Rivermen dominate Admirals, 5-2

PEORIA, Ill – Dominating. Gritty. Tough. All those describe the performance by the Peoria Rivermen and their goaltender, Mike McKenna, Friday night in front of 6659 fans at Peoria’s Carver Arena. The Rivermen took control of the momentum of the game early and held tough through a controversial official’s call, and then put the game out of reach, 5-2.
 
The Rivermen certainly dominated the first period, out-shooting the Admirals 18-5 and putting together chance after chance. It was an unlikely turnover, however, that led to the first goal.
 
Andrew Murray picked up an errant pass at the red line and skated down into the left face-off circle, where he ripped a shot from above the dot for an unassisted goal. The shot surprised Admirals goaltender Jeremy Smith glove side and low and the Rivermen took a 1-0 lead at 10:04 of the period.
 
The second period was exciting and played on both ends of the ice. It looked like the period may end without a goal when Michael Latta took a penalty with just seven seconds left to play. As play restarted, Mark Cundari wound up for a big slap shot just inside the blue line. The puck touched at least two defenders before Adam Cracknell reached out and tipped the puck around Smith and into the net for the 2-0 score with just 1.5 seconds remaining on the clock. Derek Nesbitt was credited with an assist, as well on the play.
What was a pretty tight, low scoring affair turned into a scoring frenzy with five goals and plenty of controversy in the third period.
The craziness started just 1:24 into the period when Milwaukee’s Taylor Beck took a shot that went high and hit the glass behind the net. The puck deflected back in front of the net, where, in mid-air, Austin Watson batted the puck into the net. Replays showed the puck to be above his shoulder as he was swinging, but the play was ruled a goal, cutting the Peoria lead in half, 2-1.
 
With Peoria’s Sergey Andronov lying in a pile with Smith, the red light flashing and the net off its’ moorings, another delay ensued at the 12:02 mark of the third period. After several minutes, the referee emerged from behind the scoring table and ruled “no goal” but did award Andronov a penalty shot.
 
Andronov moved the puck down the right side on his approach to the net and deked once on the right but Smith stayed with him. Andronov then drew across the goal mouth, faking Smith to the ice. Keeping control of the puck, Andronov kept moving to his left, finally lifting the puck up and over the prostrate goalie for a 3-1 Peoria lead.
 
This energized the Rivermen and Tyler Shattock and Evgeny Grachev both followed Andronov with goals, putting the game out of reach.
 
A goal in garbage time by Scott Valentine with just over a minute remaining was the only real blemish against Rivermen goaltender Mike McKenna. That concluded the scoring at 5-2, Peoria.
 
Each team had five opportunities at the power play, but only Peoria was able to tally, once, with the man advantage.
 
McKenna was stellar in goal, officially stopping 23 of 25 shots. Smith took the loss stopping 34 of 39 shots on goal.
 
Contact the Author at Shaun.Bill@ProHockeyNews.com
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