Rosemont, Ill. — The Chicago Wolves tied their season-high with 39 shots Wednesday night, but Peoria earned the 3-1 victory in a Midwest Division showdown at Allstate Arena.
Mark Mancari’s team-high 26th goal served as the Wolves lone tally. Eddie Lack stopped 23 of 25 shots for the Wolves (33-24-2-3), who wore their commemorative St. Patrick’s Day jerseys for the first of three games this month. The jerseys raise thousands of dollars each year for Easter Seals via raffle, silent auction and blind auction.
“I thought we played a real solid game tonight,” said Wolves head coach Craig MacTavish. “Everyone laid it on the line tonight, but sometimes you don’t always get what you deserve in the game. We just have to persevere through it.”
Peoria (35-26-2-1) vaulted over Charlotte for first place in the AHL’s Midwest Division, though the Checkers hold three games in hand. The Rivermen also claimed the inaugural Illinois Lottery Cup trophy by virtue of winning 12 of their 20 games against the Wolves and the Rockfod IceHogs.
Peoria opened the scoring at 15:01 of the first period as a Chicago turnover in its end left Peoria forward Patrick O’Sullivan with the puck in the slot. As O’Sullivan edged closer to Lack with two defensemen in pursuit, he passed it back to Jonathan Cheechoo in the right circle for a better angle and an open shot. Cheechoo’s wrister gave the Rivermen a 1-0 lead even though the Wolves owned a 17-2 lead in shots.
The Wolves pulled even at 7:06 of the second period as Mancari tipped Mark Matheson’s blast from the right point past Peoria goaltender Jake Allen. Byron Bitz also picked up an assist.
Peoria responded less than three minutes later with a tipped goal of its own. Defenseman Brennan Evans launched a wrister from the left point. Rivermen captain Adam Cracknell, standing directly in front of Lack, redirected the puck for his 20th goal of the year.
The Rivermen clinched the victory with 1:01 left in the game when the Wolves turned it over at the blue line and Peoria’s T.J. Hensick flipped in an empty-net goal. Allen (10-14-1) earned the win with 38 saves.
The Wolves hit the road to face Lake Erie at 6:30 p.m. Friday. They return to Allstate Arena on Saturday, March 24, against Hamilton. For ticket information, visit chicagowolves.com or call 1-800-THE-WOLVES.
Peoria 1 1 1 — 3
Chicago 0 1 0 — 1
First Period—1, Peoria, Cheechoo 19 (O’Sullivan), 15:01. Penalties—Cundari, Peoria (cross-checking), 6:34.
Second Period—2, Chicago, Mancari 26 (Matheson, Bitz), 7:06; 3, Peoria, Cracknell 20 (Evans, Syvret), 9:38. Penalties—Grachev, Peoria (tripping), 1:37; Duco, Chicago (hooking), 1:40; Sauve, Chicago (fighting), 4:34; McRae, Peoria (fighting), 4:34; Grachev, Peoria (interference), 12:36; Gordon, Chicago (tripping), 19:07.
Third Period—3, Peoria, Hensick 20 (Nesbitt), 18:59 en. Penalties—O’Sullivan, Peoria (cross-checking), 9:27; Roussel, Chicago (diving), 9:27.
Shots on goal—Peoria: 3-12-11—26; Chicago: 18-15-6—39. Power plays—Peoria 0-2; Chicago 0-3. Goalies—Peoria, Allen (38-39), Chicago, Lack (23-25). A—4,618. Referees—Jarrod Ragusin and Jean Herbert. Linesmen—Mathieu Chenier and Aaron Mills.