The Checkers’ scorching streak at home came to its end Saturday night as a back-and-forth contest swung the visiting Springfield Thunderbirds’ way by a 5-3 score.

Charlotte capped the first period with two goals, with Martin Necas launching a bar-down snipe off the rush less than five minutes in and Aleksi Saarela threading a seeing-eye laser from the circle late in the frame. Springfield would notch a tally of their own between those two, and the visitors kept the goal-trading going with the second-period’s lone marker, knotting the score at two heading into the final period of play.

Jean-Sebastien Dea helped convert an early man advantage for the Thunderbirds in the third, but a tic-tac-toe passing play from Martin Necas to Julien Gauthier in front gave the Checkers the equalizer on a power play just minutes later.

The tightly contested affair appeared on a crash course for overtime until the Thunderbirds made the Checkers pay for an offensive zone turnover down low, finding the back of the net and reclaiming the lead with just over five minutes to play.

The Checkers would pull Alex Nedeljkovic for an extra attacker in the waning moments and were able to create some quality chances, but they couldn’t quite put one home, and an empty netter from Dea sealed the visiting Thunderbirds’ upset victory.

QUOTES

Coach Mike Vellucci on the game
I think we were just carefree as a team and played way too loose. We gave up nine chances in the third, and that’s not good. Their goalie played well and made some incredible saves that we should have scored on, and give him credit because he played well, but we were way too careless. We’ve just got to play better defensively. We can’t give up five goals. That’s an issue. I think we got what we deserved, and that’s usually what happens.

Vellucci on the team’s level of intensity
I thought the intensity was there and the effort was there. We just didn’t use our brains. We talked and talked about it and we just didn’t use our brain. Sometimes when you play this many games, I think it’s 13 in 24 days, your brain gets a little mush, but the playoffs are coming up and you can’t have any time for that.

Vellucci on leading scorer Andrew Poturalski missing the game due to injury
He’ll see the doctor tomorrow and hopefully he’ll be alright. I think it will be short term.

Vellucci on Jake Bean not being in the lineup
Carolina made the playoffs so we’ve got to wait and see what happens. They only have 6 D, so they have to make sure they have enough defensemen up there ready to play.

Vellucci on potentially clinching the league’s best regular-season record later tonight
I don’t pay attention to that stuff. I want to be playing well. We want home ice and we want to be the top team in the league, that’s great, but we want to be playing well going into the playoffs.

Roland McKeown on the game
There’s always a lot to play for. It’s a high-stakes game and we’re trying to clinch he conference here. Springfield has a really good roster and a couple of guys down from Florida in the NHL. I thought we brought it. It was almost a playoff vibe out there to be honest with you. They capitalized on their chances and their goalie made a couple of unbelievable saves on us. Sometimes that’s the difference in the game.

McKeown on giving up scoring chances
We were a little scrambly in our own end. They forecheck well, and we didn’t support each as much as we normally do collectively to get it out. We had a lot of d-zone time tonight, so we’re looking to change that tomorrow.

McKeown on playing without Andrew Poturalski and Jake Bean
Those are two high-end pieces that we lose, so it makes a big difference in the game. Beaner is unbelievable breaking out pucks and Potsy’s 70 points speak for themselves. Losing those two guys is obvious, but it’s time for everyone else to step up and chip in collectively. Hockey is a team game.

NOTES

A postgame auction of military jerseys that the Checkers wore during warmups at select games this season raised $28,225 for the Checkers Charitable Foundation and Dream On 3 ... The Checkers’ franchise-record, 12-game point streak at home came to an end. Prior to tonight, their last regulation loss at home was on Feb. 6 … Saarela has 12 goals in his last 15 games. He had a game-high seven shots on goal tonight … Trevor Carrick had two assists, giving him five over the course of a four-game streak … Necas has a goal and an assist in each of his last two games … Including six of seven tonight, the Checkers have killed 37 of their last 39 penalties … Forwards Clark Bishop Andrew Poturalski and defenseman Josiah Didier missed the game due to injury … Defenseman Jake Bean was held out for precautionary reasons … and goaltender Scott Darling were healthy extras.

UP NEXT

The Checkers play their final home game of the regular season at 1 p.m. tomorrow against this same Thunderbirds team.
Nicholas Niedzielski
Author: Nicholas NiedzielskiEmail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
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.