In his first game back from the NHL’s Carolina Hurricanes, Phil Di Giuseppe scored the lone goal for Charlotte, but the Checkers saw their five-game point streak come to an end Wednesday night with a 3-1 American Hockey League loss to the Rockford IceHogs.
It marked just the second regulation loss the Checkers have suffered in their past 19 games (14-2-3) and ended their franchise-record, nine-game point streak on the road that was the longest active streak of its kind in the AHL.
Daniel Altshuller, who rejoined the Checkers on Tuesday along with Di Giuseppe, made 35 saves as Charlotte missed an opportunity to take the top spot in the Central Division for the first time since Oct. 21.
When Di Giuseppe scored just 13 seconds into the Checkers’ first power play to tie the game at 1-1 in the final seconds of the first period and cancel out an opener by Rockford’s Vinnie Hinostroza, it seemed as though Charlotte would continue to ride a special teams unit that scored four times in its previous game and had been converting at a 35 percent rate since Dec. 28.
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However, the team went 0-for-6 over the remainder of the game, most notably missing out during a sequence that saw them on the man advantage for close to six consecutive minutes in the second period. That included 13 seconds worth of time on a two-man advantage.
Not long after those opportunities, Rockford took the lead for good on a surprising goal when Cameron Schilling threw an innocent-looking shot on net from the blue line that appeared to go off a Checker and into the net. Pierre-Cedric Labrie would add to the lead by backhanding a rebound opportunity past Altshuller just 2:04 into the third.
Any opportunities Charlotte may have had to get back into the game in the third period were stunted by penalties, as the visitors went to the box three times in the game’s last 12 minutes.
Rockford out-shot the Checkers, who now head to Iowa for games on Friday night andSaturday afternoon leading into a week-long All-Star break, by a 38-24 margin. The Checkers’ 20 shots allowed in the second period tied a season high.