Tonight, a tinier than usual crowd for the Cedar Park Center was witness to Brent Krahn's first victory since mid-November. Krahn stopped 29 of 31 shots for his 11th win of the year, putting him at 11-2-0-0 with a 1.46 GAA and a .956 SV%. Texas closed out their home series with the Rivermen at an even 2-2.
Peoria opened the scoring at 9:11 of the first with a shot from Justin Fletcher that was wired to the top right corner of the net. Krahn put up his glove, but it was too late and Peoria took the early 1-0 lead.
As I mentioned in the preview, Peoria is deadly on the road power play, clicking at 22.4% coming into the contest. Texas loaded the gun too many times in the game by taking penalties. Peoria had seven PP opportunities in the game. However, Texas turned the tables at 17:09 of the first when Dan Jancevski's homerun pass found Colton Sceviour who put one past Joe Fallon on the backhand five-hole for a shortie. It was Peoria's first shorthanded goal against on the road and Texas's first shorthanded goal for at home. We would go to the break tied 1-1.
Texas and Peoria traded power play goals in the second period; Peoria went first. On a tripping minor by Trevor Ludwig, Pascal Pelletier put home a rebound off Brent Krahn from close range to make it 2-1. Dan Jancevski had a chance to stop the chance or at least impede it but did nothing. Despite the assist, I don't think it was a strong game for him.
Texas took their shot next. Maxime Fortunus had a fancy keep up at the left wing blue line and Francis Wathier simply lifted a puck from behind the net on his backhand. The puck ended up hitting Joe Fallon on the right shoulder blade and bounding into the net. You'll take a goal anyway it comes. Texas was 1/4 on the PP on the night while Peoria was 1/7.
In the final minutes of the second, Brent Krahn went all "Marty Turco" on Peoria and skated out of his net to reach a puck nearly at the blue line and perform a sliding poke check to deny a 1-on-1 chance for the oncoming Riverman. You could almost hear the collective gasp in the building as we waited to see the outcome of the gamble. It paid off, for the record. No chance.
Texas scored the final goal of the night five minutes into the third. Andrew Hutchinson collected a puck coming by the penalty box as he exited at the end of his minor for slashing. After his initial shot, Aaron Gagnon stayed at the net and collected a rebound off Fallon on the left side of the net for his 18th of the year.
The only other item of note was in the final 3 minutes of the game. Ray Sawada laid a punishing hit on Jonas Junland that had him laid out in the Texas zone for several minutes. On the replay it appeared that Sawada had made contact with Junland's head, but it was difficult to tell because only one angle was shown. I would watch for an announcement on a suspension tomorrow. I'm not saying I completely expected one 100%; I just think it's a strong possibility. This is the sort of thing that the AHL has been much more consistent on than the NHL.
Texas, Milwaukee, and Peoria were the only team in action tonight in the West Division. All other teams are idle until at least Friday. Milwaukee won against Lake Erie but still stayed behind Texas. Texas still has three games in hand over Rockford and is on a points pace to surpass the IceHogs and gain home-ice advantage in the playoffs. Peoria will need to play better than 90% hockey to keep pace with Milwaukee for spot #4. San Antonio has to be better than 92% (26 of 28 remaining points) and Houston must beat nearly 97% (29 of 30 remaining points).
Elsewhere in the league, Hamilton can become the second team to clinch a playoff berth and the first from the West Conference with a win on a Lake Erie loss on Friday. Full playoff predictions, including elimination numbers for every team, are at the playoff projections page.
Various combinations of:
Injuries, scratches, and notes:
Wilson, Tousignant, and Gazdic (scratched)
I know: the lineup is weird tonight. The Stars only dressed 11 forwards. They did however dress 7 defensemen. The 7th, Ethan Graham, didn't even sniff the ice in the game. My guess is that they were unsure of Garrett Stafford's status and decided to play it safe and dress the extra D. Now, why Landon Wilson was the scratch is a whole other matter...
Tonight's attendance was 3,909.
AHL Gamesheet - Texas v. Peoria - March 10 2010