The Charlotte Checkers dropped a 6-3 decision to the Utica Comets on Sunday afternoon at Bojangles Coliseum. Charlotte drops to 6-3-0 on the season with the loss and are now .500 at home this season (2-2-0). Comets goaltender Thatcher Demko stopped 30 shots en route to his fourth win of the season, earning Utica a split after the Checkers took the first game on Saturday.
It was the battle of the captains right off the faceoff as Charlotte’s Patrick Brown squared off against Carter Bancks to set the tone early in the first period. Each player was awarded a game misconduct for the early tussle. Just a minute in, Checkers goalie Jeremy Smith slid across the crease to make a beautiful save on Alexis D’Aoust to keep it scoreless.
After a Checkers tripping call, Nikolay Goldobin continued his hot start to the season by putting the Comets up 1-0. It was the start of a busy period for the goaltenders, especially at the Checkers’ end of the ice. After a few big saves on the defensive end by Smith, Mike Ferrantino tied the game for the Checkers with his first career AHL goal, but then with around seven minutes to go in the period, a 3-on-2 rush turned into a Reid Boucher goal after he was not spotted by the Charlotte defense.
The Comets went up 3-1 on a goal by Evan Mceneny, his first goal of the season. Charlotte headed to the locker room trailing despite 19 saves by Smith.
Smith stayed solid in the early part of the second period but a penalty midway through the period negated all momentum the Checkers had. On the ensuing power play, Zack MacEwen registered his own first career AHL goal on a redirect in front of Smith. Utica then extended their lead to 5-1 after Brendan Gaunce pounced on a rebound in front of Smith. A tired Checkers squad showed no signs of mounting a comeback and were outshot 35-23 through two periods.
In the third, despite the ice slightly tilting in the direction of the Checkers, their persistent turnovers and incapability to set up plays in the offensive zone resulted in a hollow attempt at a comeback. Midway through the period, former Checker Brendan Woods tipped a shot that had eyes from the point and beat Smith as Utica took a 6-1 lead.
Andrew Poturalski then scored a garbage time goal to cut the Checkers’ deficit to four, and with ten seconds left Julien Gauthier lifted the stick of a Comets defender and fired a quick wrist shot past Demko to finish off the game with a score of 6-3. Smith stopped 39 of 45 shots in the loss, and the Checkers mounted 34 shots on Demko.
This is the last game the Checkers play at home for almost a month as they now embark on an eight-game road trip. Charlotte will not return home until November 21st when they will take on the Belleville Senators.