CLEVELAND, OH – The Checkers carried their December momentum through the holiday break as they defeated Cleveland 5-1 on Saturday night to win for the sixth time in their last eight games.
Spencer Smallman, Julien Gauthier, Fredrik Claesson, Max McCormick and Gustav Forsling scored for the Checkers, whose seven-game road swing will continue with a rematch in Cleveland on Monday afternoon. Playing in his hometown, Alex Nedeljkovic made 18 saves to earn his third victory in his last four starts.
Smallman extended his career-long point streak to five games (2g, 3a) by opening the scoring just 2:07 into the contest. Prior to the streak, the third-year forward, who started the campaign late while recovering from an injury suffered last season, had not recorded a point in his first 14 games.
After Cleveland tied the game on a power play near the end of the first period, Gauthier scored for the fifth time in his last four games on the doorstep during a power play early in the second. That goal would hold up as the winner as Cleveland was unable to answer back and the Checkers scored three times in the third.
Claesson’s goal early in the final frame provided valuable insurance, while McCormick and Forsling scored 10 seconds apart late in the game – the first with an empty net and the second after Cleveland’s Matiss Kivlenieks had returned to his crease.
Charlotte will now attempt its first three-game win streak of the season in Monday’s rematch.