By KEVIN OKLOBZIJA
In losing 3-1 to the visiting Charlotte Checkers on Saturday night, the Rochester Americans dug themselves an early hole and couldn’t recover.
The Checkers were the better team early, took advantage of a pair of first-period power plays and then made sure goalie Anton Forsberg had plenty of help the rest of the way.
That’s the quick synopsis of the here and now.
But considering the Amerks had earned 17 of a possible 18 points in their previous nine games, and had gained points in 12 straight, it’s tough for anyone to be overly critical.
Five of their top nine forwards are either on recall or injured, yet the Amerks (15-4-2-2) continue to battle for first place in the American Hockey League’s North Division.
“We should be really proud of what we did,” said center Jean-Sebastien Dea, who scored his eighth goal on Saturday.
Indeed, the 12-game point streak (10-0-1-1) was the longest for the franchise in 15 years, since the 2004-05 team enjoyed a 14-game romp (12-0-0-2). That team, by the way, finished the regular season with the best record in the AHL.
“They’ve worked hard, they’ve done a lot of good things,” coach Chris Taylor said.
Still, captain Kevin Porter said it doesn’t do any good to look back at the previous month.
“We try not to think about those games, they’re behind us, just like tonight’s game now,” Porter said.
As they did on Friday night, the Checkers came out strong. Unlike Friday, when they couldn’t score against goalie Jonas Johansson and lost 4-0, they found the net early on Saturday.
Right winger Julien Gauthier played sniper from the right circle on the power play rush into the zone, zipping a shot past goalie Andrew Hammond and in off the iron for his 10th goal in 22 games.
It was the first goal allowed by the Amerks in 161 minutes and 30 seconds.
The Checkers (10-11-3-0) used their third power play of the opening period to take a 2-0 lead. With the Amerks caught changing, Morgan Geekie streaked in alone to score at 17:14.
Dea finally put the Amerks on the board on a power play at 16:10 of the second period, converting Jacob Bryson’s centering pass off the rush.
The Checkers, however, held on for the victory.
“They’re a tough team, especially when you’re playing from behind,” Porter said.
Notes: A host of injured Amerks are expected back in the lineup next week, including forwards C.J. Smith and Jarrett Burton, and defenseman Andrew MacWilliams. Winger Taylor Leier, who hasn’t played this season because of off-season shoulder surgery, also is close to a return. … A rule new this year prevented the Amerks from making a line change in the second period. If a goalie freezes the puck that was shot from outside the blue line, the defensive team can’t make a change.