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Justin MacDonald scored a hat trick, Cam Hough added two goals and the Knoxville Ice Bears held off the Peoria Rivermen 6-4 Friday night at the Peoria Civic Center.
Colton Fletcher also scored for Knoxville, which has won two straight. Kyler Matthews had three assists and Bailey MacBurnie made 37 saves.
MacDonald opened the scoring for the Ice Bears with a goal at 3:53 of the first. A shot from the right point by Matthews ricocheted behind the Peoria net. MacDonald picked up the puck, skated out to the left side of the crease and lifted a backhanded shovel shot beat Ben Churchfield to the short-side post.
Hough added to Knoxville’s lead with a wrist shot from the right side at 6:16. Rex Moe worked the puck to Hough in transition. Hough carried the puck into the zone and fired a snipe from atop the right circle that zipped by Churchfield’s blocker and ended the goalie’s night after the first two shots he faced. Churchfield was replaced by Eric Levine.
MacDonald made it 3-0 on the power play with a shot from the high slot. MacDonald lifted the puck towards the net through heavy traffic in front and his shot found the top shelf of the net at 10:32.
Caden Cahill scored with a wrist shot from the left circle to get Peoria on the board before the first intermission.
Zach Wilkie cut Knoxville’s lead to one with a goal from the top of the zone at 10:45 of the second. Wilkie held the puck in front of the blue line, pump faked and fired a shot through a screen that beat MacBurnie’s right pad.
Colton Fletcher made it 4-2 for the Ice Bears when he found the upper left corner of the net at 13:14. After Peoria failed to clear a rebound in front of the crease, Fletcher regained possession of the puck, fought off a hook and turned and released a wrist shot over Levine for his first goal this season with Knoxville.
Peoria scored with one second remaining in the middle frame when Jordan Ernst hammered a loose puck in front of the crease on net. JM Piotrowski one the puck behind the net and attempted to slip it out in front. The pass was deflected and came right to Ernst, who scored right before the intermission to make it 4-3 heading into the dressing room.
Hough put Knoxville ahead by two again with his second of the night at 3:29 of the third. Hough gained possession in the neutral zone, carried up the right side and fired a wrist shot from a similar spot on the ice as his first goal to get the puck under Levine to make it 5-3.
Braydon Barker scored on a wraparound with less than five minutes to play to make it a one-goal game again. Barker made a move around Ryan Devine in the right circle, went behind the net and beat MacBurnie to the opposite post.
With Marcel Godbout and Bailey Conger both sent to the box for offsetting slashing minors, Alec Hagaman was called for high-sticking moments later. Peoria pulled Levine to get back at even strength on Knoxville’s ensuing power play, but a pass to the right side of the Knoxville zone came free when Wilkie slipped and fell. Dino Balsamo stole the puck as the Ice Bears were skating free on the empty net. Balsamo slid the puck to MacDonald to allow Knoxville’s captain to complete the hat trick with 44 seconds remaining. Levine finished with 22 saves.
The two teams will play again for the second of a three-game weekend Saturday night at the Peoria Civic Center.
ABOUT The Knoxville Ice Bears: The Knoxville Ice Bears organization began in 2002 and was an inaugural charter member of the Southern Professional Hockey League (SPHL) in 2004. As four-time SPHL Champions and five-time regular season champions, the Ice Bears are an experienced and established organization, offering the city and its visitors a balanced product of highlight-reel hockey, unique and exciting intermission activity and endless fan interaction, presenting the most affordable, family-friendly way to enjoy sports and entertainment. Season, Partial Season and Flex Tickets are now on sale. For more information, visit www.knoxvilleicebears.com or call (865) 525-7825.