January 9, 2016
SAN DIEGO – The San Diego Gulls dropped their second straight to the Charlotte Checkers, falling by a 4-2 score in front of 10,036 fans at Valley View Casino Center. The Checkers (21-11-1-1), who set a franchise record with points in nine straight road games, went 5-0-1 on their California road trip and have collected points in their past 12 games.
Nick Ritchie and Mike Sgarbossa scored for the Gulls (17-14-0-1), who have lost two straight at home and fallen to fourth place in the AHL’s Pacific Division.
San Diego found themselves trailing against a stingy Checkers club just 1:06 into the night, as Joseph Cramarossa’s early holding penalty was instantly converted into a Charlotte power play goal. Zach Boychuck’s shot from the right circle beat Anton Khudobin between the pads, the puck trickling through for an early 1-0 Checkers lead.
The Gulls would capture the momentum from there, tying the score on Sgarbossa’s power play goal at 8:02 in the first, finishing assists from Brandon Montour and Ritchie. For Montour, it was his league-leading 17th power play assist and 21st power play point overall.
Ritchie gave San Diego the lead at 12:51, patrolling the weak side to put home a loose puck from a scramble in front of the net for a 2-1 Gulls lead. San Diego held the advantage after twenty minutes.
A contentious second period saw both teams grapple for dominance, dropping the gloves and battling back and forth as the defense slacked and the pace quickened. Checkers captain Justin Shugg tucked a wraparound goal past Khudobin at 16:21 of the period to knot the score at 2-2. Khudobin otherwise made thirteen saves under heavy pressure in the second stanza.
Entering the night ranked fourth in the AHL in power play efficiency, the Checkers would seize their opportunity early in the third period when San Diego’s Brian McGrattan was whistled for a slashing penalty at 3:10. T.J. Hensick sprung between the circles on a pass from Sergey Tolchinsky and beat Khudobin over the shoulder for the eventual game-winning goal at 4:48.
San Diego outshot the Checkers 39-26 and controlled the puck for much of the third, but in the end had to bow to Charlotte goalie Daniel Altshuller, who made twelve third period saves and 37 overall on 39 shots faced, improving to 7-0-1 since his call up from the ECHL.
The Gulls return to home ice on Wednesday night when they face the San Jose Barracuda at 7 p.m.
NOTES: Nick Ritchie’s goal extended his home-ice point streak to eleven consecutive games (10-5=15), the longest active streak in the AHL…The Gulls lost for the first time in regulation all season when leading after twenty minutes (8-1-0-1)… the Gulls thought they had taken a 3-1 lead in the first period on a Chris Mueller goal, disallowed for goalie interference…the Checkers scored two power play goals in both games over the weekend, improving their road power play efficiency to 21-for-90 (23.3%), the top mark in the AHL.
1st Star: CHA T.J. Hensick (GWG); 2nd Star: CHA Sergey Tolchinsky (0-2=2); 3rd star: SD Chris Mueller (five shots)