January 22, 2012 12:05 AM
Just when it looked as though the Checkers had broken open a tight game and were in good position to win their fourth game in a row, Abbotsford awoke from its offensive slumber.
What had the making of a defensive battle through the better part of two periods changed quickly when the teams combined for five goals in six minutes of game action in the Checkers’ 5-2 road loss on Saturday. Charlotte scored twice to take a 2-0 lead with under four minutes remaining the second period, but the Heat would claw one back before intermission that ended up being the first of five unanswered goals.
Bobby Sanguinetti and Sean Dolan scored for Charlotte, which had beaten the Heat by a 5-0 score one night earlier. Mike Murphy made 23 saves on 27 shots, while Abbotsford’s Joni Ortio, who was making his first start since Nov. 6, stopped 35 shots for his first victory of the season.
Charlotte’s Chris Terry assisted on both of his team’s goals, giving him 11 points (4g, 7a) during a five-game point streak. Sanguinetti, who did not score a goal in his first 29 games, has now scored in three consecutive contests.
All three of Sanguinetti’s goals have come on the power play, including Saturday’s tally that opened the scoring with 3:47 remaining in the second period - a shot from the right circle that was set up by a nice cross-ice feed from Riley Nash. Dolan would strike just 1:08 later, putting home the rebound of a missed Zach Boychuk shot that had hit the end boards behind Orto and bounced back in front.
Before the Checkers could get to the intermission, All-Star defenseman Clay Wilson scored Abbotsford’s first goal of the weekend as his sharp-angle shot appeared to hit something through traffic before beating Murphy with 51 seconds remaining. That goal would give his team life in the third period, as they struck twice in the first 2:57 on goals by Robby Dee and Carter Bancks to give them their first and only lead.
Bancks’ goal, which came off a turnover caused by teammate Paul Byron’s forecheck, was the only shot that beat Murphy cleanly. All of the others, including Dee’s and James Martin’s shot that made it 4-2 with just over eight minutes gone in the third period, came on deflections off either an Abbotsford or Charlotte player. Dustin Sylvester’s final tally went into an empty net with Murphy pulled for the extra attacker.
The goals by Dee and Martin were their first in the AHL. Byron, reassigned from the NHL’s Calgary Flames on Friday, had 3 assists.
Despite falling into the 4-2 hole, the Checkers had plenty of chances to get back into the game down the stretch. Orto, who was 0-4-0 in seven appearances entering the contest, made a dazzling save on Nash to prevent a sure rebound goal and a point-blank stop on Pistilli on the very next shift. He also made a last-ditch effort to pull a loose puck back off the goal line on a short-side stuff attempt.
The Checkers now return east following their longest road trip of the season in terms of distance traveled, as they fly back to Charlotte on Sunday before hopping on a bus the very next day for a Tuesday game in Norfolk.
NOTES: Checkers forward Jared Staal sat out for the second consecutive game as a healthy scratch, while new trade acquisition Joe Sova did not make the trip out west … Dolan, a South Carolina Stingrays forward on a professional tryout with Charlotte, now has 5 points (2g, 3a) in his first eight AHL games … Nicolas Blanchard saw his four-game point streak (1g, 3a) snapped … Drayson Bowman saw his two-game goal streak snapped despite taking a game-high six shots on goal … Former Checkers defenseman Brett Carson was in the lineup for Abbotsford, earning an assist on Bancks’ goal … Heat leading scorer Krys Kolanos (39 points in 32 games) did not play.