Brett Sterling scored a hat trick and the game winning goal to give the Chicago Wolves a 4-3 overtime win over the Peoria Rivermen in play Thursday at the Allstate Arena. In addition, Atlanta Thrasher teammate Kari Lehtonen stopped 30 Rivermen shots on goal.
The game gives the Wolves 17 wins in the first 20 games, positioning the team for one of the best seasons the franchise has ever enjoyed. The team currently leads the American Hockey League with 35 points.
But all eyes were on the NHL teammates playing in Wolves colors, Lehtonen, assigned to the Wolves from the Atlanta Thrashers on a three game conditioning assignment picked up his second win of the year. His play, not as brilliant as on Tuesday, was on enough to beat out the Rivermen who were led by Kelly Cup winning goalie Chris Beckford-Tseu.
The game demonstrated the team aspect of the sport as Lehtonen pushed back a Rivermen overtime man advantage, but it required the brilliance of Sterling’s play to finally seal the victory for the Wolves.
Since being assigned to the Wolves by the Thrashers, Sterling has led the team in scoring, notching 11 goals and 18 points in just 12 games. Sterling’s totals have pushed the 2007 Rookie of the Year into 31st scoring place in the American League, despite playing only about 60 percent of the games of the other leaders.
Peoria is one of just three teams to have defeated the Wolves this season, the others being Milwaukee in an overtime win and San Antonio. Tied at the end of the first period, following goals by both teams separated by just seconds, Peoria took a one goal lead in the second period on a power play goal by Jean-Guy Trudel.
In the third period, Chicago came from behind to take the lead from Peoria on unanswered goals by Sterling and Steve Martins. However, Julian Talbot tied the game for the Rivermen with 20 seconds remaining in the game when Peoria pulled their goalie for a man advantage.
In the overtime period, Peoria was awarded a power play following a trip by Brian Sipotz at the team benches. The Rivermen were unable to convert the advantage, however. The final goal by Sterling was a feed from college teammate Joey Crabb and Karel Pilar to the near circle. Sterling’s previous hat trick was March 14, also at home in a 4-3 win against the Peoria Rivermen.
Peoria 1 1 1 0 -- 3
Chicago 1 0 2 1 -- 4
First Period---1, Chicago, Sterling 9 (Krog, Schultz), 6:14; 2, Peoria, Stastny 3 (Porter, DuPont), 6:22. Penalties---DuPont, Peoria (cross-checking), 16:11; Woywitka, Peoria (holding), 18:37.
Second Period---3, Peoria, Trudel 5 (Glumac, Drazenovic), 13:57 pp. Penalties--- MacKenzie, Peoria (holding), 7:59; Valabik, Chicago (interference), 13:15; Painchaud, Chicago (holding), 17:21; Drazenovic, Peoria (tripping), 18:47.
Third Period---4, Chicago, Sterling 10 (unassisted), 4:05; 5, Chicago, Martins 8 (unassisted), 8:03; 6, Peoria, Talbot 9 (Glenn, DuPont), 19:40. Penalties---Martins, Chicago (hooking), 11:13.
Overtime---7, Chicago, Sterling 11 (Crabb, Pilar), 4:31. Penalties---Sipotz, Chicago (tripping), 2:56.
Shots on goal---Peoria: 9-11-13--33. Chicago: 6-11-7-2--26. Power plays---Peoria: 1-4. Chicago: 0-4. Goalies---Peoria, Beckford-Tseu (22-26). Chicago, Lehtonen (30-33). A---3,405. Referee---Chris Ciamaga. Linesmen---Justin Lyle and Chris Allman.