The Charlotte Checkers ended 2012 on a bit of a sour note, as they played, and dropped, a set of back-to-back-to-backs from December 28-30. All three games were road matchups in Texas for the Checkers, as they traveled from Houston to Cedar Park to San Antonio. The Checkers were outscored 10-5, and only managed to grab a point out of a possible six before the calendar year ended.
The first matchup was played in Houston, as the Checkers looked to extend their 7-game point streak against the division rival Aeros. After falling behind in the first period, Checkers’ winger Tim Wallace scored on a wrister to knot the game at 1 five minutes into the third period. Six minutes later, Chris Terry put the checkers up 2-1, and looked to hold the lead late into the game. However, Houston center Mikael Granlund tied the game with 2:39 remaining in the contest and sent the game into overtime. The overtime period guaranteed the Checkers at least a point, giving them 8 straight games in which a point was earned. The extra point, however, went to Houston, as Johan Larsson scored with two minutes remaining to give the Aeros the win. Houston goaltender Darcy Kuepmer was great all night, as the Checkers peppered him with shots. Kuemper made 30 saves on 32 shots, whereas Charlotte goaltender Justin Peters allowed 3 goals on 21 shots.
The next night was played against the Stars, who the Checkers just haven’t been able to figure out so far this season. Zac Dalpe opened the scoring for the Checkers early, giving them a 1-0 lead. The Stars stormed back with three unanswered goals, scoring one in each period, and held a late Charlotte attack off to snap the Checkers’ 8 game point streak. The loss was the first regulation road loss for the Checkers since Halloween. Goaltender Dan Ellis played well, making 28 saves on 31 shots. Charlotte also finished with 31 shots, but was unable to solve goaltender Cristopher Nilstorp. The offense just couldn’t get anything going against a Texas team who sits in 4th in the South Division, but only 3 points behind Charlotte for the division lead.
The third and final game of the three-in-three set was in San Antonio, where a hungry Rampage team, backed by phenomenal goaltending, defeated the Checkers 5-2, ending Charlotte’s 2012 on a sour note. Rampage goaltender Jacob Markstrom finished the game with 49 saves, 24 in the third period alone. Justin Peters allowed 5 goals on 31 shots. The powerplay, which has been a strong suit for the Checkers all season long, went 1-7 on the night, and only 1-20 over the last four games. Forward Justin Shugg and defenseman Bobby Sanguinetti had the goals for the Checkers. Despite the number of shots, the Checkers offense was once again unable to solve a hot goaltender on the road. For the first time in the team’s history, they lost all three games of a 3-game set.
The Checkers still hold a 2 point lead in the South Division, and only trail the Syracuse Crunch and the Toronto Marlies in points for the entire AHL. The team is in a cold spell and they hope to start 2013 off right with back to back road games in Lake Erie. The team will also play a home game in Raleigh on January 6th in the PNC Arena, home of the Carolina Hurricanes.