Checkers Drop Home Finale To Admirals 4-2
Wohlberg, Sutter score, but rally attempt comes up short
CHARLOTTE, NC – In their final home game of the regular season, the Checkers battled back against the division-leading Milwaukee Admirals but came up just short, falling by a score of 4-2.
Pontus Aberg opened the scoring with a goal late in the first but David Wohlberg wiped that lead away with a quick snipe early in the second. But like they did last night, the Admirals offense came alive in the middle frame, pumping in a pair of strikes midway through the period to build a two-goal advantage heading into the late stages of the frame.
But the Checkers were able to keep things from spiraling from there, and Justin Shugg cleaned up a rebound in the final 15 seconds to pull the home team back within one with 20 minutes to go.
The rejuvenated Checkers pushed hard for the equalizer in the third, outshooting the Admirals 11-9 in the period and clanking multiple shots off the iron, but they couldn’t find the back of the net. Charlotte got its best opportunity of the game when Milwaukee was whistled for a delay of game inside the final three minutes of regulation, but it was unable to string anything together and the Admirals put one into the empty net for the final dagger, cementing a 4-2 loss for the Checkers.
Despite the final score, the Checkers gave the first-place Admirals all that they could handle.
“Our guys played their hearts out, they really did,” said head coach Mark Morris. “I’m proud of the guys and what they were able to do, especially to rebound after last night.”
Playing once again with newly shuffled lines and without some of their top-end offensive talent, the Checkers dug deep for a pair of goals to stay close, but in the end it wasn’t enough to defeat Admirals netminder Juuse Saros, who improved to 6-0-0 against Charlotte this season.
“Derek Ryan (who suffered an injury in Carolina earlier in the week) is not here, so somebody has got to step up and we had contributions from those guys, but could have used a few more,” said Morris. “We played a darn good hockey team too and their goalie was outstanding when he needed to be.”
Wohlberg, who has been a driving force on the fourth line all season, was one of those players who stepped up, notching his ninth goal of the season to kick-start the Charlotte offense.
“It’s crunch time for us,” said Wohlberg. “Coach said to us before the game that you don’t need to be a superstar, just do what you do best and good things will come your way.”
While players like Wohlberg and Shugg have been amping their game up as of late to pick up the slack, the increasing thinness of the Checkers’ lineup up front has been a big issue for the team.
“It comes down to personnel,” said Morris. “Some of our better players have been asked to do yeoman work, and they don’t have quite the step and jump because they’re out there killing penalties and playing bigger minutes.”
That lack of depth was most evident on the late man advantage, where the power-play unit again struggled to create the suffocating pressure it had earlier this season.
“When you get to the power play, there’s nothing more to give,” said Morris. “Depth is a huge concern. When your best players are either out of the lineup and some of the newer players that were contributing are on the sidelines, we could use those guys. We could use a (Blair) Jones. We could use a (Andrew) Miller. We could use a Ryan. Those are important pieces for us.”
The Checkers will now set their sights on next week’s two-game series with the Lake Erie Monsters, though they will take some time to regroup and recuperate.
“Absolutely it’s rest,” said Morris of the biggest key for the Checkers in the few days before their season finale. “There’s nothing more to give. It doesn’t make any sense to exhaust any of the energy that they’ve got.
After this sweep at the hands of the Admirals, Charlotte’s playoff hopes rest in the balance of that series. Despite dropping today’s contest, there is a positive sense of momentum that the team is looking to harness.
“There’s a lot of positives we can take out of it,” said Wohlberg. “Just knowing the way we have to play to win games. The second and third periods there are a pretty good example. Just go into next week, do what we can do and hopefully things go our way.”
“I think they’ve got to be proud of the fact that they competed exceptionally hard today,” said Morris. “They’ve got nothing to be ashamed of.”