CHARLOTTE - Just moments after an inauspicious bounce spelled an overtime loss for the Charlotte Checkers in Game 1 of the Calder Cup Finals, they vowed that Game 2 would be different.
It wasn't as much a guarantee of victory as it was a guarantee of response. After all, the Checkers had not lost consecutive games since Feb. 9-10.
Consider the response delivered. The Checkers bounced back with a 5-3 win in Sunday's Game 2. Tomas Jurco's goal late in the second period was the difference-maker, and Dustin Tokarski improved to an unblemished 11-0-0 with the Checkers, while allowing just 13 total goals in that stretch.
"I think we were a little harder to play against. We worked really hard," Jurco said. "Today, it went our way, and we're happy."
"[Game 1] wasn't a bad game, so I wasn't worried about a repeat. We played well. We just didn't get a break," head coach Mike Vellucci said. "Our guys are focused. They want to be here."
If Game 1 was about learning from mistakes in the finer details of a Finals series, Game 2 was about applying those lessons in search of a different result to even up the best-of-seven slate before it shifts to Chicago for three games.
The two games followed somewhat similar scripts, especially through the first 40 minutes. The Checkers scored early - Nick Schilkey took a silky pass from Zach Nastasiuk and buried his breakaway shot for the shorthanded tally - and the Wolves answered back just 57 seconds later.
The Checkers built a 3-1 advantage in the second period with two goals in 14 seconds, the first from Nicolas Roy, a net-front redirection of Haydn Fleury's shot from the point, and then from Stelio Mattheos, who weaved his way around a stick-less defender to beat Oscar Dansk with a shot from in between the circles.
Unfortunately for the Checkers, that 3-1 advantage was nullified in the second period just as it was the night prior, as Gage Quinney netted a pair of goals.
But, fortunately for the Checkers, that's as far as history would repeat itself.
"It took us a couple of shifts, but we were right back at it," Jurco said. "We did a really good job to stay in the game. That was the key."
It was Jurco who scored the go-ahead goal with 67 seconds left in the second period, as he slipped a one-time feed from Martin Necas just through Dansk and over the goal line.
"He found me open, and luckily it went in," said Jurco, who, as the goal was signaled, threw his hands up in celebration before being mobbed by Necas and his teammates. "It was a relief. I've had many chances the last couple of games and I couldn't score, so that one felt really good."
The Checkers clamped down and limited the Wolves to just four shots on goal in the third period. Andrew Poturalski banged the puck into an empty net in the final minute to seal the Game 2 victory for the Checkers, who improved to an astounding 47-0-0 when leading after two periods this season.
"It was big to get a lead, and then we were able to hold it. I thought we really tightened it up in the third," Vellucci said. "We played much more disciplined defensively."
Lessons learned. Response delivered. Now, it's on to Chicago for the next three games of the Calder Cup Finals on June 5, 6 and 8, respectively.
"It's a best-of-five now. We're going on the road, but we've done well on the road this postseason," Mattheos said. "We hope to get the next one."
If necessary, Charlotte will host Game 6 on Thursday, June 13, and Game 7 on Friday, June 14. Bojangles' Coliseum was packed with 17,023 total fans for Games 1 and 2, two of the three biggest crowds in the building's history.
"I couldn't be more proud of Charlotte and our fans. They really came to support. They were loud. It was awesome," Vellucci said. "I'm very proud to be able to coach a team in Charlotte."