The Checkers shook off a slow start with a fireworks-filled third period, rallying to flatten the Phantoms 4-1.

After two periods of play in which the home squad couldn’t quite put things together offensively, the Checkers found themselves trailing 1-0 and facing a crucial penalty kill in the opening moments of the third. The offense emerged in that moment, however, as Connor Carrick broke out for a shorthanded odd-man rush and buried a quick wrister to pull the score even.

That was the spark Charlotte had been looking for, as Kole Lind poked a loose puck past the goal line to claim the lead for his team shortly after and then Zac Dalpe lofted a backhander to the far-side corner a minute later to extend the Checkers’ advantage.

That would prove to be plenty of cushion for the Checkers, as Billy Christopoulos stood tall for the second straight game and picked up another win - stymying the Phantoms’ attack with 28 saves and helping shut down all three of the visitors’ man advantages. Alexander True would tack on one more into the empty net in the waning moments of the game and Charlotte would come away with an impressive 4-1 victory.


Defenseman Connor Carrick on the reason for the team’s offensive breakout
I think just urgency. We played fine in the first two (periods), but we want to be a group that, when the game is going OK, you don’t just see how the full 60 goes. We want to step on the gas, and we were able to and the pucks went in.

Carrick on breaking through for the first goal
It’s huge. We wanted to get it to 1-1 and we didn’t like where we were at. It just kind of levels the game a little bit. A lot of their best players are going to be on the power play, so you throw a dagger like that and now they’re on their heels. You saw that the rest of the way.

Carrick on taking on a bigger load with so many defensemen out of the lineup
As a player you always want the most ice time possible. You’d play the whole 60 if you could, and it’s what do you do when you get the opportunity. For Fleury and I, we’re both strong, impact players at this level every night, but this is a unique challenge. Kudos to the other guys that jumped in. They looked fresh and they played without being afraid to make a mistake. I’ve been that player where you’re trying to jump levels and it’s not easy, but the coaching staff gave them a good plan and they executed.

Coach Geordie Kinnear on taking control of the game in the third period
The guys talked about it after the (second) period. We weren’t great obviously, and I thought our leaders really stepped up in the third period. You look at Dalps, you look at Connor and you look at flower (Fleury). They really took it to another level for us. It was a great third period, we found a way to win and the goalie was really good too.

Kinnear on the team trusting Carrick to lead a shorthanded break for the first goal
That’s the key – trust. The more trust you have, the faster you can play. I think there was a lot of trust there, and (Carrick) has been a really good player down the stretch. We’ve obviously lost a lot of players on the back end, and we need people to step up. I thought he stepped up big tonight.

Kinnear on Carrick and Cale Fleury leading a group of four tryout defensemen and two tryout goalies
They took on a huge role, but the game is about opportunity. Opportunity is what you make of it. You have to do the work prior to make the most of it, so a lot of these guys continue to make the most of their opportunity. Today was a building block for them.


Seven different Checkers have a shorthanded goal this season. The team is tied for the league lead with eight on the season … Christopoulos is 2-0-0 with a 1.51 goals-against average and .947 save percentage as a Checker … McCormick had three primary assists, giving him four points in two games back from a month-long NHL stint … Dalpe has five goals in his last five games … True, who rejoined the team from NHL Seattle last night, played his first Checkers game since Dec. 10. He leads the Checkers with an average of 0.82 points per game (minimum five games) … The Checkers had one forward, four defensemen and two goaltenders on professional tryout contracts … Defenseman Nolan Kneen has three assists in his first five AHL games …. Forwards Grigori Denisenko and Luke Henman, defensemen Max Gildon, John Ludvig and Gustav Olofsson and goaltender Christopher Gibson missed the game due to injury … Forwards Ryan Lohin and Craig Martin were healthy extras.