The Charlotte Checkers were looking to extend their winning streak as they welcomed struggling Iowa to town, but the Wild had other ideas.
Things started off strong for the home team, with the old defensive pair of Michal Jordan, who is in Charlotte on a conditioning stint, and Rasmus Rissanen each potting a goal to give the Checkers a 2-0 advantage heading into the final frame.
The Wild fought back in the third, however, scoring twice within two minutes to even things up midway through the period. It looked like the Checkers would come away with another one of their patented last-minute victories when Derek Ryan floated a shot from the right boards that was deflected in by Brock McGinn with under four minutes to play, but the Wild struck right back, finding the back of the net with the extra attacker to tie the game at three and force overtime.
For the second consecutive game, the Checkers began overtime with a man advantage but unlike in Texas, they couldn’t put it away. Playing at four-on-four as the penalty expired, the Wild clinched the two points when Zack Mitchell snuck one five-hole on the rush to lift Iowa over Charlotte 4-3.
Despite things going in their favor on the scoreboard early, head coach Mark Morris was not pleased with his team’s play, from start to finish.
“I thought we were flat from the get-go,” Morris said. “I didn’t like our game at all. I thought our energy was low. We had a lot of passengers. There weren’t enough guys going tonight to convince me that we were mentally with it. We had a handful of guys that were ready to play and a bunch that weren’t.”
After losing their lead in the third, the Checkers were able to regain it, but they didn’t dominate the final stretch as they have frequently this season. In the end Iowa was able to pounce on that and derail the team’s hot streak.
“Before we had a little bit more jump and today I felt like we lacked that from the bottom to the top,” said Ryan. “Even in the first 20 to 40 minutes we didn’t have that jump, and the same was apparent down the stretch as well. That’s something we can discuss and figure out, but obviously we’re pros and we have to bring it every single game. I think we need to hold each other accountable for that.”
The Wild entered tonight with one win in their last 18 games and were recently swept at the hands of the Checkers in this building. But Morris credits them for coming for the win in this matchup.
“I just think they played harder than we did,” Morris said. “They wanted to win, and we gave them some goals there in the third period that we shouldn’t be giving up.”
With a day to regroup before facing this same Iowa team on Thursday, the team will be looking to right the ship and move their way back up the standings.
“I’m not afraid to say what needs to happen,” Morris said. “I wish that we were a little more vocal and showed a little bit more energy at times, but our compete level wasn’t there when we needed it. I’ve got to get my arms around it. I’m disappointed in myself for going into a little bit of a defensive shell. I didn’t have the right guys on the ice, and when we needed to shut them down we weren’t able to do it.”
Still, the Checkers have now recorded a point in three consecutive games for just the second time this season. If they can rebound, tonight could just be a momentary dip.
“We’ve never quit,” Ryan said. “They’ve gotten some leads on us and we’ve found ways to win, which good teams do. Sometimes great teams find ways to win like that so I think that’s positive, and tonight was almost the opposite where we were giving up a lead and weren’t playing our best hockey for most of the full 60 minutes I thought. ”