In a decisive Game 5, the Checkers rallied back from a disastrous start but ended up just short, with a 3-2 loss to Chicago ending their Calder Cup Playoff run.
The game had a strange start when one minute in the Checkers were assessed a bench minor for an error in their starting lineup card. The Wolves took advantage, with AHL MVP Kenny Agostino lighting the lamp during the power play, followed less than three minutes later by another power-play tally, this time by Agostino’s linemate Andrew Agozzino. That goal would chase Tom McCollum from the game, with Michael Leighton making his first appearance between the pipes since Feb. 17.
Beginning the game in a two-goal hole wasn’t ideal for the Checkers, but it didn’t stop them from pushing back. The visitors dominated the remainder of the first and into the second but couldn’t put anything behind netminder Ville Husso. The Wolves tacked on a third goal early in the middle frame while shorthanded, but the Checkers answered shortly after, with Connor Brickley busting through to get the Checkers on the board.
Down by a pair heading into the third, the Checkers continued to press for offense and finally, with less than seven minutes left in regulation, they found it courtesy of Phil Di Giuseppe. With the puck loose out front and a mass of bodies surrounding it, Sergey Tolchinsky was able to corral it over to Di Giuseppe, who buried it for his first goal of the series and put the Checkers within one heading down the home stretch. Charlotte’s assault on the Chicago zone rolled on, but time slipped away and the Wolves held on, bringing the Checkers’ improbable run to an end.
All three of Chicago’s goals were scored on special teams (two power play, one shorthanded) … Charlotte out-shot Chicago by a 34-19 margin … Dating back to their last playoff appearance in 2013, a first-round loss to Oklahoma City that also went five games, the Checkers have lost four consecutive games in which they had an opportunity to win a series … Leighton, who was cleared to return from injury just prior to this series, played his first game since Feb. 17 in relief of McCollum … Di Giuseppe’s goal was his first point of the series. He led all skaters in this game with seven shots on goal … The Checkers’ power play went 0-for-10 in the series … Lucas Wallmark and Andrew Miller did not record a point for the first time in the series … Aleksi Saarela left the game due to injury in the second period and did not return … Forward Erik Karlsson and defenseman Jake Bean missed the game due to injury … Forwards Clark Bishop, Kyle Hagel, Janne Kuokkanen, Kris Newbury and Brendan Woods, defenseman Tyler Ganly and goaltender Daniel Altshuller were healthy extras.
Director of Communications Nicholas Niedzielski joined the Checkers in the summer of 2014. A Texas native, he previously worked for the AHL's Texas Stars.