Mike Murphy
The Checkers’ first meeting of the season against the division rival Abbotsford Heat was over before it really began.

The Heat scored four times in the game’s 13 minutes en route to an eventual 7-1 win on Tuesday – one of an AHL-high three games the Checkers have lost by six or more goals this season. Philippe Cornet scored the lone goal for the Checkers, who fell to 1-2-0 on a four-game road trip that concludes with a rematch in Abbotsford on Wednesday.

Starting goalie John Muse stopped eight of 12 shots before giving way to Mike Murphy, who made 24 saves in his first appearance since he himself made an early exit from a 7-1 loss to the Texas Stars on Jan. 17. Charlotte had won eight of its last 10 games and three in a row against the Heat entering the game.

In terms of the Checkers’ most lopsided losses of the season, this one equaled the aforementioned loss to Texas but fell short of an 8-1 defeat to the Hershey Bears on Nov. 14. Abbotsford’s four goals in the first tied the most the Checkers have given up in a single game this season, a record initially set in each of the above losses.

The Heat, who extended their point streak to six games (4-0-2), began their onslaught just 4:29 into the game when Josh Jooris one-timed shot from the slot off the post and in behind Muse. The home team’s excellent puck movement was again on display four minutes later, when Michal Jordan’s high clearing attempt on the penalty kill was gloved down at the blue line by Chad Billins, who quickly set in motion a tic-tac-toe passing plat that resulted in a goal by Max Reinhardt.

Score Sheet
On a short power play created when the Checkers negated their own man advantage by taking a penalty for the second time in as many opportunities, Blair Jones cashed in on a blast from the left circle to make it 3-0. A complete breakdown occurred on the next shift, with Carter Bancks left all alone in front to take a shot and score on his own rebound to make it 4-0 at the 12:59 mark and chase Muse from the game.

The result ended Muse’s five-game win streak that came one short of tying his season high. He had won 12 of his last 14 games prior to Tuesday.

Murphy held the fort for the second period and most of the third until the Heat again turned things up with three goals in seven minutes. Markus Granlund scored the Heat’s third power-play goal on eight opportunities to make it 5-0, with fellow rookie Corban Knight beating Murphy on a deflection two minutes later.

The Checkers’ three power-play goals allowed tied a season high originally set in the 7-1 loss to Texas. Texas (27.6 percent) and Abbotsford (23.7 percent) are the AHL’s top two teams on the power play.

Though Cornet briefly stopped the bleeding by ending Olivier Roy’s shutout bid on the doorstep with 6:17 remaining, Ben Street and Blair Olson executed a beautiful two-on-one feed, exchanging the puck three times through defenseman Ryan Murphy with Street finally applying the finish.

Roy, who was playing just his fifth AHL game of the season and first with the Heat, finished with 25 saves.

Tuesday’s game was the first of a stretch in which the Checkers and Heat, whose win allowed them to overtake Texas for the top spot in the West Division and the No. 2 seed in the Western Conference, will play all four games of their season series in less than two weeks. Following Wednesday’s game, the Checkers return home to play two games against the Oklahoma City Barons on Friday and Sunday before meeting the Heat once again for games at Raleigh’s PNC Arena on Feb. 14 and 16.


The Checkers allowed eight power-play opportunities for the second time in their last three games. Prior to that, they had not allowed eight in a single game since Feb. 11, 2012 … The Checkers had killed 11 consecutive penalties entering Tuesday’s game … Since going 5-for-7 on the power play in a 9-3 win on Jan. 24, the Checkers are 0-for-14 over their last three games … The line of Cornet, Victor Rask and Justin Shugg finished with a plus-1 rating … Greg Nemisz, who spent the last three seasons with Abbotsford, faced his former team for the first time since the Carolina Hurricanes acquired him in a Dec. 30 trade with Calgary … Forward Matthew Pistilli and defenseman Keegan Lowe were healthy extras, while forwards Nicolas Blanchard and Jared Staal missed the game due to injury.
Paul Branecky
Author: Paul BraneckyEmail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
The Checkers' vice president of communications, Paul Branecky has been covering hockey in North Carolina since 2006, including five seasons with the Carolina Hurricanes.

May 2018
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