Game 6: Mississippi RiverKings (4-1-0) vs. Columbus Cottonmouths (0-3-1)
7:05 p.m., Landers Center, Southaven, Mississippi
The Mississippi RiverKings conclude their three-game homestand as they face the Columbus Cottonmouths for the second time in a week. It’s the second of just four head-to-head matches between the teams this season, after the RiverKings won the first one, 6-3, Oct. 30 in Columbus.
The Cottonmouths have been off all week and haven’t played since losing to the Macon Mayhem, 4-0, on Halloween in Macon. That came after losing, 6-3, to the RiverKings in Columbus the night before. The Cottonmouths are still searching for their first win of the season. This is their only game of the week and they return to action on Tuesday morning with a home game against Macon in their version of the Face Off Field Trip.
The RiverKings opened up the week with a 2-1 win over the Peoria Rivermen Tuesday night then outlasted the Macon Mayhem, 4-3, in overtime last night for their fourth straight win to improve to 4-1-0 on the season. Their eight points on the season have them in first place.
The RiverKings hold their annual Military Night tonight presented by Belhaven University. The RiverKings will wear their special military-inspired camouflage jerseys during the game. After the game, those jerseys will be auctioned live near the bottom of Section 103 with the proceeds benefiting the RiverKings ReachOut Fund.
RiverKings Pregame at 7:00 p.m.
Radio: Stretch Internet Radio
Streaming: Pay-to-watch video on SPHL Live
Last time out
The RiverKings scored 1:10 into sudden death overtime to defeat the Macon Mayhem, 4-3, last night and earn their fourth consecutive victory.
The RiverKings hopped out to a 2-0 lead in the first period on the strength of two goals from Leo Thomas, one coming at 5:47 and the other at 16:11. Macon pulled within one early in the second, but Thomas completed a hat trick at 9:16 of the second to take a 3-1 lead. The Mayhem made it 3-2 heading to the third on a late goal by Daniel Gentzler.
The Mayhem forced overtime by getting a goal from Lucas LaBelle with under six minutes left in regulation. In overtime, Ryan Marcuz converted on a rebound in the crease to give the RiverKings the 4-3 overtime win, their second win of the season over the Mayhem. Matt Grogan made 24 saves for his second win of the season.
Scouting the Cottonmouths
The Cottonmouths enter the week searching for their first win of the season, having lost their first four (0-3-1) to began the year. They lost a pair of games last week, 6-3 to the RiverKings and 4-0 against the Macon Mayhem and are being outscored 18-8 through four games. At 0-3-1 they have one point, which puts them in ninth place in the SPHL. Last year Columbus opened the season with seven straight regulation losses before reeling off 10 straight wins.
Louis Belisle, who scored a goal against the RiverKings last week, is the team’s leading scorer with four points (2g, 2a) in four games. Chris Rial (2g, 1a), Tyler Henry (2g, 1a) and Andy Bathgate (3a) are all next with three points each. Rial also had a goal against the RiverKings last week while Bathgate assisted on all three goals against the RiverKings.
In net, the Cottonmouths have alternated their goalie in all four games, with Shannon Szabados playing in two of the four games so far. She is 0-1-1 for Columbus with a 4.32 goals-against average and an .898 save percentage. She allowed six goals on 38 shots against the RiverKings last week. Columbus released their opening night backup goalie after his one start and currently their second goalie is Brandon Jaeger, who also has one start for the Cottonmouths. He allowed four goals in last week’s loss to Macon.
The RiverKings and Cottonmouths square off four times in 2015-16, two coming at the Landers Center and two at the Columbus Civic Center. The RiverKings won the first match, 6-3, in Columbus on Oct. 30. They next play as part of the RiverKings Face Off Field Trip Dec. 8 and then conclude the season series in Columbus Feb. 14.
In the first match, Andy Bathgate, who played two games with the RiverKings to start last season, was the driving force offensively for the Cottonmouths. He led Columbus with assists on all three Cottonmouths goals to finish with a three-point night. The goal scorers that night for Columbus were Chris Rial (1g, 1a), Louis Belisle (1g, 1a) and Kyle Brodie (1g).
The RiverKings had five different goal scorers in the first meeting, with Mark Pustin scoring twice and Ryan Marcuz, Linden Bahm, Mike Grace and Dean Willmott all netting one to power to a 6-3 win. In addition to Pustin (2g) and Marcuz (1g, 1a), Devin Mantha (2a), Charlie Mosey (2a) and Matt Harrington (2a) all had multi-point games.
The goalie matchup in the first game was Peter Di Salvo vs. Shannon Szabados. Di Salvo picked up the win by allowed three goals on 38 shots while Szabados took the loss with six goals allowed on 38 shots.
Through the first four games of the season, Columbus is just 1-for-17 (5.9%) on the power play, which is seventh in the SPHL. Their lone power-play goal came against the RiverKings last week in Columbus, as the Cottonmouths went 1-for-3 in that game. They are 0-for-9 on the man advantage away from home.
The RiverKings power play is off to a hot start in 2015-16, scoring a power-play goal in three of the first five games. They are 3-for-20 (15.0%) on the man advantage through the first five games, after going 0-for-3 in last night’s win over Macon. They have the second-most power-play goals in the SPHL, one behind of Fayetteville’s four.
The Columbus penalty kill has allowed two goals in 11 shorthanded situations, making them 9-for-11 (81.8%) on the penalty kill thus far. That ranks eighth in the league, ahead of only Huntsville (81.3%). They have only been shorthanded four times in two road games, although they are just 3-for-4 on the kill on the road. The Cottonmouths were just 1-for-2 against the RiverKings last week.
The RiverKings have been shorthanded 21 times in five games this season and have only allowed one power-play goal, going 20-for-21 (95.2%) on the kill. That ranks second in the SPHL and first among teams that have allowed at least one power-play goal. The Ice Flyers are the only team ahead of them as they have successfully killed 18 straight power plays to begin the season.