Mired in a road slump and visiting the perennially powerful Griffins, the Checkers rose to the occasion, taking out the Western Conference leaders in a hard-fought 2-1 victory.
While both teams came out firing in the opening frame, neither side could crack the scoreboard until the final four minutes, when Dennis Robertson received a quick cross-ice from Patrick Dwyer while joining the rush and wired a seeing-eye wrister perfectly into the top right corner.
Energized by the opening tally, the Checkers continued to attack the reeling Griffins, and their persistence paid off. With under a minute to go in the first, Keegan Lowe pushed the puck up the ice to create an odd-man rush with himself and Dwyer. The blue liner slid a perfect pass across to the veteran forward, who tapped it in backdoor and gave the visitors a two-goal lead heading into the locker room.
As it would turn out, that’s all the production the Checkers would need, as Daniel Altshuller stood tall between the pipes and stole the show. The netminder, making his first appearance in nearly a month, turned in his strongest performance of the year, stifling the Griffins’ fourth-ranked offense. The home squad was able to put one past Altshuller during an early second period power play, but that would be it. Altshuller finished the night with 33 saves, the most impressive of which came on a breakaway denial of former Hurricane Martin Frk.
A big key that the Checkers have pointed to this season is getting their secondary scorers going, and tonight was a prime example of that yielding positive results. Dwyer, who missed a sizeable amount of games early on in the season, has caught fire as of late, and his two-point effort tonight gives him four in his last three games. Meanwhile Robertson, who had just one point all season heading into the Dec. 30 matchup in Manitoba, now has three points in his last four contests.
The Checkers couldn’t escape the power-play struggles that have plagued them all year, however, going scoreless on five man advantages. Even so, they did manage to create sustained pressure in the offensive zone, something that had been missing as of late. Despite not being able to put anything else past Griffins netminder Cal Heeter, the Checkers were able to dominate long stretches of play against their formidable opponent and keep their attack at bay.
The win marks just the fifth on the road for the Checkers this season, two of which have come in the last four contests. They’ll have the chance to swing this momentum into a winning streak tomorrow as they travel to Chicago looking to avenge a loss to the Wolves earlier this week.