Facing a 4-1 deficit in the second period, Charlotte stormed back to tie the game with nine minutes remaining and seemed certain to at least get one crucial point in the standings until a goal by Brandon Davidson with 35 seconds let sent them home with nothing. The 6-4 loss ensured that the Checkers would go pointless in a three-in-three set for the first time in their history, this being the 28th attempt.
Playing his fourth game in four days, Zach Boychuk scored two goals for the Checkers, giving him 35 on the season to extend his AHL lead and set a new franchise record for most in a single season, with Mark Flood and Justin Shugg providing the others. Starting for the third time in three nights, John Muse stopped 36 shots.
With the loss, the Checkers remain in 10th place in the Western Conference and just one point behind the eight seed Rochester Americans, though Rochester has two games in hand. Over the course of the weekend, the Checkers essentially swapped places with Oklahoma City as the Barons, who earned points in each of the last six games of the season series between the West Division rivals (4-0-2) after losing the first six, moved from 10th to seventh.
Charlotte did well to get back into the game after a disastrous second period that saw the Barons score four straight goals to cancel out Boychuk’s first-period opener, a tap in of an excellent pass by Philippe Cornet that split the Oklahoma City defense. The Barons out-shoot the Checkers 27-5 in the middle frame, with the Barons’ shot total marking the most by an AHL team in a single period in over two years.
That outburst started when Matthew Ford scored on a five-on-three power play the Barons earned when Chris Terry was called for closing his hand over the puck at the buzzer to end the first period, with Andrew Miller then adding another on the remaining five-on-four for the home team’s second goal in 31 seconds.
The Barons then struck again at period’s midway point through Roman Horak’s wide open one-timer before Taylor Fedun scored their third power-play goal of the night. The Barons, who entered the game ranked fourth in the league at 22 percent on the man advantage, finished the game with three goals on seven attempts as the Checkers killed another five-on-three later in the period.
Late in the second, Boychuk scored a key goal to get his team back on the game after Danny Biega forced a turnover and fed him the puck in stride for a quick shot that beat Richard Bachman, setting up the third-period charge. Flood’s eighth power-play goal of the season on a no-look pass from Brett Sutter set a new club record for most by a Checkers defenseman previously held by Bobby Sanguinetti, with Shugg dramatically tying the game with nine minutes remaining when he shook off a huge hit, regained the puck and fired home from a sharp angle.
The newfound momentum carried the Checkers agonizingly close to a fifth goal when Victor Rask’s shot rang off the post and became lodged in Bachman’s pads, preventing it from potentially rebounding into the goal. The next play was the dagger, with Rasmus Rissanen sending a pass to the middle of the ice from along the boards in the neutral zone, one that Fedun gathered and brought into the zone before feeding Davidson for an excellent shot that beat Muse over the right shoulder.
The Checkers, whose 72 games played are tied with Grand Rapids for most in the league, now return to Charlotte to play their final two home games against those same Griffins – a team in contention to finish with the league’s best overall record. They have just two games remaining in the regular season after that, one of which will be played against the Rockford IceHogs, who currently rank ninth in the Western Conference on even points with Charlotte.