The Checkers made things interesting, but they still came away empty-handed.
Chris Terry scored two goals and Jared Staal added another in a 4-3 loss to Abbotsford during the team’s annual Race Night on Friday. Two of those goals came 21 seconds apart in the third period with the Checkers already down 4-1, setting up an exciting finish full of near-misses as the home team pushed for an equalizer that never came.
The finish provided some consolation heading into tomorrow’s rematch, though not in the standings.
“We fought hard in the end, but at the end of the day it’s a loss,” said coach Jeff Daniels, whose disappointment from Wednesday’s loss in Norfolk carried over to the first two periods of Friday’s game. “The way we’re built right now, it has to be a full 60 minutes or we’re not going to have a very good chance.”
“We only turned it up when we were down three goals, and you’re not going to win many games doing that,” said Staal.
The Checkers ended up out-shooting Abbotsford 11-3 in a third period that featured an especially agonizing final minute that was spent almost entirely in the offensive zone. With goalie Justin Peters pulled for extra attacker, Abbotsford’s Danny Taylor withstood the barrage and even had a little luck on his side, particularly when one shot trickled through him but just wide of the open cage.
Charlotte looked like a different team for the majority of that period, fueling optimism that they can pick up where they left off for tomorrow’s quick turnaround – a noon start that’s part of a doubleheader with the Charlotte Bobcats at Time Warner Cable Arena.
“I certainly hope so,” said Staal, who had not scored since Oct. 31.
“If we can do that for 60 minutes, we’re a good team,” said Terry.
After he had clawed a goal back late in the first period to make the score 2-1 on a tip of Rasmus Rissanen’s point shot, Terry did the same in period three when he took a one-time pass from Justin Shugg and blasted it just inside the near post from along the wall to Taylor’s right.
The goal was his 15th of the season, putting him just one short of his total from all of last season (33 more games played).
“He’s a goal scorer, and I thought he stepped up to try to get us going offensively,” said Daniels of Terry, who had a game-high six shots on goal.
On the next shift, Staal raced past an Abbotsford defender as he fell and fired a shot that hit the crossbar behind Taylor and went down into the net, marking the sixth goal of his 88-game AHL career. Both of his goals this season have come on breakaways.
“Maybe I’ll try to score one that’s not, because you don’t get breakaways too often,” he said.
Staal’s line with Sean Dolan and Justin Soryal wouldn’t have always been on the ice for such a key shift late in the game, but it was able to come through due to decreased depth created by the end of the NHL’s lockout and the increasing trust of its coach.
“To be out there in a situation where you need a goal isn’t something that’s happened too often, so to get the goal was good,” said Staal.
“I’ve been waiting around for the last two years because we had such a deep roster, but now I’m getting more of a chance and I feel good. I don’t feel out of place out there.”
Abbotsford, which leads the AHL with an average of just 2.03 goals allowed per game and improved to 14-1-2 when leading after two periods, won its season-best fifth game in a row. It also has four consecutive victories over Charlotte dating back to last season.
Former Checker Brett Carson opened the scoring for Abbotsford, with Dustin Sylvester, Brett Olson and Ben Walter also beating Peters, who stopped 17 of 21 shots.
The Friday-night to Saturday-afternoon turnaround ties an identical weekend in December for the shortest of the season, making it one the Checkers should be prepared for. They were able to win both of those games against Houston, including a 3-0 shutout in the second game.
“You’re just got to get as much rest as you can and be mentally prepared from the start,” said Terry.
Prior to losing their last two games, the Checkers had won seven of their previous eight … Peters made his fifth consecutive start in goal … Forward Luke Pither did not record a point for the first time in five games as a Checker (3g, 3a) … Shugg’s assist gave him six points in his last seven games (1g, 5a) … Checkers forward Nicolas Blanchard returned from an upper-body injury, playing for the first time since Jan. 3 (missed eight games) … Forward Matt Beca and defenseman Beau Schmitz were healthy scratches, while forwards A.J. Jenks and Jerome Samson missed the game due to injury … Fans named Terry the Roll up Your Sleeves Hardest Worker of the Game.
North Carolina Education Lottery Three Stars
1. Dustin Sylvester (Abbotsford)
2. Chris Terry
3. Brett Olson (Abbotsford)