Game 4: Mississippi RiverKings (2-1-0) vs. Peoria Rivermen (1-1-0)
7:05 p.m., Landers Center, Southaven, Mississippi
The Mississippi RiverKings return to the Landers Center after two road wins to take on the Peoria Rivermen for the first time this season.
The Rivermen, who won the regular season points championship in 2014-15, have only played two games so far this season. Peoria opened the season who two games against the Pensacola Ice Flyers, but have been off for the last nine days. The Rivermen split those two games with the Ice Flyers Oct. 23-24 and are 1-1-0 on the young season. Tonight is the start of a busy week for the Rivermen, who begin a three-in-three in Louisiana on Thursday.
The RiverKings were shut out in their season opener, but have won the last two games, scoring 10 goals in those two games. They beat Macon, 4-1, Oct. 24 and Columbus, 6-3, last Friday, Oct. 30 in their only game last week. The RiverKings are 2-1-0 this season and their four points are tied for the most in the league. After tonight, the RiverKings host Macon on Friday as they retire Head Coach Derek Landmesser’s #55 jersey and then Columbus on Saturday for Military Night.
RiverKings Pregame at 7:00 p.m.
Radio: Stretch Internet Radio
Streaming: Pay-to-watch video on SPHL Live
Blue line production
After being shut out in the season opener against Louisiana, the RiverKings offense has come to life over the last two games, scoring 10 goals in a pair of wins over Macon and Columbus. The offense has been aided by production from the RiverKings defensemen in those two games.
In their win over Macon on Oct. 24, Reid Campbell scored the eventual game-winning goal, his first goal of the season. He had two goals in 45 games in 2014-15. In Friday’s win over Columbus, the RiverKings got goals from defensemen Mike Grace and Dean Willmott. Grace matched his goal total from all of last season with his first goal of the season, while Willmott is in his first season with the RiverKings. The defensemen has accounted for three of the 10 goals (30.0%) for the RiverKings in the first two weeks of the season. That puts them well ahead of the goal-scoring pace from the blue line last year, as the defensemen scored 22 of the team’s 169 goals (13.0%) last year.
Scouting the Rivermen
The Rivermen have played only two games through the first two weeks of the season, and they have not played since Oct. 24. The Rivermen split two games with Pensacola to open the season in Peoria Oct. 23-24, opening with a 3-1 loss, but rebounding for a 4-0 win the next night. At 1-1-0 they have two points, which puts them in seventh place in the SPHL.
A trio of Rivermen lead the team with two points each through two games. Tim Hall (2g) is the only player with more than one goal for the Rivermen. Dan Bremner (1g, 1a) and Mike Gurtler (1g, 1a) also have two points. Bremner, named Peoria’s captain this season, has been suspended for three games by the SPHL for a hit in the Rivermen’s Oct. 24 game and he will miss Tuesday’s game against the RiverKings.
In net, the Rivermen have two-time reigning SPHL Goaltender of the Year award winner Kyle Rank, who played in one of the team’s first two games. He allowed two goals on 29 shots and suffered the loss in the season opener against the Ice Flyers. Chris Rawlings, who made 30 saves for a shutout win in his first start on Oct. 24, is on load with ECHL-Utah and the Rivermen have signed Francois Brassard as Rank’s backup.
The RiverKings and Rivermen met 11 times in the 2014-15 regular season, with the Rivermen winning six of the 11 matches (6-5-0). Peoria won four of the six games at the Landers Center, including three of the four played over the final two weekends of regular season to secure first place. The RiverKings outscored the Rivermen in the season series 31-29.
Among returning players for the Rivermen, Jake Trask (5g, 3a) was the leading scorers against the RiverKings last season with eight points in 10 games. Four of his five goals were power-play goals. Matt Summers is next among returning players with six points (2g, 4a) in 11 games against the RiverKings.
For the RiverKings, Devin Mantha had the most points among current RiverKings against the Rivermen in 2014-15, putting up nine points (5g, 4a) in 11 games. He also had a plus-8 rating and had two game-winning goals. Linden Bahm is second with eight points (2g, 6a) in 11 games vs. Peoria.
In net, Peter Di Salvo was 4-3-0 with a 2.64 goals-against average and a .922 save percentage in seven appearances against the Rivermen. Kyle Rank appeared in eight games for the Rivermen and was 5-3-0 with a 2.23 goals-against average and a .932 save percentage, in addition to one shutout.
Last season Peoria finished second in the SPHL on the power play. They converted on 19.0% of their power plays, going 47-for-247 while scoring the most power-play goals in the league. In limited action this season, the Rivermen have yet to convert a power-play goal, going 0-for-11 in the first two games of the season.
Through the first two weeks of the regular season the RiverKings have the league’s second-best power play. They are 2-for-12 (16.7%) through three games, scoring a power-play goal in back-to-back games. The RiverKings are one of two teams to score more than one power-play goal so far this season and both were scored by Mark Pustin. The rest of the SPHL has five power-play goals.
The Peoria penalty kill the best in the league in 2014-15, stopping 86.9% of opponent power plays. The 32 power-play goals allowed were second fewest in the league behind the RiverKings’ 28. Through two games this season the Rivermen are 10-for-11 (90.9%) on the penalty kill, which places them seventh in the league.
The RiverKings allowed their first power-play goal of the season in their last game against Columbus. After three games the RiverKings are 10-for-11 (90.9%) on the penalty kill, which ranks seventh in the SPHL. In that game against the Cottonmouths, the RiverKings went 2-for-3 on the penalty kill.