Playing their ninth consecutive game on the road and third in as many nights, the Checkers were a tired team. At times, it showed, particularly in their start.
Charlotte was out-shot 15-5 and allowed two goals in the first period of an eventual 5-2 loss to the Houston Aeros on Sunday night. Matt Pistilli and Jon Matsumoto scored for the Checkers, who completed their season-long, nine-game road swing with a record of 5-4-0.
Houston, which had been idle since Thursday, finished the four-game season series between the two clubs with a 3-0-1 record, their only blemish coming by way of a shootout loss in Charlotte back on Oct 22.
The Checkers had the majority of the scoring chances late in the game before Casey Wellman’s empty-net goal sealed the victory for Houston, but Charlotte’s first period proved to be the difference. Jon DiSalvatore scored the game’s first goal on a deflection at the 6:47 mark before Drew Bagnall pounced on a rebound off Charlotte goalie Mike Murphy near the end of the frame to give the home team a 2-0 lead.
Charlotte came out much harder in the second period, taking a season-high 18 shots against netminder Matt Hackett. However, they would only break through on one of those – Pistilli’s power-play tally 6:49 in. Though that seemed as though it would give the Checkers further energy, DiSalvatore canceled it out by scoring on a clear breakaway less than a minute later before Jed Ortmeyer made it 4-1. All three goals came in the span of just 2:44.
DiSalvatore, the Aeros’ captain, finished the season series with Charlotte with 6 points (3g, 3a), including the game-winning tally on Sunday. Wellman also fared well against the Checkers, scoring 5 points (3g, 2a) and continuing his streak of scoring in all eight Aeros’ home game this season.
Matusmoto would make things interesting in the third period, scoring a four-on-four goal that beat Hackett five-hole to make it 4-2 with 12:07 remaining. In doing so, the Checkers’ scoring leader became the first player on his team to score goals in consecutive games. Prior to that, he had just one goal in his previous 10 contests.
The Checkers would continue to apply pressure, out-shooting Houston 10-6 in the third period, but were unable to put another past Hackett prior to Wellman’s empty netter.
Charlotte finished the game without defenseman Bobby Sanguinetti, who picked up an apparent foot injury in the third period that caused him to leave the ice and return briefly for a single shift before ending his night for good.
The Checkers will play their first home game since Oct. 23 this Friday when they host the Rockford IceHogs for a two-game set that will continue on Sunday. Twelve of Charlotte’s next 15 games will be played at Time Warner Cable Arena.
Houston had a goal disallowed in the first period, when a dump-in took a strange bounce off the boards and into the net, but the play was ruled offside … Both of Pistilli’s goals this season have come on the power play … The Checkers’ Chris Terry returned from a two-game suspension and recorded an assist on Pistilli’s goal … Forward Justin Shugg and defenseman Justin Krueger were healthy scratches for Charlotte … Houston’s third-leading scorer, Jeff Taffe, was a late scratch due to illness … Jared Staal dropped the gloves and earned a roughing minor in the same sequence in the first period, more than doubling his career penalty minute total (4 in 23 games).