Charlotte Checkers

‘Charlotte, we have a problem.’ Checkers giving up way too many short-handed goals

The defending Calder Cup champs dwell near the bottom of the American Hockey League standings. One factor: The Checkers have given up an unusually high number of short-handed goals.
The defending Calder Cup champs dwell near the bottom of the American Hockey League standings. One factor: The Checkers have given up an unusually high number of short-handed goals. Jacob Kupferman

Special teams helped carry the Charlotte Checkers to the American Hockey League’s Calder Cup championship last season.

The Checkers were among the league’s best in three areas — scoring on the power play, not allowing opponents to score short-handed goals, and killing off their own penalties.

The Checkers remain one of the league’s best teams at killing penalties, allowing goals in only 8 percent of their short-handed situations.

But as a rash of early-season losses has dragged it to the bottom of the AHL standings, Charlotte find itself confronted by a problem:

Three times this season, opponents have scored against the Checkers while Charlotte has had a one-skater advantage on the power play. That averages out to 1 in every 14 Charlotte power plays, and it puts the Checkers last in the league.

According to a study published in July by the Harvard University Sports Analysis Collective, a hockey team scoring a short-handed goal has an increased chance of winning the game.

The most recent short-handed goal allowed by the Checkers was Sunday in Cleveland.

The host Monsters had taken a 2-0 lead, but Charlotte battled back and cut the deficit to 2-1. Cleveland scored on a Charlotte power play, and the Checkers ended up losing 5-1.

Here’s a look at the past week and what’s ahead:

Friday: Charlotte’s Alex Nedeljkovic had a superb game in goal, registering 31 saves, but the Checkers fell 2-1 to host Cleveland in overtime. Rookie Eetu Luostannen scored for Charlotte. Cleveland won on a penalty shot just 42 seconds into overtime.

Sunday: Steven Lorentz scored for the Checkers in a 5-1 loss at Cleveland. It was the first loss in goal this season for Anton Forsberg, who is 4-1. The loss extended the Checkers’ winless streak to three games.

Standings: The Checkers are seventh in the eight-team AHL Atlantic, just two points ahead of last-place Bridgeport Sound and 10 points out of first place.

Week ahead: The Checkers host Springfield at 7 p.m. Friday and 6 p.m. Saturday, at Bojangles Coliseum. After that, Charlotte has a five-game road trip before returning home for four games on Thanksgiving week.

Steve Lyttle on Twitter: @slyttle

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