(Twitter: Paul Branecky)
Though pregame odds would have favored the Checkers in a special teams battle, it was Milwaukee that dominated that category on Friday night
The Admirals scored three power-play goals and killed all eight Charlotte power plays in a 3-1 victory that kicked off the Checkers’ most recent three-games-in-three days set. Chris Durno scored his first goal as a Checker on a deflection in the second period to make it 2-1, but the Admirals would again pull away in the third on defenseman Victor Bartley’s insurance tally.
Milwaukee, which sported the league’s 24th-ranked power play and 29th-ranked penalty kill entering the game, bucked both of those trends to send the Checkers to their second straight loss and first regulation losing streak of the season, giving them a record of 6-4-1. Charlotte had dropped its previous game last Sunday, breaking a season-high four-game winning streak.
The tone was set for special teams to take over almost from the get-go during a penalty-filled first period. After 20 minutes, eight minor penalties and one double-minor for high sticking had been called, with Charlotte’s 9th-ranked power play seeing four of the first five man advantages.
However, the Checkers were unable to convert during that stretch and took three penalties in the span of 1:36, which resulted in power-play goals by the Admirals’ Kyle Wilson and Chris Mueller, the latter of which came during a two-man advantage and would hold up as the game winner.
Charlotte got a goal it desperately needed with 2:57 left in the second period, when Jerome Samson threw a shot on net that was deflected by Durno, beating otherwise outstanding Milwaukee goaltender Jeremy Smith. With the assist, Samson extended his points streak to five games – the longest by any Checkers player this season.
As it turned out, the Checkers were unable to build on that momentum and any additional energy they may have gained from 19-year-old rookie Justin Faulk’s first career fight near the beginning of the third period, as they surrendered Bartley’s goal on a one-timer on yet another Milwaukee man-advantage.
Charlotte goaltender Mike Murphy, making his sixth consecutive start, made 24 saves on the night.
The Checkers will conclude their weekend road trip with match-ups in Grand Rapids and Rockford on Saturday and Sunday, respectively.
Charlotte trailed at the second intermission for the first time this season. Prior to Friday, they were the only remaining AHL team to avoid that fate … Entering Friday’s game, the Checkers had only faced a two-goal deficit for 32 seconds, all of which came after Houston’s empty-net goal last Sunday … The Checkers fell to 4-5-2 all-time in the first game of three-in-three sets, their worst record of any of the three games … Zac Dalpe made his AHL season debut for the Checkers, recording four shots … Scott Pitt made his AHL debut for Charlotte … Defenseman Justin Krueger was a healthy scratch.