Adam Cracknell scored twice in the first period and Jake Allen stopped all 18 shots he faced to power the Chicago Wolves to a 4-0 win over the Rochester Americans in Game 3 of the Western Conference Quarterfinals Thursday night at Allstate Arena. The win gives the Wolves a 2-1 lead in the best-of-five series as the Amerks enter Friday’s must-win Game 4 in pursuit of their first of two straight wins in order to stave off a first-round elimination.
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Cracknell, who was reassigned to Chicago from the parent St. Louis Blues on Wednesday, led the Wolves with a pair of goals while Keith Aucoin (1+1), Dmitrij Jaskin (0+2) and Brent Regner (0+2) each finished with two points apiece. Allen, the AHL’s reigning Goaltender of the Year, kept Rochester at bay for his first career playoff shutout and his eighth overall this season. Rookie forward Ty Rattie rounded out the scoring for the Wolves, whose special teams accounted for all four of their goals, including three on the power-play with the other coming while Chicago was shorthanded.
Defensemen Nick Petrecki and Rasmus Ristolainen each recorded a team-high three shots and rookie goaltender Andrey Makarov turned aside 26 shots in the loss.
With the series picking back up after a five-day layoff, there were few scoring chances early in the first period. The physical play ramped up in the latter stages of the opening frame, however, as Joel Armia and Joe Corvo dropped the gloves for a fight in the Chicago end.
Rochester came away with a power-play as Corvo received an extra two minutes for roughing. With the Rochester power-play unit working the puck around the offensive zone, a tricky bounce at the Amerks blueline led to a 2-on-1 opportunity for the Wolves as Aucoin streaked up the ice along the right wing boards with Cracknell to his left. Cracknell then cashed in on a perfect cross-ice pass from Aucoin for a shorthanded goal to stake his team to a 1-0 lead at the 14:08 mark of the period.
Later in the first period, Brayden Irwin was whistled for a delay of game penalty when an errant puck sailed over the glass. The Wolves capitalized just 37 seconds into the ensuing power-play when Cracknell scored his second goal of the period. Regner teed up a slap-shot from the left point and the puck deflected off Cracknell, who was stationed in front of the Rochester net, and made its way past Makarov for the goal, putting Chicago up by a pair heading into the first intermission.
There was no shortage of chances for either team during a scoreless second period, but both goaltenders turned aside everything sent their way. Makarov came up with a highlight reel save, diving across his crease from right to left to make a glove save.
Chicago went on the power-play early in the third period and was able to extend its lead to 3-0 just 2:16 into the frame. Aucoin, who was setup in the left face-off circle, was the beneficiary of a rebound off a shot by Regner. Makarov made the initial stop, but the puck bounced into the slot and Cracknell tipped it over to Aucoin, who had a wide-open net to shoot at and scored.
The Amerks appeared to immediately respond with a goal of their own when Alex Hutchings knocked in a puck out of mid-air, but the officials conferred with each other and ruled it was batted in with a high-stick.
A goal scored by Chicago later in the third was initially waved off by the referees when it appeared the puck was kicked in, but after a video review, the goal was allowed and the Wolves took a 4-0 lead. Rattie, who was stationed in front of the net, got a piece of a bouncing puck and just got it past Makarov, with the assists going to Jaskin and Corvo.
Game 4 in the best-of-five Western Conference Quarterfinal series between Rochester and Chicago will take place Friday, May 2 at Allstate Arena. The game will be televised in Rochester and Buffalo on Time Warner Cable SportsChannel, and will be broadcast on radio on WHAM 1180.