CHICAGO 9, TORONTO 3
Veteran forward Nigel Dawes scored twice as part of a five-goal second period for Chicago and finished with four goals in all as the Wolves steamrolled past visiting Toronto to the tune of a 9-3 final on Wednesday at Allstate Arena.
Dawes, who had gone his previous four games without finding the back of the net, snapped out of that slump in a big way and now leads Chicago with 18 tallies (18-12-30) in 34 games on the season.
Chicago forward Riley Holzapfel halted a 27-game goal-scoring drought with a pair of markers in the victory, scoring for the first time since a 4-3 loss to Texas back on Oct. 28.
Jason Krog, Andrew Kozek, and rookie Ryan Garbutt also lit the lamp for the Wolves, who topped the eight goals they scored in a 10-8 loss to Grand Rapids on Nov. 27 and produced their greatest offensive output since a 10-2 win over the Iowa Stars on Dec. 15, 2007.
Darren Haydar (0-3-3), Mark Matheson (0-3-3), and ex-Marlies defenseman Jaime Sifers (0-2-2) all finished with multiple assists on the night, and Wolves goaltender Drew MacIntyre made 32 saves between the pipes.
Chicago improved to 5-1-0-0 in its last six games as it opened up a season-high seven-game homestand.
PEORIA 7, SAN ANTONIO 4
Derek Nesbitt erupted for four goals and added an assist for a five-point night to propel Peoria to a 7-4 win over visiting San Antonio in a clash of West Division titans at Carver Arena on Wednesday.
With their third straight victory, the Rivermen (23-10-2-1) moved into sole possession of first place in the West, two points up on the Rampage (23-13-1-0), who have now lost four straight.
Nesbitt, who began the season in the ECHL, has now racked up a team-high 13 goals to go along with six assists in just 21 games since joining the Rivermen. He is well on pace to surpassing the career-best 17 goals he scored as an AHL rookie for Rockford in 2007-08.
Nesbitt scored twice on the power play and twice at even strength in this one. Defenseman Nathan Oystrick put up a goal and two helpers in the victory, and the Rivermen also got scores from Tyler Shattock and Stefan Della Rovere.
T.J. Hensick (0-3-3), Graham Mink (0-2-2), and rookie defenseman Nikita Nikitin (0-2-2) all finished with multiple assists for Peoria, and goaltender Jake Allen emerged with the win after making 24 saves in net.
Petr Prucha (1-1-2), Brett MacLean (1-1-2), Garrett Stafford (1-1-2), and Bracken Kearns tallied goals for the Rampage, who are on their longest losing skid since an 0-4-0-0 slide from Feb. 17-21, 2010.
ADIRONDACK 3, ALBANY 2 (SO)
Adirondack continued its recent surge with a 3-2 shootout win over host Albany on Wednesday at the Times Union Center.
The Phantoms, who were once 4-23-2-0 on the year, extended their season-high winning streak to four games and moved to 7-2-0-0 in their last nine games. Adirondack is now just five points back of Albany in its effort to climb out of the East Division cellar.
Ryan scored both Adirondack goals in regulation, including the game-tying marker with 4:55 gone in the third period. Phantoms goaltender Brian Stewart stopped 26 of 28 shots in regular time before making four more saves in the shootout.
Stephen Gionta scored twice in regulation for the Devils, who dipped to 1-3-0-3 in their last seven outings.
PORTLAND 5, BRIDGEPORT 3
Justin Bowers and two-time AHL All-Star Mark Mancari each recorded a goal and an assist to lead Portland to a 5-3 road win over Bridgeport at the Arena at Harbor Yard on Wednesday.
It marked the first win by a road team thus far in the six games between the Pirates and Sound Tigers.
Portland goaltender Jhonas Enroth turned aside 32 of 35 shots in net to help the Pirates halt a three-game losing skid (0-1-2-0).
Brandon Svendsen (1-1-2), captain Mark Wotton, and 2010 AHL All-Star defenseman Mark Katic all scored for the Sound Tigers, who have now dropped back-to-back games in regulation for the first time since a three-game skid from Nov. 7-12.
WILKES-BARRE/SCRANTON 3, CHARLOTTE 2 (SO)
Wilkes-Barre/Scranton went a perfect 3-for-3 in the shootout and edged host Charlotte by a 3-2 count at Time Warner Cable Arena, earning a two-game sweep of its visit to North Carolina.
Penguins forwards Dustin Jeffrey, Nick Johnson, and Brett Sterling all beat Charlotte goaltender Justin Pogge in the shootout, sending Wilkes-Barre to its third straight win and league-leading 28th overall (28-8-0-0).
Chris Collins registered a goal and an assist in regulation and captain Ryan Craig also scored for the Penguins. Goaltender Brad Thiessen (16-3-0) made 23 saves through the first 65 minutes before denying three of Charlotte’s four shootout bids.
Charlotte, which dropped a 5-2 decision to Wilkes-Barre on Tuesday, has now gone consecutive games without a victory for the first time since falling to Manchester and Binghamton on Oct. 24 and 29.
GRAND RAPIDS 3, HAMILTON 2
Grand Rapids tallied a goal in each period and edged visiting Hamilton by a 3-2 count at Van Andel Arena on Wednesday in the first meeting between the North Division rivals since Nov. 14.
Rankin’s tally at 8:22 broke a 2-2 tie and proved to be the game-winner, as Grand Rapids jumped back over idle Rochester and into fourth place in the North Division race, one point up on the Amerks.
CONNECTICUT 2, WORCESTER 0
Tim Kennedy stayed red-hot with the game-winning goal and an assist in the third period as Connecticut broke through for a 2-0 road win over Worcester on Wednesday at the DCU Center.
The teams played to a scoreless tie deep into the third period before Kennedy beat Sharks goaltender Alex Stalock on the power play with 5:38 left in regulation.
It marked the fourth goal – and third game-winner – in his last four games for Kennedy, a former AHL All-Rookie forward who shows eight goals and 26 points in 33 outings for the season.
Evgeny Grachev provided insurance for the Whale less than three minutes after Kennedy’s marker, scoring shorthanded for his sixth goal of the season. Kennedy picked up the lone helper.
Connecticut goaltender Chad Johnson stopped all 27 shots he faced to secure his second shutout of the year and move above .500 at 13-12-3.
Worcester, which was blanked for the first time since a 2-0 loss to Wilkes-Barre/Scranton on Nov. 13, fell to 2-5-1-0 in its last eight contests.