The Checkers had two chances to put a stranglehold on their season-opening game in Norfolk, but instead saw two separate two-goal leads slip away in an eventual 6-5 loss to the Admirals.
Jon Matsumoto led the Checkers in scoring with three points, including the goal that put his team ahead by two with 7:16 left on the clock, while Jerome Samson netted two of his own to account for the majority of the Checkers scoring. Zach Boychuk, who also added a power-play assist on Matusmoto’s first-period tally, rounded out the goal scoring for Charlotte.
While the Checkers proved they can score in bunches – defenseman Bobby Sanguinetti was the fourth Checker to record multiple points on the evening with his first multi-assist performance since November 11 of last season – defense proved to be the bigger issue. The team was out-shot 45-29 against their former division rivals, with goaltender Justin Peters, playing his first AHL regular-season contest since the final game of the 2009-10 season, recording 39 saves on the evening.
The dropped point in Norfolk was a rarity for the Checkers, with Charlotte posting a 5-0-0-1 record in that locale last season. With the win, the Admirals take a one-point lead in the race for the GEICO Challenge Cup, which will be awarded to the team that finishes with the most points in the eight-game season series.
Boychuk’s goal at the 6:08 mark of the third period marked the first two-goal lead for the Checkers. Defenseman Justin Kreuger, a 25-year-old AHL rookie with professional experience overseas, launched a wrist shot from the blue line that hit the 22-year-old forward on the way in to put Charlotte up 4-2, providing the first breathing room of the evening. However, the Admirals’ Mike Angelidis, Boychuk’s former teammate with the Albany River Rats, responded less than two minutes later to keep the pressure on.
That theme would repeat itself just four minutes later, as Matsumoto’s redirection of an excellent Drayson Bowman pass would make it 5-3, only to see Pierre-Cedric Labrie claw the home team back in 35 seconds. Alexandre Picard would then tie the game on a four-on-three power play with 3:22 remaining, setting up Carter Ashton’s second goal of the night to win it at the 1:55 mark of overtime.
The Checkers will get another crack at the Admirals tomorrow night as they stay in Norfolk for a rematch at 7:15 p.m. The game can be heard locally on WFNZ 610AM in Charlotte, with video and audio also available to subscribers on www.AHLLive.com
Charlotte opens its home schedule on Saturday, Oct. 15, against the Peoria Rivermen at Time Warner Cable Arena. The first 3.500 fans to arrive will receive a Checkers house flag courtesty of Time Warner Cable, while the first 7,000 fans will receive a magnet schedule from Presbyterian Hospital.