Deadlocked at one with just over two minutes to go in regulation, the Checkers pushed the puck up the ice and fired a puck on net, with the rebound popping out to the right of Hershey netminder Vitek Vanecek. Trailing the play, Mattheos swooped in and hammered the loose puck home, pushing the visitors on top for the first time all night. Aleksi Saarela would deposit a final dagger into the empty net minutes later for his second of the game to clinch the 3-1 final.
Prior to notching the game winner, the Checkers were locked in defensively as they held off a hard push from the Bears. Part of that including three consecutive penalties resulting in eight minutes of power play for Hershey through the first half of the frame. Charlotte’s penalty kill lived up to their regular-season prowess, though, stifling the Bears on all six of their man advantages throughout the game.
Alex Nedeljkovic played a key role in that stingy play, shaking off a first-period strike from Nathan Walker to shut Hershey down for the final 40 minutes of play, finishing the night with 17 saves on 18 shots.
It was all penalty kill. We killed off eight minutes in the third period and we were down some forwards with (Tomas) Jurco going out today and (Clark Bishop) out. The guys that jumped in did a great job. Give (Assistant Coach Ryan Warsofsk) credit again because that PK didn’t give them a sniff. Your penalty kill is as good as your goalie and Ned made some big saves when he had to.
Vellucci on going 6-1 in the playoffs despite missing players due to injury and callups
We’ve said it and it’s kind of a cliché and it gets a little old, but guys are stepping up. Everybody’s got to step up. Sellgren gets his first game in a very tough environment in a smaller rink and handled it outstandingly. I thought he was really good and he’s going to be a really good player. The next guy steps up and takes advantage of the opportunity and we’ve been very fortunate to get that from everybody.
Vellucci on Mattheos’ winner
It’s obviously huge timing-wise, but I thought their goalie made a big save on (Julien) Gauthier on the breakaway before that. We got a lucky bounce that goes to Mattheos but he buried it. He didn’t let up. It’s a fortunate bounce but you earn your bounces too.
Vellucci on potentially closing the series out tomorrow
We just want to play well every game. If you can get some rest, that would be great. It was a battle tonight and we expect it to be a battle tomorrow. They’re very well coached and they’re very competitive guys. You saw it tonight – it was not easy. It was a very physical, tough, emotional game and we got a good bounce at the end.
Vellucci on the injury to Jurco
I’m not sure. I think he’ll be alright, but I thought Bishop was going to be alright too and I was wrong on that. I’ll let the trainers tell me when they’re ready.
Nicolas Roy on the penalty kill
I think our PK is doing really good. We have a lot of video so we know what they’re doing and we adjust pretty well. We’ve just got to keep going that way and keep going hard. That’s the way we want to play.
Roy on the win
We knew coming here that they would come flying in their own building and that it was going to be a tough start for us because they would come hard. We played pretty good and we handled them in the first and then came back. I think that’s a pretty good game for us.
Roy on new players contributing
I think we’ve been pretty good all playoffs with that. We’ve had a couple of injuries and all the guys coming in the lineup are ready to go. Mattheos got a big goal for us today and Sellgren played pretty good. All the guys coming in are playing well.
Stelio Mattheos on the third period
Just weather the storm. The building was pretty loud and the crowd was into it, and the PK was huge in the third. It was just one shot at the end.
Mattheos on adjusting to the pro game
It’s professional hockey and it’s guys’ jobs here. Everyone is bigger and faster and I had to learn that you can’t take a breath out there and it takes everything you’ve got. I’m feeling more confident every night.