The Charlotte Hounds defeated the Hamilton Nationals 14-11 to clinch their spot in Championship Weekend presented by Smartlink. The Hounds now boast the best record in club history at 7-6, while the Nationals are 9-4.
Charlotte captain Matt Danowski led the Hounds to the playoffs and was named Player of the Game. Danowski has six goals in the game, including his fifth two-point goal of the season. Danowski is now tied for the most two-point goals in the League.
The Nationals jumped out to a 5-1 lead after Kevin Crowley opened up the scoring with his second two-point goal of the season. The Hounds responded with a diving goal from Ryan Young before a two-pointer from Rookie Garrett Thul and a goal from Joe Walters gave Hamilton the four-goal lead. Matt Danowski notched his first of three in the first quarter but a goal from Kevin Cunningham off an assist from Roman Lao-Gosney restored the Nationals’ lead. Charlotte recorded back-to-back goals within a minute of each other from Danowski and Rookie Matt White cut the Charlotte deficit to 6-4. Crowley scored his second goal of the game off of a Walters assist, but a two-pointer from Danowski and a goal from Jake Tripucka with 18 seconds remaining in the first quarter tied the game up at seven.
In a much less eventful second quarter, Charlotte took its first lead of the game with Danowski’s fourth goal which came with just over eight minutes remaining in the half. Hamilton regained the lead with its third two-pointer of the game from Martin Cahill off of a Crowley assist. Danowski tied the game up at nine with 1:17 left in the quarter to keep the game even going into halftime.
Stephen Keogh gave Hamilton a 10-9 lead with a goal 35 seconds into the second half, but a three-goal run from Charlotte earned a 12-10 lead going into the final frame of action. Tripucka started the Hounds’ run with an unassisted goal and his second of the night. Young also recorded his second of the game in the third quarter. Danowski gave Charlotte the two-goal lead with his sixth of the night, which dribbled past Hamilton goalie Brett Queener with 2:42 left in the quarter.
The Hounds continued their run in the fourth quarter as Tripucka completed his hat trick. Crowley responded less than a minute later to complete a hat trick of his own off of an assist from Roman Lao-Gosney. An unassisted goal from Young sealed the Hounds’ fate and extended their lead to 14-11 with 2:36 left in the game.
Key saves late in the game from Adam Ghitelman helped to secure Charlotte’s playoff spot. Seven of Ghitelman’s 13 saves came in the fourth quarter. Queener was solid between the pipes for the Nationals, but his 17 saves were not enough to earn the victory.
In his first game of the season, Geoff Snider picked up five ground balls and won eight of the 17 faceoffs he took for Charlotte. Mike Poppleton took all 25 faceoffs for the Nationals and won 12. Tim Fallon also won five faceoffs for the Hounds.
In the final week of the regular season, the Nationals will face Denver at home on CBS Sports Network at 3 p.m. Charlotte will square off with the Bayhawks in Annapolis on ESPN3 at 7 p.m.
· The Hounds boast a winning record for the first time in club history
· Danowski ties his season high for points in a game with seven
· Danowski is tied for first in the League with 5 two-point goals
· Crowley improves his franchise-best 28-game point streak
· Cunningham records a franchise record for consecutive games with an assist with nine
· Crowley is tied for first in the League with 49 points and 35 goals
· Walters remains first in the League with 24 assists; Cunningham is second with 24