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2018 Calder Cup Playoffs, Round 1 Game 1: WBS 2, Charlotte 3 (OT)

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WBS jumps out to a 2-0 lead after 40 minutes, but give it all away to drop Game 1 in overtime. Game 2 is Saturday at 6:00 pm EDT.

If you read my preview of this series (which you can still do here), you would remember me saying in the analysis of the respective offenses of the WBS Penguins and the Charlotte Checkers that “the last shot could win on any given night”. That was proven to be absolutely true in Game 1, as the Checkers were able to overturn a 2-0 deficit in the third period to force overtime, then dominate the extra session to win Game 1 of this first round series on their home ice 3-2.

Count me as a little bit surprised that Josh Jooris, sent back to WBS from Pittsburgh the morning of Game 1, would slot right into the third line center position, but that’s also why I’m not in charge of managing rosters.

WBS spent the majority of the first period courting danger, as they put the dangerous Charlotte power play on the ice three straight times in the span of about 8 minutes. Thankfully, Tristan Jarry showed up to PLAY.

After the Penguins killed off the third of the power plays, Charlotte’s Andrew Miller took a hooking call at 17:21 of the first. It took the much-maligned WBS PP only 23 seconds to strike.

That’s where the WBS PP has found its success lately, with big shots from the point. They don’t come much bigger at the AHL level than off the stick of the big bad Andrey Pedan, assisted by Ryan Haggerty and Lukas Bengtsson. Charlotte got one more power play to end the first, but they could not connect on it as WBS took a 1-0 lead into the locker room while being outshot 8-7.

The second period was played mostly 5 on 5, with standout WBS rookie Daniel Sprong making his presence known with his first goal of the playoffs at 11:16 of the second.

But not from where you might be expecting.

Yep.

From behind center red.

You can’t see it on that GIF replay, but in-arena reports had the puck taking a bounce off the ice and past Charlotte goalie Nedeljkovic. Either way, it counts all the same, and WBS held a 2-0 lead on the road.

The teams traded a power play chance to end the second, but neither was able to convert. Through 40 minutes, Charlotte held the edge in shots 19-16, but the WBS PK was able to shut down all five penalties it faced in the first two periods, including 22 seconds of 5 on 3 kill time in the first period.

It helps when your goalie makes saves like those shown above. Or like this.

Charlotte would not go away easily, though. Checkers center Aleksi Saarela, who finished the regular season third on Charlotte with 25 goals, scored his first playoff goal at 6:32 of the first, assisted by Trevor Carrick and the former WBS Penguin Greg McKegg.

Just over four minutes later, Andrey Pedan tempted the fates by taking a tripping call, putting the Charlotte PP on the ice for its sixth chance, and this time, they converted thanks to a horrible pass by the WBS MVP.

Summers’s reaction to that celebration, which you can see the start of at the very end of that GIF, led to Charlotte’s seventh PP of the night and Garrett Wilson sent to the locker room on a misconduct penalty. WBS was able to kill off the seventh chance, and despite each team briefly taking control in the back half of the third period, regulation would see no more goals thanks to saves like this.

Regulation finished with Charlotte outshooting WBS 14-11 in the third and 33-27 overall.

Overtime ended almost as quickly as it started.

That set the tone for overtime, with Charlotte controlling the majority of play and chances until...

Despite WBS’s pleas for goaltender interference, the goal was given and could not be challenged. Lucas Wallmark got the final touch for the winner at just 3:18 of overtime.

Jarry finished with 35 saves on 38 shots in the losing effort, and those were 35 very strong saves. This game might have been settled way before overtime had Jarry not performed as strongly as he did. Nedeljkovic, to his credit, settled down considerably after the goal by Sprong to end with 25 saves on 27 shots.

Each power play finished with a goal; WBS had three opportunities, while Charlotte had seven.

Pedan was given third star for his goal. Zykov took second star for his goal to tie the game, and Wallmark took top honors with the winner in overtime.

There’s not a lot of time to recover, however. Game 2 of this series comes quickly on the horizon, 6:00 pm EDT Saturday.

A split of the series coming back to WBS would be monumental for WBS, but they absolutely need to stop giving Charlotte power play advantages. It would appear that they have Jarry at the height of his powers; now, the discipline must show up, or else WBS will come back to Mohegan Sun Arena facing elimination in Tom Kostopoulos’s farewell season.