The Checkers tapped their sticks against the boards a bit louder than usual as Kyle Hagel made his way from the penalty box to the bench early in the first period of Sunday afternoon’s game.
Hagel, who earned the sign of respect from his teammates – as well as several stitches – helped set a physical tone early for what became a 5-2 Checkers’ win over the Texas Stars in front of 5,849 at Time Warner Cable Arena, with his 12th fighting major penalty of the season.
After squandering a third-period lead in a loss to the Stars on Saturday, Charlotte (12-18-3-1) came out of the dressing room with a point to make, and held Texas (14-11-8-0) without a shot for the first eight minutes of regulation.
“It was pretty much just that we’ve been on a losing streak,” said Hagel, 29, when asked what precipitated his early fight. “Sometimes you need something like that to spark a fire into the guys. The boys in the room seemed to appreciate it.”
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Shortly after Hagel’s fight, Justin Shugg (one goal, two assists) gave the Checkers a lead they would never relinquish.
By the time the horn signaled the end of the first period, a Keegan Lowe (one goal, one assist) goal had extended the Charlotte lead to two.
“It always feels good when we score one and you’re sitting in the box,” said Hagel, who is tied for the AHL lead in major penalties. “It makes you feel like it was worthwhile, like it was a good spot in the game for a fight. And fortunately, we carried the momentum through the rest of the game.”
Drew MacIntyre, who missed the previous four games while competing for Team Canada in the Spengler Cup in Switzerland, returned to the net for Charlotte and finished the game with 26 saves.
The victory snapped a season-long four-game winless streak for the Checkers.
Patrick Brown redirected a shot in early in the second for first professional goal to give Charlotte a three-goal edge. And later in the period, Alex Aleardi (recalled from the ECHL earlier in the day) helped the Checkers respond to a Texas goal with his third tally of the season.
Trevor Carrick added a short-handed empty-netter with a little more than six minutes to play in the third to cap the scoring.
It was the fourth time this season the Checkers – who entered Sunday 29th in the AHL in scoring (2.18 goals per game) – have scored five or more goals in a game.
“From the start we wanted to let (the Stars) know that they were in for one,” said Hagel. “Obviously, we’ve been struggling and I think guys being physically engaged in the game early helped set a good tone.”
The Checkers – who moved two points ahead of last-place Iowa Wild in the West Division – will head out on a four-game road trip, beginning with two games against the Grand Rapids Griffins.
Notes: Shugg has goals and points in each of his past three games. In 23 games this season, the fourth-year forward is four goals shy of his career high set in 75 games last season. ... The Checkers are a perfect 22-for-22 on the penalty kill over their past seven games dating back to Dec. 19, their longest streak of the season.
1st Period-1, Charlotte, Shugg 12 (Di Giuseppe), 6:52. 2, Charlotte, Lowe 1 (Shugg, Holmstrom), 9:53. Penalties-Dalhuisen Tex (fighting), 3:04; Hagel Cha (fighting), 3:04.
2nd Period-3, Charlotte, Brown 1 (Lowe, Shugg), 0:37. 4, Texas, Jokipakka 2 (Ranford, Hulak), 7:51. 5, Charlotte, Aleardi 3 10:53. Penalties-McKenzie Tex (roughing), 0:22; Holmstrom Cha (roughing), 0:22.
3rd Period-6, Charlotte, Carrick 2 13:04 (SH EN). 7, Texas, Meech 5 (Rallo, Troock), 14:12 (SH). Penalties-Stransky Tex (tripping), 0:15; Shugg Cha (hooking), 0:49; Lowe Cha (slashing), 3:02; Rallo Tex (tripping), 10:15; Di Giuseppe Cha (tripping), 11:37; Stransky Tex (slashing), 13:29; Holmstrom Cha (cross-checking, misconduct - continuing altercation), 14:12; McGinn Cha (high-sticking), 17:06.
Shots on Goal-Texas 5-13-10-28. Charlotte 16-8-10-34. Power Play Opportunities-Texas 0/5; Charlotte 0/3. Goalies-Texas, Rynnas 8-2-0 (24 shots-20 saves); Campbell 3-7-0 (9 shots-9 saves). Charlotte, MacIntyre 10-11-1 (28 shots-26 saves). A-5,849. Referees-Darcy Burchell (42), Fred Leblanc (30). Linesmen-Ben Shiley (21), Zachary Thornton (78).