BY MIKE MASTOVICH
The Johnstown Chiefs played in front of their largest audience of the season on Friday night, then promptly dropped their biggest bomb in the third period.
Charlotte scored five consecutive goals, four in the decisive final 20 minutes of play, as the Chiefs fell 5-1 in front of 3,098 fans at Cambria County War Memorial Arena.
The Chiefs were shellshocked – and not only from the continuous blaring of horns tooted by enthusiastic members of a youth group 1,400 strong.
Charlotte (6-2-0) scored short-handed, at even strength, on the power play, and into an empty net. The Checkers added some painful variety to a one-sided rout that had been tied through 40 minutes.
“They just kept it simple,” said Chiefs veteran Randy Rowe after Johnstown lost at home for only the second time in six games. “I think we were trying to be a little too fancy at times. If we would have just dumped it in, chased it and kept the cycle going down low, I think we would have been better off. They knew they had a 12-hour ride home. They came down for one game and played a simple away game.”
Brandon Elliott put Johnstown on the right track by knocking his second goal of the season past former NHL goaltender Chris Holt 6:54 into the second.
“Zbynek Hrdel gave me an unbelievable pass in the slot and I just muscled it through,” said Elliott, who has two goals in the past four games.
Charlotte’s Bruce Graham scored shorthanded after Mark Lee stole the puck in the slot and passed to Graham, who had an open net at 13:15 of the second.
The Checkers poured it on in the third. Dusty Jamieson netted his ninth goal of the season on a power play at 5:48.
Lee scored at 12:49, and Graham struck with the man-advantage less than two minutes later. Chiefs coach Frank Anzalone pulled goaltender Gerald Coleman with 2:22 left, but Lee hit the empty net 20 seconds later.
“They didn’t do anything. We didn’t play our system properly and we tried to get a little too fancy,” Elliott said. “They outworked us. That team is not as good as our team.”
Chiefs forward Stanislav Lascek missed Friday’s game because of the flu.