The Checkers had a tough go in their 2019-20 season opener, surrendering five straight goals to fall in Hartford 5-3.
After missing the back half of last season due to injury, Janne Kuokkanen wasted no time getting back into the swing of things, keeping the puck on an odd-man rush and burying a low shot just 78 seconds in.
Hartford would answer back shortly after, however, and then build off that momentum for a slew of goals. After taking a lead midway through the first, the Wolf Pack converted on an early power play in the second and then tacked on another later in the frame to carry a three-goal lead into the second intermission. They weren’t done there, as Matt Beleskey struck just 24 seconds into the third – his second tally of the night – to put Hartford comfortably ahead.
Charlotte’s offense was creating chances throughout the contest, and in the third period things started to bounce their way again. Dave Gust sniped a shot from the left circle on a man advantage early on in the frame, then Julien Gauthier banged home a loose puck out front to make things interesting with less than 10 to play.
Hartford netminder Igor Shesterkin would continue to shine after that, though, shutting down Charlotte’s charged-up rally attempt and carrying the Wolf Pack to a 5-3 victory.
The Checkers fell to 5-4-1 in season openers since joining the AHL. All 10 games took place on the road ... Prior to tonight, each of the last seven Calder Cup champions had won the first game of the following season … Of the 19 players who suited up for the Checkers tonight, 10 made their Checkers debut and just six played in last season’s Calder Cup clinching game … Kuokkanen was playing his first game since March 2, having missed the remainder of last season due to injury. He has points in eight of his last 10 games (2g, 6a) … Gust (1g), Brian Gibbons (1a), Hunter Shinkaruk (1a) and Chase Priskie (1a) each recorded their first Checkers point. Priskie was making his professional debut … The Checkers won seven of eight games against Hartford last season … Forwards Ryan Horvat, Cedric Lacroix, Stelio Mattheos, Max McCormick and Spencer Smallman, and defensemen Cavan Fitzgerald, Reid McNeill, Derek Sheppard and Kyle Wood were all scratched.
The Checkers travel to Springfield Sunday for a 3:05 p.m. puck drop against the Thunderbirds.