The Charlotte Checkers’ first five games of the season, win or lose, were characterized by an unusually high amount of goals. Friday’s win in Grand Rapids was more about quality rather than quantity.
Timing was everything in the 3-1 victory, with newcomer Derek Ryan scoring his fourth goal of the season with 1 minute, 38 seconds left in regulation. The goal came on a power play that the Checkers (4-2-0) had earned just moments after killing a two-man advantage for the Griffins that lasted nearly a minute and a half.
The win reversed Charlotte’s two-game losing streak.
Goaltender Drew MacIntyre, who entered the game with a 3.95 goals-against average and .855 save percentage, finished with 28 saves to earn his third victory. Brody Sutter scored on a slap shot from the left circle for a 1-0 lead in the first period.
David Wohlberg added an empty-netter with 41 seconds remaining to ice the victory.
In a game that otherwise lacked the high-quality scoring chances and goals of their previous contests, most of the drama in this affair was saved for the final six minutes. The intrigue began when Ryan took a high-sticking penalty with 5:34 remaining in a 1-1 game, followed by Wohlberg being found guilty of closing his hand on the puck as he attempted to kill time in the offensive zone 39 seconds later.
After MacIntyre and the penalty-killing trio of Sutter, Rasmus Rissanen and Keegan Lowe held the fort to nullify the two-man advantage, officials caught Grand Rapids with too many men on the ice with 3:03 to play. From there, Ryan tipped Zach Boychuk’s shot past Griffins goaltender Tom McCollum to secure the late victory.
Wohlberg, a professional tryout signing who netted his first of the season in the Checkers’ previous game, a 4-3 loss to the Griffins on Wednesday, completed the cycle of poetic justice by becoming the second player who took a late penalty to score a goal before the game was over.
The Checkers now head to Chicago to play the Wolves on Sunday.