After finishing 2018 with three straight wins, the Belleville Senators have started 2019 with three straight losses, dropping a second decision to the Charlotte Checkers in as many nights.
The Checkers, who sit atop the AHL’s Eastern Conference, continued with a suffocating forecheck and skated to a 6-2 win at CAA Arena on Saturday night.
Belleville looked to be off and running just 21 seconds in, when Adam Tambellini returned to the line up by hopping on a puck in front of the Charlotte net and burying it past Scott Darling.
Tambellini had been a healthy scratch on Friday.
But that lead only lasted 14 seconds, as Jake Paterson misplayed the puck at the side of the Belleville net and it popped out in front to Aleksi Saarela, who put it into the empty net.
Belleville would retake the lead just past the 3:00 mark following a fantastic save by Darling sliding post to post.
The B-Sens stuck with the play and Max McCormick wrapped around the net and fed Filip Chlapik in front to make it 2-1.
Once more, that lead was short-lived, with Stuart Percy turning the puck over to Morgan Geekie in the slot and he beat Paterson five hole.
Head Coach Troy Mann pulled Paterson at that point, in favour of Filip Gustavsson and says it was a tough start for the inexperienced AHL goaltender.
Charlotte would rattle off three more straight with Julien Gauthier racing past Alex Breton, making his AHL debut and tucking it past Gustavsson to make 3-2.
Then Stefan Elliott fell and Breton was again left as the last man back, this time getting beat by Geekie, who passed to Poturalski and he scored his 14th of the season.
Martin Necas returned to the Charlotte line up from representing the Czech Republic at the World Junior Hockey Championship and fired a spinning one-timer past Gustavsson at 3:15 of the third.
The B-Sens would get one back by storming the crease at 17:49 and Stefan Elliott was given credit for the goal, but Gauthier tacked on an empty net marker just over 10 seconds later to cap the scoring.
The Senators host the Cleveland Monsters on Wednesday, before heading out on a road trip and Mann says it’s crucial that his team turn things around.
You can click here to read the box score from Saturday night and see highlights below.