The Checkers fell in their rematch on Sunday with the Ontario Reign, 5-1.
The teams again locked in a tightly contested first period, with the Reign breaking through in the waning minutes to go ahead by a goal. Rookie Sergey Tolchinsky erased that lead quickly in the second, however, threading a wrister through traffic and in to tie the game at 1.
Things unraveled for the Checkers late in the middle frame when the Reign pumped in two strikes within three minutes to carry a 3-1 lead into the final period. The visitors kept their foot on the gas in the third with another pair of tallies, and the Checkers couldn’t find any spark, dropping their second-consecutive contest to the first-place Reign.
The Checkers came out strong against the stingy Reign, but things spiraled for them after those two quick Ontario goals.
“I thought we had a lot of energy and a lot of push-back, much like the first game,” said head coach Mark Morris. “We rose to the occasion in the early part and then faded away as the game started to slip away from us.”
The Reign again brought their physical style of play to the game, with the teams having to be separated after nearly every whistle. The Checkers were up to the task, however, standing up and handing that physical play right back.
“ I think if anything it gets you into the game,” said Keegan Lowe. “I love a game like that where you’re into it physically because it doesn’t let you sit back or anything. You’re ready to go no matter what, whether it’s after the whistle or before a whistle.”
Ontario’s physicality ended up being an integral part of their coming away with the sweep this weekend.
“They’re built to play that way and we don’t see much of that,” said Morris. “It’s a good lesson to learn, and hopefully we can take a few pages out of their book and use it for learning.”
The Checkers were again shorthanded, especially up front, with PTO-signee Ryan Rashid making his AHL debut in place of the injured Brendan Woods. That led to even more of a scrambling of the lineup from Saturday night.
“We’re still searching for chemistry and we’re still searching for bodies to get our team back,” said Morris. “If they’re [Brock McGinn and Phil Di Giuseppe] going to stay up (in the NHL with the Carolina Hurricanes), then we’re going to have to build new chemistry. If it stays the way it is, we need to get better.”