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Despite losses, OT points add up to Charlotte Checkers’ 1st playoff berth since 2013

By Pat James

Ulf Samuelsson, in his first season as Charlotte Checkers head coach, will take the team into the Calder Cup Playoffs for the first time since 2013.
Ulf Samuelsson, in his first season as Charlotte Checkers head coach, will take the team into the Calder Cup Playoffs for the first time since 2013. mhames@charlotteobserver.com

Entering the final weekend of the American Hockey League regular season, the Charlotte Checkers found themselves in a position that was all too familiar.

For the second consecutive season, third in the past four and fourth in seven at the AHL level, the Checkers were on the bubble for the Calder Cup Playoffs. Every time before, Charlotte fell short in this situation.

This time, however, the Checkers finally overcame their demons.

Although Charlotte suffered a 4-3 overtime loss on Saturday against the the Chicago Wolves, the team picked up one point in the standings — teams receive two points for a win, one point for an overtime/shootout loss or no point for a regulation loss.

That gave the Checkers the edge they needed to outlast the Cleveland Monsters for the final playoff spot in the Central Division and clinch the team’s first postseason berth since 2013.

Wednesday: Charlotte seized a 1-0 lead in the first period on a goal by Andrew Poturalski and maintained that edge until the Grand Rapids Griffins tied the score in the second. After neither team scored for the rest of regulation or in overtime, Grand Rapids secured a 2-1 shootout win on a goal by Filip Hronek in the fourth round.

Friday: With a win, the Checkers could have clinched their spot in the playoffs a day early. However, the Griffins' Eric Tangradi scored in overtime to hand Charlotte a 3-2 loss. In the wake of that result, Cleveland could have eliminated the Checkers with a victory over the Manitoba Moose. But Manitoba held on for a 1-0 win.

Saturday: Charlotte seized a 3-1 lead midway through the third quarter, but the Wolves scored two goals in a two-minute span to tie the game with about four minutes left. A regulation loss would have eliminated the Checkers. However, the game went into overtime, where Chicago scored with about two minutes left for a 4-3 win.

What’s next: In the first round of the playoffs, Charlotte faces the Wolves. Bojangles’ Coliseum will host Games 1 and 2 of the best-of-five series at 7 p.m. Thursday and 7:15 p.m. Friday.

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