It’s safe to say tonight’s game incited many choice words and it’s hard to find a place to begin.
Everything looked clear on the front during warm-ups, the team had obvious high spirits and seemingly no worry as to whether or not this game was theirs. The beginning of the game sported some true playoff hockey despite scoring starting with a seemingly fluke goal by the Barons 34 seconds in. As time passed, probably the longest first period of our lives, OKC showed just how bloodthirsty they were for a win. Edging on elimination they gave all they had and then some as dirty play began to ensue. No one was the poster child for this quite like Ben Eager. Eager’s play was cheap and full of instigation, earning him a ten minute game misconduct before the conclusion of the second period.
Regardless, the end of the first period left hope. After watching OKC take 3 goals without ever looking back the Checkers needed to regroup and come back with a fire. Instead it took 5 minutes and 27 seconds for Rob Madore to be pulled. Current backup and fan favorite, Michael Murphy, entered the game, one he was surely not prepared for and arguably had no chance to be. The second period was awful, no other way to put it or option to sugar coat it. The Checkers had three shots on goal. Yes, three. Instead of regrouping they allowed the Barons to get under their skin and affect their play. For a large portion of the period they were played as puppies chasing their tails in hopes that something would happen. This proved unfruitful though, thankfully only two more goals were allowed in the hellish second.
When the third came around, Charlotte actually seemed somewhat rejuvenated and was well aware of the play they had to make up for. Things improved slightly, but nowhere near where they should have been. The Checkers did see some inspired play in the third after Zach Boychuk potted Charlotte’s only goal of the night. The team had not given up but the messy icing on the cake was surely having one of our own players tip in a goal on himself. But that is the story of the game. The loss was one the team gave to itself. Play was sloppy on both ends of the ice and frustrated to say the least, I’m not even sure Brett Sutter properly received a pass all night. Despite this the blame cannot be placed solely on one players’ shoulders, it is a burden that the entire team carries in one way or another.
All in all, this night is past everyone. It’s over. Tomorrow brings a new game, a new opportunity, a fresh start to advance to the second round of playoffs. The Checkers must take that new opportunity and face it as if this is the first game they’ve played against OKC. They have to lay everything on the ice and will have to bring their focus back to the moment rather than focusing on the frustrations of tonight’s game. The Checkers have all the talent in the world to make Calder a reality, but face elimination tomorrow night at 7pm.