Needing a win to clinch the first division title in team history, the Checkers instead fell 2-1 against the team chasing them for that honor.
Julien Gauthier’s goal with goaltender Alex Nedeljkovic pulled for the extra attacker set up an exciting finish but wasn’t enough as Charlotte’s point streak (nine games) and win streak (five games) both came to an end against Bridgeport, the Atlantic Division's second-place team, on Saturday.
Nedeljkovic, who shut out the Sound Tigers at the start of the now-completed three-game road trip just three days earlier, made 25 saves as he and the Checkers both suffered their first regulation loss since March 8.
Gauthier’s 22nd goal of the season with 1:17 to play spoiled the shutout bid of former Checkers teammate Jeremy Smith, who stopped 28 shots. All of the game’s goals came in the third period, which saw Bridgeport score twice in the span of four minutes on either side of the frame’s midway point.
Though the Checkers are off until they begin a four-game home stand on Tuesday, they can still claim the division title on Sunday should Bridgeport lose its 3 p.m. contest against Hershey.
The Checkers’ nine-game point streak that ended today (8-0-1) was its longest of the season … Charlotte and Bridgeport split their season series with four wins apiece … Including the successful kill of a two-man advantage lasting 1:34, the Checkers have gone eight consecutive games without allowing a power-play goal (30-for-30). They have given up just two total power-play goals in their last 15 games … Forward Clark Bishop missed the game due to injury … Forwards Steven Lorentz and Zack Stortini and defenseman Bobby Sanguinetti were healthy extras.
The Checkers play their last four home games of the regular season next week starting with a Tuesday matchup against Lehigh Valley.
The Checkers' vice president of communications, Paul Branecky has been covering hockey in North Carolina since 2006, including five seasons with the Carolina Hurricanes.