Charlotte Checkers coach Jeff Daniels has been a creature of habit all season.
One of those habits is a bit strange.
After nearly every Charlotte loss, as he answers questions to reporters about the game, Daniels plays with change in his left pocket.
If you turn up the volume on any postgame audio, you can – with remarkable accuracy – tell if it was a win or loss simply by the sound of quarters, nickels and dimes bouncing off one and other.
Following Charlotte’s 7-1 loss to the Western Division-leading Texas Stars in front of a sellout crowd of 8,102 at Time Warner Cable Arena on Friday, Daniels had change rattling in both his pockets.
“I thought we came out and had a couple of good chances,” said Daniels, whose team dropped to 17-19-1 on the season. “Their goalie made some big saves. Then we gave up the one, then the two. Then, we showed them too much respect. We stopped moving and when you stop skating against a team like that it is bad news.”
The Stars (25-10-5), who entered Friday night as the top scoring team in the American Hockey League (averaging 3.64 goals a game), handed the Checkers their second-most-lopsided home defeat of the season.
Texas center Travis Morin, who entered the game leading the league with 50 points (23g, 27a), added five more points to his season total with a goal and four assists.
Morin’s teammate, Colton Sceviour, who entered the game tied with him for the team lead in goals (23), netted two more to go along with an assist.
Aaron Palushaj scored the lone goal for the Checkers in the second period to make the score 4-1.
Mike Murphy got the call in net for the Checkers and probably went home wishing he hadn’t after allowing six goals on 22 shots. John Muse entered late in the second period and stopped four of the five shots he faced.
After outshooting the Stars 14-6 through 10 minutes of play, things began to go against the Checkers.
After the Stars pulled ahead 1-0, an A.J. Jenks interference call led to a Sceviour power play goal and a little over two minutes later, Morin made the score 3-0.
Clearly frustrated with his team’s play, Matt Corrente triedto pick a fight with a minute remaining in the first, but was instead hit with two minutes for roughing and two more for a cross-check.
The resulting time in the box killed any chance of the Checkers coming out with momentum in the second. And moments after they had killed off Corrente’s penalties, a turnover in their own zone led to a Justin Dowling goal and a 4-0 lead for the Stars.
The Checkers were penalized three times in the second period, and ultimately wound up allowing four more goals.
After entering the game with the league’s top power play, the Stars finished the night three-for-six on the man advantage.
“It was disappointing for sure,” said Palushaj. “I thought we were going to come out and play a little better. I thought the first five-six minutes of the game went really well. We had the puck in their zone, we rolled out lines, and then a couple penalties really hurt us.
“We’ve got to stay out of the box,” he continued. “Obviously, you could tell how good their power play is and we shot ourselves in the foot there.”
Thanks to a double-header at Time Warner Cable Arena tomorrow with both the Checkers and Bobcats scheduled to play, Charlotte will host the Stars again at 12 p.m. on Saturday.
“They scored a few and it kind of took the wind out of our sales and then we never really got back to our game after that,” said Checkers captain Brett Sutter. “We get a chance to play them again in half a day. We have enough time to go home, look ourselves in the mirror and come ready tomorrow.”
If you want to know how the rematch turns out, a close listen to Daniel’s postgame audio will tell you all you need to know.