Charlotte takes electrifying Game 1 over Providence
It may be a loss, but it was a pretty fun way to start the Calder Cup Playoffs Saturday night.
Despite a slow start, allowing two Morgan Geekie goals in a little over three and a half minutes to start the game, Providence battled back to take the lead before surrendering their one-goal cushion.
The P-Bruins battled back to tie the game in the third on Paul Carey’s late-frame equalizer. But Bobby Sanguinetti’s pass in front somehow squeezed by Zane McIntyre (22 saves) for the eventual winner shortly after Carey’s tally to give the Charlotte Checkers the 5-4 win in Game 1 over the Providence Bruins at the Dunkin Donuts Center.
Charlotte got off to their quick start just 1:26 into the contest as Geekie’s backhander found its way past McIntyre’s blocker to put Charlotte up 1-0 on the game’s first shot for either side. Nick Schilkey and Andrew Poturalski were credited with the assists. Just 2:23 later, Geekie struck again, taking a pass from Poturalsky on a 2-1 break and slammed it into the back of net to put Charlotte up 2-0. This time, Schilkey was given the secondary assist.
The Checkers outshot the P-Bruins 8-2 through the first five minutes. But Providence found their legs thanks to the strength of a Jordan Szwarz’s one-timer past the AHL’s wins and goals against average leader Alex Nedeljkovic to cut the lead Charlotte’s lead to 2-1 at 6:45.
“I saw that there was a scramble in the corner and [Carey] create a loose puck,” Szwarz said. “I then saw Anton [Blidh] pick it up and I made myself available. He gave me a nice pass and I tried to get it on net and fortunately, it went in.”
Providence then benefitted from Stelio Mattheos’ slashing penalty. It took awhile to get the man-advantage unit going but the P-Bruins finally broke through as Copper Zech’s rush caught a flat footed Charlotte defense on its heels. That led to Blidh feeding Szwarz for a wrist shot to give put the P-Bruins ahead for the first time at 3-2.
Both teams each killed off a penalty before the end of the period. The penalty fest didn’t end there as Charlotte’s Clark Bishop went to the box for cross-checking at the end of the first. This led to a scrum in front of the Checkers’ bench highlighted by Chris Breen’s fight with Dan Renouf. Breen got the better of the scrap to conclude a wild first frame.
Providence had even the shot total at 11 apiece and had clearly swung momentum in their favor.
“It’s on [the players],” head coach Jay Leach said of his team’s comeback. “They’re the ones who are going to make plays. We just have to keep fighting and keep skating.”
The P-Bruins couldn’t capitalize on their power play attempt to start the second period. But a slashing call on the newly added Jack Studnicka — Boston’s 2017 second round pick — at 5:37, gave Charlotte a golden chance to tie things. Tomas Jurco took advantage of that after banking home a rebound past McIntyre — on a shot that hit the post — with just 16 seconds left of Studnicka’s penalty.
The P-Bruins killed off another penalty, backboned by a huge McIntyre stop, sliding across the crease to his right to stone Schilkey on a one-timer. But they wound up playing on their heels for the rest of the second. Then they broke down after Julien Gauthier picked up a loose puck and beat McIntyre glove side to give Charlotte the 4-3 lead.
The Checkers nearly had a back-breaking goal in the third. But that was waived off due to a high stick, thus giving Providence new life. Carey seized on Providence’s second wind to tie things up at 4-4 after Szwarz’s pass deflected into the Charlotte net.
But just 22 seconds later, Bobby Sanguinetti centering pass deflected past McIntyre and into the net to put Charlotte up again 5-4. Providence could not stay out of the box as Breen took an elbowing penalty with roughly five minutes left in regulation.
Providence had one final flurry at the end of the game, as Carey put a quick shot on goal with roughly a second left by Nedeljkovic, who finished with 23 saves, shut the door to secure Charlotte’s Game 1 victory.
Both teams finished 1-for-5 on the man-advantage. The P-Bruins look to even the series Sunday at home in Game 2 (5:05 p.m. puck drop) before the series shifts to North Carolina for the remaining three games.
“We’re going to have to shore up a couple of things, especially on the rush,” Leach said on what his team can do to avoid a 2-0 hole. “We have to get pucks behind them and make sure we don’t get beat up the ice. At the same time, we also have to keep the mindset that it’s a five-game series.”