“Win the period and you win the game.”
It’s a phrase you’ll hear Charlotte Checkers coach Jeff Daniels say 50 times a season (He’s also partial to “getting pucks deep” and “being a pro,” but that’s getting off track).
The Checkers entered the third period of their game against the Lake Erie Monsters on Friday with the score tied, needing to do just what their coach has preached all season.
Unfortunately, this period (and ultimately two points) wound up belonging – controversially – to the Monsters.
Lake Erie scored two goals in a 41-second span early in the frame and then benefited from an apparent game-tying goal being waived off with 30 seconds to play, en route to a 3-2 win over the Checkers in front of 7,934 at Time Warner Cable Arena.
“I thought it was a bad call,” said Daniels referencing the play in question, where it appeared that Brody Sutter had poked home a lose puck to even the score at 3, only to find out that an official – having lost sight of the puck – had blown the play dead.
“The puck was sitting loose,” Daniels continued. “The guys drove the net, which is what they’re supposed to do. They blew the whistle. Tough break.”
Sutter, who extended his current point streak to four games with a third-period assist, struggled to hold his emotions in check following the game.
“We should be in overtime right now,” he said. “The whistle shouldn’t have blown. […] The goalie wasn’t within eight inches of the puck. He was back in the net, the goal was sitting on the goal line, his glove was in the air and his blocker was in the air. I don’t know why the whistle was blown.”
The Checkers entered the second trailing, 1-0, before Brock McGinn’s 13th goal of the season – a snipe of a wrist shot from just inside the face-off circle – set the tone for the winner-take-all third period.
A shot from Stefan Elliott deflected off the stick of Checkers’ defenseman Trevor Carrick and past Drew MacIntyre (27 saves on 30 shots) to get the Monsters’ scoring started in the third. And 41 seconds later a Michael Schumacher blast had the Checkers trailing 3-1.
With MacIntyre off for an extra attacker, Phil Di Giuseppe cleaned up a rebound to make it a one-goal game with 2:30 to play. Two minutes later, Sutter had his goal waived off.
The Checkers will get another shot at the Monsters on Sunday when they close their out their season series with a 1 p.m. showdown.
“Taking positives from tonight, it was a pretty even game for the most part,” Sutter said. “They had two really fluky goals off our sticks. If you take away those two bounces and we had one bounce against us, it’s probably a 3-1 game for us. We’ve got to look at it that way and go from there.”