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IN A FIGHT

Charlotte Checkers 5 at GRAND RAPIDS GRIFFINS 3

March 30, 2012

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich.
– A fast start gave way to a disappointing finish for the Grand Rapids Griffins on Friday, as the Charlotte Checkers rallied for a 5-3 victory at Van Andel Arena.

After jumping out to an early 2-0 lead, the Griffins surrendered five of the next six goals to fall six points off the pace for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference with nine games remaining.

Grand Rapids (30-27-6-4), which was coming off an impressive 4-1 win at conference-leading Oklahoma City on Sunday, will welcome the Barons to town for a 7 p.m. faceoff on Saturday.

The potency of the Griffins’ offense – the highest-scoring in the conference – was on display in the opening period. After two Checkers collided at the Charlotte blue line, Tomas Tatar sped around them to pick up the loose puck and swoop in on Justin Peters, drawing the goalie to the right post before potting a beautiful goal on his forehand at the 4:23 mark.

Tom McCollum made several stellar saves on the other end to preserve the lead, then Brent Raedeke finished off a pretty passing sequence between Joakim Andersson, Francis Pare and Brendan Smith by ripping a shot into the top corner from the left hashmarks at 14:13.

The Checkers struck just 1:29 later, though, when a wide-open Jerome Samson fired the puck over McCollum’s blocker from high in the left circle to make it a 2-1 game at intermission.

Charlotte (34-24-3-6) then grabbed a 3-2 lead by scoring twice within a 1:47 span of the second period. Sean Dolan banked a shot off McCollum from the right goal line 14 minutes into the frame, before Evgenii Dadonov sped through the Griffins’ defense in the neutral zone and finished off the break by lifting a backhand into the net.

Chris Terry extended the visitors’ lead with their fourth unanswered goal 8:59 into the third, blasting home a cannon from the high slot during a power play. But Tatar finally broke the Checkers’ string and pulled the Griffins back to within one with his second goal of the night at 10:01, scooping a rebound into a gaping net while falling to his knees just outside the Charlotte crease.

A missed power play opportunity that began with 5:23 remaining and a roughing penalty to Jamie Johnson with 3:14 left diminished the Griffins’ chances to tally the equalizer, and Terry scored into an empty net at 19:36 for the final margin.

Peters finished the night with 28 saves, while McCollum suffered the loss despite 31 stops.

Note: With two assists tonight, Pare (181 points) moved past Jiri Hudler (179) into sole possession of fifth place on the Griffins’ all-time scoring list.

Three Stars: 1. CHA Samson (goal); 2. GR Tatar (two goals); 3. CHA Krueger (assist)


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