With the Checkers slowly inching back from a two-goal deficit against the San Antonio Rampage, Michal Jordan’s shot on the power play rang loudly off the crossbar with five minutes remaining in regulation. A goal by the visitors minutes later would seal a 4-2 defeat, handing the Checkers their third loss in four games – all off which could have gone either way until late in the third period.
Jordan and Victor Rask scored earlier goals for the Checkers, who got 26 saves from Mike Murphy. Despite the loss, the Checkers remain three points out of a playoff spot with eighth-place Rochester also suffering a loss on Sunday.
“If you look at the second half of the game I think we had four or five hit posts and a few shot tips that just missed,” said Sutter. “We had our chances. They just didn’t go our way tonight.”
It looked as though the power play would come through much in the same way as it did in Friday’s 4-3 win over the Rampage, in which Chris Terry, who extended his point streak to seven games with a pair of assists, scored with approximately the same amount of time left on the clock. The Checkers clearly smelled blood when Rampage forward Jed Ortmeyer lost a stick, but Jordan’s post would be as close as they came.
“We did everything but score on that power play,” said coach Jeff Daniels, whose team went 1-for-6 on the day. “We were in the zone for pretty close to two minutes and had a lot of great looks. They did a great job of tying some sticks up just when you think you’re going to tap one in. It could have been the difference in the game.”
“There were a couple of bounces that could have gone either way,” said Jordan, who has scored 10 of his 21 points on the season during the month of March. “That last post would have turned the game around.”
The loss ended Charlotte’s five-game winning streak against San Antonio, who they face once more on April 4. Friday’s win had gotten them to within two points of a postseason berth, with a Saturday win by Rockford widening the gap once again.
“This time of year they all sting when you lose a game just based on where we’re at,” said Daniels. “We’re trying to catch teams, and when you lose games you’re not catching them.”
Despite losing for the seventh time in his last eight games, Murphy was solid once again. He has received five total goals of support in his last four starts, all losses. Meanwhile, John Muse, who sat this game out due to an injury that Daniels graded as day-to-day, has gone 6-1-0 while receiving at least three goals of support in each of his last seven.
“He played unbelievable in the last couple of games and gave us a chance to win,” said Jordan. “Those losses are tough for us and even tougher for him.”
Jordan’s goal came on the power play early in the second period, a blast from the point that tied the game at 1-1. It canceled out an earlier goal by Rampage scoring leader Bobby Butler, who had a hand in all of San Antonio’s goals in this match-up (2g, 2a).
Butler was wide open on his goals, a first-period breakaway and the finish of his own rebound three minutes after Jordan scored. He also had the primary helper on Ortmeyer’s winner and the secondary assist on the Rampage’s fourth, in which Wade Megan finished a chance off the rush.
“He’s proven at this level that he can score goals,” said Daniels of Butler, who also scored twice against the Checkers on March 7. “We saw him three or four years ago in the playoffs with Binghamton what he’s capable of.”
The Checkers have 11 games remaining to try to make up the necessary ground in the playoff race, however much that might end up being at the end of the day. The depart Monday for a two-game set against the Iowa Wild, who now rank 15th in the Western Conference with San Antonio using these two points to jump ahead, before beginning what will surely be a grueling five game stretch in which they face the Oklahoma City Barons, another team knocking on the door of the top eight, four times.
“We need to make sure we get our heads right and get some big points on the road,” said Sutter. “We’re right there. It’s going to be a dogfight and these next few games really matter.”