
Early in the third, and already a man down, Charlotte was assessed another penalty and the Wings were given a 5-on-3 advantage. They would make no mistake on the power play as Sam Ftorek fired a slap shot into the back of the net for the one-goal lead.
Ftorek then put the Wings up 4-2 when he broke into the Checkers zone and beat Wiikman over the glove for his 12th of the season and some insurance. The goal was too much for Charlotte as the team fell for the second night in a row despite outshooting the Wings 35-28.
The Checkers (30-19-6) will return home on Wednesday, Mar. 3 to host Cincinnati. The puck drops at 7 p.m. and ticket information can be obtained by calling 704-342-4-ICE or visiting www.gocheckers.com.