CHARLOTTE — We’ve got a series. The Chicago Wolves topped the Charlotte Checkers 3-2 on Friday night in front of 6,714 at Bojangles’ Coliseum to tie the AHL Central Division semifinals at a game apiece.
The first period had plenty of chippiness and choppiness as the two teams continued to set the tone for the series. The Wolves got off to a much better start than Game 1’s rough first frame. Less than five minutes into the game, Alex Friesen found the back of the net on a one timer from the right circle. The Checkers defense was sleeping in front of Checkers goalie Tom McCollum which allowed Friesen to sneak in from the right side and give Chicago their first of the series. Chicago tested McCollum often and early, firing off more shots by the midway point of the period than they did in the entire first period of Game 1.
Andrew Miller got the Checkers on the board less than four minutes into the second period after a beautiful tic-tac-toe passing play from Valentin Zykov and Lucas Wallmark. However, the tie didn’t last long as Samuel Blais gave Chicago the 2-1 lead just minutes later. Blais walked in unchecked in between the hash marks and fired a shot over McCollum’s glove on a play that McCollum wishes he could have back.
Chicago goalie Ville Husso made some great blocker saves to hold Chicago’s lead, but a great shot from Dennis Robertson tied the game at 2 with less than two minutes remaining in the second period. Danny Kristo lobbed a saucer pass to Robertson who fired the puck off a bounce and past Husso to tie the game heading into the third frame.
The game remained tight through the early part of the third period. McCollum made a split save with traffic in front midway through the period to keep the game tied and hold the Wolves at bay.
But then, the Wolves broke the tie for the third time, proving to be the game-winner. Adam Musil roofed a backhand shot over McCollum’s blocker to put the Checkers down for the final time. It would be enough to secure the win despite Charlotte pulling McCollum with 3:00 remaining to try to score the equalizer. A few chances went close but Husso stood tall, making 37 saves to earn the win.
The Checkers will now have to win two of three games on the road, where they were 12-19-6-1 away from Bojangles’ this season. Despite the road struggles, Dennis Robertson remains optimistic: “I just think we need to play like we did in the second half [Friday]. I know they came out on top but we had our chances, especially late in the game in the third period when we were pressing. So, I think if we continue to play like that, play fast, anything can happen.”
Game 3 is Sunday at 3 p.m. at Allstate Arena in Chicago.