Hoping to clean up some sloppiness seen in Thursday’s return from the All-Star break, the Checkers instead made a mess of Friday’s rematch in Oklahoma City.
Led by five points from NHL veteran Jonathan Cheechoo, the Barons stormed back from a 2-1 first-period deficit on their way to a 7-3 victory over the Checkers. Chris Terry (1g, 2a) factored in on all three goals for the Checkers, who also got goals from Brett Sutter and Luke Pither.
The seven goals tied the most the Checkers had allowed all season, coincidentally to the same Barons during a 7-2 loss in Charlotte on Nov. 25. Along with a 7-0 Checkers win in Oklahoma City on Jan. 11, three of the five games in the season series between the South Division rivals were decided by four or more goals.
Justin Peters (17 saves on 21 shots) and John Muse (13 saves on 16 shots) split the goaltending duties for Charlotte, which fell to 6-2-0 in eight all-time visits to Oklahoma City. One night earlier, the Checkers had scored with 21 seconds remaining in regulation to secure a 2-1 win over the Barons.
While disappointed with their defensive effort throughout the contest, including a first period that saw them trail 3-2, things didn’t begin to unravel for the Checkers until early in the second. Charlotte coach Jeff Daniels, unhappy that defenseman Brett Bellemore had earned an extra unsportsmanlike conduct penalty during his fight with the Barons’ Colten Teubert, picked up a minor penalty of his own for arguing the call, setting up a five-on-three power play with 2:40 gone in the period.
Not only did the Barons make quick work of that advantage with Cheechoo scoring his first goal of the season in just nine seconds to chase Peters from the contest, the home team went on to score twice more in the next seven minutes to jump out to a 6-2 lead courtesy of goals by Toni Rajala and Chris VandeVelde less than a minute apart.
Terry, who had already picked up two-first period assists, clawed one back for the Checkers on a shot from the point that found its way through traffic with five minutes remaining in the second period to make the score 6-3. The goal gave Terry a season-high three points, improving his total to 19 (7g, 11a) in his last 15 games. It also marked the Checkers’ second consecutive game with multiple power-play goals against the league’s 30th-ranked penalty kill.
That goal would be the last for the Checkers, who gave up a seventh goal to the Barons in period three without showing further signs of a dramatic comeback.
Before the Barons’ Philippe Cornet scored his second goal of the game to give his team its first lead in the first period, the teams had traded goals out of the gate. Sutter struck first on the power play, finishing the rebound of a Justin Shugg wraparound attempt that goalie Niko Hovinen, who was playing his first career AHL game, couldn’t handle.
Pither, who now has 11 points (5g, 6a) in eight games as a Checker, scored to make it 2-1 as Terry found him streaking up the middle just over a minute after Cornet had tied it.
The Barons’ win marked the first time that the home team had won in the first five games of the season series, which is now tied 3-3. The teams do not play again until Oklahoma City visits Charlotte for two games on March 3 and 4.
The Checkers now head into their longest break of the season, a seven-day hiatus that runs until their annual Pink in the Rink event against the San Antonio Rampage on Saturday, Feb. 9.
The Checkers’ loss and a subsequent win by Texas knocked Charlotte out of the top spots in the South Division and in the AHL … Terry’s seven shots on goal tied OKC’s Mark Arcobello for the most of any skater … Peters, who played in all five of the Checkers’ games against Oklahoma City, had a 3-1-0 record with a 1.81 goals-against average and .934 save percentage coming in … Arcobello and Cornet had two goals and two assists apiece … Charlotte forwards A.J. Jenks and Jerome Samson missed the game due to injury.
North Carolina Education Lottery Three Stars
1. Jonathan Cheechoo (Oklahoma City)
2. Mark Arcobello (Oklahoma City)
3. Philippe Cornet (Oklahoma City)