01/17/2012 7:44 PM
GRAND RAPIDS GRIFFINS 5 at Charlotte Checkers 6
Jan. 17, 2012
CHARLOTTE, N.C. – A fast start and two goals from Chris Minard in just his second game of the season gave the Grand Rapids Griffins life, but the Charlotte Checkers were just too much to handle in a 6-5 victory on Tuesday night at the Time Warner Cable Arena.
Grand Rapids (15-16-4-3) lost its fourth straight game while Charlotte (23-14-2-2) won its third game of the season against the Griffins to extend their Midwest Division lead to four points. The Griffins will be back in action at Van Andel Arena on Friday with a 7 p.m. contest against Lake Erie.
Early pressure paid off as Griffins got out to an early lead courtesy of Tomas Tatar and Louis-Marc Aubry. Tatar tapped home a centering feed from Willie Coetzee at 2:39, and Aubry pounced on a loose puck in the slot and placed a perfect shot over Mike Murphy’s shoulder at 5:40 to give the Griffins a 2-0 advantage.
The Griffins nearly extended their lead with several strong chances in the next few minutes, including a shorthanded bid by Tatar that a fallen Murphy was able to take away with the paddle of his stick. That allowed the Checkers to cut the Griffins lead in half at 15:48 when Checkers defenseman Bobby Sanguinetti beat Tom McCollum from the high slot for his first goal of the season.
The Checkers struck again before the period’s end when Jon Matsumoto set up Chris Terry’s ninth tally of the year at 18:15. With a delayed penalty coming to Grand Rapids, Terry launched a one-timer from point blank range that McCollum had no chance on, tying the game at two.
A bit of bad luck put the Checkers ahead just 18 seconds into the second period. Terry retrieved his own dump-in off the end boards and sent a blind pass in front of the net that banked past McCollum off the skate of Garnet Exelby to give Charlotte their first lead of the night.
Two more quick strikes gave the Checkers a 5-2 lead and ended McCollum’s night. Drayson Bowman struck first with a power play tally at 2:38, which led to a Griffins timeout. It proved ineffective, as exactly one minute later Sean Dolan banged in a rebound for his first AHL goal, which sent McCollum to the bench in favor of Joey MacDonald.
Brian Lashoff gave the Griffins some life at 13:02, moments after stepping out of the penalty box. Lashoff joined the rush and found a rebound from a Joakim Andersson shot sitting loose behind Murphy that he tapped home for his sixth goal of the season.
Playing in his second game after missing most of the first half of the season with a concussion, Minard got on the board at 17:26 with his first goal on the year. Minard set up shop at the top of the circle and blasted a Fabian Brunnstrom pass right under the crossbar, pulling the Griffins within striking distance at 5-4.
Another bizarre bounce put Charlotte back in the driver’s seat and sealed the Griffins fate. Brendan Smith attempted to bounce a pass off the boards to a teammate, but it ricocheted in front of the net, where Zac Dalpe was able to sneak it past MacDonald at 7:55. Minard’s second goal of the night at 17:46 made for some tense final moments, but the Checkers held on for the 6-5 victory.
Murphy made 31 saves on 36 shots for the home team, while MacDonald took the loss with a 20-save relief effort.
Three Stars: 1. CHA Terry (two goals); 2. GR Minard (two goals); 3. CHA Bowman (goal, two assists)
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