The Checkers showed plenty of fight during their third game in as many nights, but it wasn’t enough to avoid their first regulation loss of the season.
Despite coming back from a 2-0 deficit in the second period and a 3-2 deficit in the third, Charlotte ultimately fell 5-4 in Rockford on Sunday night. The loss dropped the Checkers to 3-1-1 in their first five games and prevented them from winning three times in three nights for the first time in franchise history.
Chris Terry, Drayson Bowman, Zach Boychuk and Zac Dalpe scored for Charlotte, which made things interesting when Dalpe scored with four seconds remaining in regulation to bring the score within one. However, Rockford won the ensuing faceoff and squashed any chance of a miracle comeback, with Brandon Bollig’s insurance tally to make it 5-3 with 1:19 remaining holding up as the game winner.
Justin Peters made 36 saves to suffer his first loss of the season for the Checkers, who now return home for a few days before embarking on a four-game trip that will end their franchise-record-tying, nine-game road swing to start the season. The Checkers’ home opener on Nov. 4 is the latest of any AHL team.
After a slow start to the game that might have been expected with both teams playing for the third time in as many nights, the IceHogs broke the game open with goals by Martin St. Pierre and Brandon Pirri in the first 10 minutes of the second period. However, a fluke goal by Terry changed the tide, as last season’s scoring leader sent a centering feed from along the boards that hit a defenseman and redirected past goalie Alec Richards to make it 2-1.
That goal seemed to give the Checkers life, with Bowman scoring his third power-play goal in as many games just 50 seconds later by tipping a shot from Dalpe. The goal was Bowman’s team-leading fourth of the season, all of which have come in his last three games.
Play would continue to go back and forth in the third period, with Rockford’s Jimmy Hayes restoring his team’s lead as a result of a nice passing play with teammates Peter LeBlanc and St. Pierre. However, the Checkers again bounced back, with Boychuk finishing a great power-play pass from rookie Victor Rask to tie it at 3-3.
Despite hanging in with Rockford, the Checkers ultimately fell behind for good when Hayes scored his second goal of the game on the power play, taking advantage of a nice play from Joe Lavin, who came down the left wing and curled behind goal before sending a pass back into the slot. Bollig’s goal, which came off a similar centering feed from Andrew Shaw, seemed to be icing on the cake before Dalpe threw a puck on net from the left boards that found its way through traffic and through Richards to provide some consolation.
Dalpe (1g, 1a) was one of three Checkers to record multiple-points on the night, with Rask (2a) and defenseman Justin Faulk (2a) joining in. Faulk, who had a goal disallowed due to goalie interference in the second period, had returned to the lineup after missing Saturday’s game with a muscle strain suffered during Friday’s win in Milwaukee.
The Checkers next play Rockford on Dec. 1, when the IceHogs come to Charlotte for back-to-back games to conclude the season series.
NOTES: The Checkers concluded the 17th three-in-three in franchise history with a record of 2-1-0, falling short of their best mark of 2-0-1 set three times in their inaugural season … Boychuk, who leads the team with six points (3g, 3a), has points in four of the team’s five games … Bowman has scored in three consecutive games four times in his pro career, including a personal-best, four-game streak set in 2010-11 … Three of Bowman’s four goals have come on the power play … Dalpe and defenseman Marc-Andre Gragnani (1a) each extended their assist/point streaks to three games … The Checkers converted two of their four power-play opportunities … Forwards A.J. Jenks, Justin Soryal and Jared Staal and defenseman Justin Krueger were healthy scratches for Charlotte.