With a chance to clinch a trip to the next round, the Checkers couldn’t quite pull out a win over Chicago, falling 5-1 and setting up a decisive Game 5 tomorrow night.
The Checkers were again able to jump out in front early, with Lucas Wallmark lighting the lamp less than two minutes in to take the AHL playoff scoring lead. But much like Game 3, the Wolves responded, knotting things before the first buzzer thanks to a fortunate bounce that put the puck on Samuel Blais’ stick with a wide-open net in front of him.
After a neck-and-neck middle frame, the Wolves broke through in the third, putting home a wrister right off the bat, followed quickly by a low-angle strike from Jordan Schmaltz to give them a 3-1 lead less than five minutes into the period. The Checkers attempted to rally, applying pressure in the Wolves’ zone, but only managed six shots over the course of the third, none of which could solve netminder Ville Husso. Former Hurricane Ty Rattie sealed the deal with an empty-netter, then tacked on another goal on a power play in the waning moments of regulation to extend Chicago’s winning margin.
Prior to tonight, the team that scored the first goal had won every game of the series … The Checkers fell to 2-4 all-time in playoff games in which they could advance to the next round … The Checkers’ most recent regulation loss on the road prior to tonight was in Chicago on April 2 … Wallmark’s goal gave him sole possession of the AHL playoff scoring lead with six points. He and linemate Andrew Miller are tied for the league lead with three goals apiece. Both players have at least one point in every game of the series … Tom McCollum has allowed four goals in just three games as a Checker, all three of which were at Chicago … Forward Erik Karlsson and defenseman Jake Bean were not available due to injury … Forwards Clark Bishop, Kyle Hagel, Janne Kuokkanen, Kris Newbury and Sergey Tolchinsky, defenseman Tyler Ganly and goaltender Daniel Altshuller were healthy extras.
The Checkers and Wolves will square off one last time tomorrow night at 8 p.m. with the winner moving on to the Central Division Finals.
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.