The Checkers finished a year of crazy comebacks with one more at the buzzer but ultimately finished 2018 with a 5-4 overtime loss in Toronto.
Charlotte, which trailed 4-1 at the end of the first period, scored three unanswered goals to earn a point in the standings and go to 1-1-1 to start their six-game road trip through Canada. Greg McKegg scored twice, including the tying goal with 6:14 remaining in regulation, while Saku Maenalanen and Zach Nastasiuk also found the back of the net for Charlotte.
The first-place Checkers finish the calendar year 2018 with a 49-22-6 record, with their 49 victories the most of any AHL team.
Charlotte fell into a 3-0 hole after just over 14 minutes of game action, chasing starter Alex Nedeljkovic from the game. The teams then traded goals, with Saku Maenalanen scoring his third shorthanded goal of the campaign to put him into a seven-way tie for most in the AHL, before the Checkers started their run with McKegg’s first tally midway through the second period.
Not to be outdone by former Marlie McKegg, Chris Mueller also scored his second of the game to put the game away at 2:04 of the extra session.
After being out-shot 17-8 in the first period, the Checkers out-shot the Marlies 27-18 the rest of the way … Charlotte fell to 7-3 in overtime game this season. They have only had one of 11 overtime games to the the shootout … The Checkers are 2-6-1 in their last nine games against the defending Calder Cup champion Marlies … Maenalanen scored for the second consecutive game … The Checkers now have sole possession of the league lead with six shorthanded goals … McKegg, a Toronto Maple Leafs draft pick who played three full seasons with the Marlies from 2012-15, extended his point streak to three games (3g, 1a) … Nastasiuk’s goal was his first as a Checker. This was just his second game … Defenseman Josiah Didier missed the game due to injury … Forward Steven Lorentz and defenseman Josh Wesley were healthy extras.
The Checkers' vice president of communications, Paul Branecky has been covering hockey in North Carolina since 2006, including five seasons with the Carolina Hurricanes.