New Town Elementary school children melted hearts with their singing of the national anthem prior to Sunday’s matchup against the Milwaukee Admirals. But the fiery play of Charlotte Checkers’ goalie Drew MacIntyre melted the ice around the Admirals.
The Checkers won their fourth straight game at home on Sunday afternoon, sweeping the Milwaukee Admirals at Time Warner Cable Arena thanks to another spectacular performance from MacIntyre.
MacIntyre recorded 39 saves on 41 shots against his former team, including three crucial stops in the shootout. MacIntyre, a 16-year pro, has been a very important player for the Checkers this season, and posted his fifth 30-plus save game this season.
“He’s been our MVP for the first part of the season,” Charlotte head coach Jeff Daniels said.
In his first season with Charlotte, MacIntyre is 6-8-1-1 with 378 saves. Statistically he is not one of the top goalies in the league, but he has played a vital role in Charlotte’s limited success. MacIntyre is a very focused and business-like pro, Daniels added. He is a good voice on the ice and in the locker room.
MacIntyre withstood a hail storm early, stopping 15 of 16 shots in the first period and setting the tone early. Charlotte got off to a slow start offensively, only getting 5 shots on goal in the first period. The Checkers have not won a game yet this season when trailing after the first period, until Sunday’s victory.
The Checkers (7-11-1-0) have not won back-to-back games since the end of the 2013-2014 season, and won its first shootout of the season by defeating the Admirals (12-5-0-2) 3-2, who are currently tied for fifth in the AHL’s western conference with 26 points.
“For us it’s just a matter of finally getting rewarded for some hard work we’ve done over the last few weeks,” Daniels said.
Charlotte tied the game up early in the second, with rookie star Brock McGinn scoring his fourth goal in the last five games. Milwaukee took the lead back late in the second by taking advantage of a 5-on-3, until A.J. Jenks knocked in a rebound off a Beau Schmitz shot to knot the game 2-2 for the Checkers in the third.
The Checkers finally tested the new 3-on-3 overtime rules, but neither team was able to score. “It’s exciting and it’s crazy on the bench,” Daniels said. Charlotte went with 2 defenseman and 2 forwards for their lineup to begin overtime. As the season progresses, Daniels said the team will figure out how they want to play the new overtime rules.
Initially, there was confusion between the linesmen during overtime, and they lined up 4-on-4 at the first whistle after three minutes. Referee Jon McIssac corrected them, however, as the newly-implemented Rule 85 “Overtime” of the AHL states, “Full playing strength will be 4-on-4 until the first whistle following three minutes of play (4:00 remaining), at which time full strength will be reduced to 3-on-3 for the duration of the overtime period. If the game is still tied following overtime, a winner will be determined by a three-player shootout.”
Justin Shugg scored the game-winning goal on the Checkers’ third attempt of the shootout, and helped propel Charlotte to its first winning streak of the season.
McGinn has now scored goals in back to back games, and totals 5 goals on the season. He is third on the team in scoring, and has 3 assists and 8 points. Combine that with the play of Shugg, who has scored goals in 6 of the team’s last 8 games since returning from injury, and there are some positives developing for this team after its slow start.
Despite the positives, inconsistency has been a problem for this team all season, having lost three games in a row coming into this weekend’s series against Milwaukee. The team has been especially inconsistent on the road, compiling a 2-7-1-0 record away from Time Warner Cable Arena. They have won four straight on their home ice, after losing their first four at home.
“We’re not a consistent hockey team,” MacIntyre said. “We’re not going to make any ground in this league or make the playoffs if we are not consistent. We’ve got to feel good that we put a little string together, but we’ve got to realize we haven’t done anything yet.”
The Checkers have beaten teams like Chicago, Milwaukee and Texas this season, but they have not been able to string together good performances.
“We know we can play with any team in this league,” MacIntyre said.