One of the Checkers’ biggest issues this season has been opening periods, where they were sporting a minus-20 goal differential heading into tonight. They would avoid that pitfall against the Monsters, however, keeping the home team off the board and carrying a scoreless tie into the middle period.
The Checkers continued to mount pressure on the Monsters defense, but it was Cleveland that struck first late in the second courtesy of a breakaway tally from Jordan Maletta.
Trailing after 40 minutes, the Checkers wasted no time getting things even in the third, finally breaking through with a Lucas Wallmark shorthanded snipe on a breakaway 30 seconds in. That tie wouldn’t last long, however, as the Monsters regained their advantage a mere 30 seconds following that on a low-angle shot from Oliver Bjorkstrand.
Things settled down for a stretch before Connor Brickley got the scoring going again in the final five minutes of regulation, redirecting a point blast from Keegan Lowe past Monsters netminder Joonas Korpisalo to tie the game at two. But once again Cleveland responded, with John Ramage curling behind the net just one minute later and firing a low shot that snuck through to establish the Monsters’ one-goal lead for a third time.
Try as they might, the Checkers couldn’t create another equalizer down the stretch, and an empty-net goal clinched the 4-2 victory for Cleveland and extended Charlotte’s road winless streak to 11 games.
All things considered, the Checkers were able to correct several things from their rough weekend. They shut down Cleveland’s power play, killing all four opportunities, including a four-minute double major late in the first. They kept themselves from falling into an early hole and managed to outshoot their opponents, but despite the offense bouncing back twice, it wasn’t quite enough. The Checkers again failed to record over two goals in a game, the 19th time this season that has happened, and moved to 1-16-2 in those situations.
Playing in his hometown for the first time as a pro, Alex Nedeljkovic was tapped for the start and was steady for long stretches between the pipes, including shutting down several ripe chances for the Monsters. The rookie finished the contest with 25 saves on the night.
The Checkers will have a day to regroup before returning and facing this same Monsters team Thursday in Cleveland before enjoying a much-needed break for the holidays.