In search of just their second winning-streak of the season, the Checkers came up short, falling to the Lake Erie Monsters 3-2 after a converted penalty shot late in regulation.
Just as they did on Tuesday night, the Checkers got on the board first, with Alex Aleardi blazing up the right side and sniping a wrister into the top corner to keep his hot streak alive. The strike gave the diminutive forward his fifth point in six games and the Checkers a lead less than three minutes into the game. The Monsters responded later in the period with a powerplay tally from Michael Schumacher to knot things up at one heading into the first intermission.
The Checkers came out firing in the second, again lighting the lamp early, this time courtesy of a powerplay goal from leading scorer Chad LaRose, who hammered home a rebound out front and put the visitors back on top. The back and forth continued, however, as Andrew Agozzino evened things up once more after taking advantage of a turnover at the Checkers’ blue line and sneaking a shot just under Drew MacIntyre’s glove.
With both teams locked in a tight struggle in the third, the Monsters caught a break when Troy Bourke was taken down by Keegan Lowe and awarded a penalty shot. Bourke pulled a beauty of a deke and buried the chance, giving Lake Erie the lead with under nine minutes to play in regulation. The Checkers mounted pressure in the final minutes of the third but couldn’t find the equalizer, and the Monsters escaped with a 3-2 win.
The Checkers dominated the attack for the first part of the game, outshooting their opponent 14-7 after one period. After an even 13-13 shot battle in the second, the Checkers pressure fell off, as they mustered up just five shots in the final frame. Meanwhile Lake Erie continued to ratchet its play up as the game moved along, erasing both Checkers’ leads quickly and never relenting on their attack.
Aleardi picked up where he left off after last night’s two-point effot, notching Charlotte’s first goal and being the team’s most dangerous threat every time he touched the puck. He twice used his blistering speed to draw penalties from the Monsters and created several chances for the Checkers’ bumbling offense, even attempting to scoop the puck onto his stick from behind the Lake Erie goal and throw it into the net, albeit unsuccessfully. Aleardi has shined when called upon as of late, with his nine points since Jan. 4 the second most by a Checkers player during that period, only trailing LaRose’s ten.
The team’s sputtering power play showed a sign of life in the contest, as they converted one of their four chances with a goal that gave them a 2-1 lead at the time. But their normally stellar penalty kill, which has consistently ranked in the top ten in the AHL, struggled to hold Lake Erie off, as the Monsters went two-for-four on the man advantage, albeit with one coming on a penalty shot. That marked the second time in the last three games that the Checkers have allowed two powerplay goals in a game and they have now surrendered five powerplay goals over the last four games.
The penalty shot that the Monsters were awarded midway through the third was the first that a Charlotte goalie has faced this season and would hold up as the game-winner. Bourke’s nifty backhand-to-forehand move beat MacIntyre, who turned in a commendable effort in goal. MacIntyre routinely came up with big stops against an unrelenting Lake Erie attack to keep the Checkers in it, including a cartwheel-esque kick save late in regulation to give his team a chance, but the lack of offensive support once again saddled him with the loss.