January 8, 2016
SAN DIEGO – The San Diego Gulls dropped a 3-1 decision to the Charlotte Checkers on Friday night in front of 8,522 fans at Valley View Casino Center. Jake Chelios netted a goal and assist as Charlotte (20-11-1-1) improved their current point streak to eleven in a row, as well as a franchise-record tying eight straight on the road.
Nick Ritchie scored his team-leading thirteenth goal of the season, improving his home point streak to ten straight games, but the Gulls (17-13-0-1) were otherwise unable to solve goalie Daniel Altschuller, who stopped 29 of 30 shots faced to improve to 6-0-1 on the season.
Charlotte and San Diego entered the night with statistics mirroring one another. Both teams were dominant on the power play, when scoring first and in protecting leads. In this first of four meetings, the Checkers killed a pair of early Gulls power play chances, then scored on their own man advantage after a Shane O’Brien slashing penalty. Chelios was left open on the right circle for his fifth goal of the season at 15:45, with assists from Ryan Murphy and Derek Ryan.
A penalty on Joe Piskula, making his return from an upper body injury, carried a Checkers power play into the start of the second period. Charlotte converted for the second time on the night, when Mike Cornell’s point shot made it through a screen and past Anton Khudobin for a 2-0 lead at 1:02 of the second.
Ritchie’s goal at 9:05 from Stefan Noesen and fellow AHL All-Star Brandon Montour trimmed the Charlotte advantage to 2-1 and restored hope to the home crowd. Khudobin then electrified the fans with a dynamic save on a bad hop, springing from behind his net to stop a point blank shot into a previously empty cage.
The Gulls fired ten shots at Altschuller in the third period but couldn’t best the 21-year-old, who has been central in the Checkers’ march up the standings. Patrick Brown finished the scoring with an empty net goal from the hash marks of his own defensive zone with 1:03 remaining in the game.
The Gulls and Checkers will meet once again on Saturday night at Valley View Casino Center, a 7 p.m. faceoff.
NOTES: San Diego’s captain, defenseman Joe Piskula, returned after missing eighteen games with an upper body injury, going scoreless with one shot and two PIM…the Gulls dressed seven defensemen for the first time this season, adding Eric Knodel to the lineup in place of the traded Max Friberg…the Checkers improved to 4-0-1 on their six-game California road trip with one game left to play on Saturday…the loss was only the fifth for the Gulls when scoring on the power play, and the first in regulation when Nick Ritchie scored a goal (9-1-0-1)…Brandon Montour’s power play assist was his AHL-leading 20th power play point and 16th power play assist.
1st Star: CHA Jake Chelios (1-1=2); 2nd Star: SD Stefan Noesen (0-1-1); 3rd star: SD Nick Ritchie (1-0-0)