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Max McCormick scored a hat trick for the visitors on Saturday as the Bridgeport Sound Tigers (13-22-4-1), American Hockey League affiliate of the New York Islanders, suffered a 5-2 loss to the Charlotte Checkers (20-14-3-0) in front of 4,167 fans at Webster Bank Arena.
Matt Lorito and Ryan Bourque each capitalized on Military Appreciation Weekend, but the Checkers recorded four unanswered goals to end the contest. Three of those goals came in the third period after the game was deadlocked at 2-2 following 40 minutes of play.
Just 1:07 seconds into the game, Fredrik Claesson guided a strange shot towards the net from the left wing, which found its way inside the near post past Jakub Skarek. Mike Cornell defended well in front of his goaltender, which inadvertently created a screen, and the puck took an unfortunate bounce off of his jersey.
However, former Sound Tigers forward Colin Markison was called for hooking at the 5:40 mark and on the ensuing power play, Bridgeport answered quickly. Lorito camped out in the right circle and blasted a one-timer following Oliver Wahlstrom’s cross-ice feed. It was the first blemish for defending AHL Most Outstanding Goalie, Alex Nedeljkovic. The tally was Lorito’s eighth of the season and his second on the power play, at 6:03.
Less than two minutes later, an active stick and takeaway led to a two-on-one rush for another Sound Tigers’ goal. Bourque buried a back-door pass in transition from former Checker Nick Schilkey to give Bridgeport a 2-1 advantage. It was Bourque’s third goal of the season and first since October 19.
The Checkers came back to tie it with a power-play tally of their own at 11:39 of the first period, with Bode Wilde in the box for cross-checking. McCormick filtered a shot towards Skarek and pushed it just past his pads to tie it at 2-2.
The second period went by quietly with no goals. Both sides had their chances on the power play and even shorthanded, as Skarek at one point made a critical save on Markison’s breakaway. The Checkers were also held without a shot for nearly the entire second half of the frame.
Colin McDonald was penalized for interference late in the second period and Charlotte scored the eventual game-winner at 1:14 of the third, on that same power play. Morgan Geekie wound up and hammered a slap shot at Skarek from the high slot, which forced a juicy rebound to the doorstep. Eetu Luostarinen collected it above the crease and scored his sixth goal of the season to make it 3-2.
With less than 2:30 left in regulation, McCormick netted two more goals to complete his hat trick and send Charlotte to its seventh win in the last eight games. He scored his 11th of the season at the 17:38 mark and added an empty-netter at 19:10.
The Sound Tigers finished the game 1-for-4 on the power play and 2-for-4 on the kill. Skarek (3-8-1) made 22 saves for Bridgeport, while Nedeljkovic (10-8-1) had 23 saves for Charlotte.
The Checkers outshot the Sound Tigers 27-25. It was Bridgeport’s seventh straight loss (0-6-1-0).