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TJ's 10 Takeaways

After each game (or two), RiverKings broadcaster TJ Chillot shares his ten takeaways from the games past and what to look forward to during the upcoming matchups. 
 

The Season So Far: TJ's 10 Takeaways (5 Straight Wins Edition)

All cylinders are firing right now for the RiverKings as they won both of their games this weekend for their fourth and fifth straight victories, good enough to pull them into a tie for first place in the SPHL.

As the team prepares for the holiday weekend followed by a trip north to Peoria for their first two games of the season versus the Rivermen, here are my ten takeaways from the recent stretch of games.

1) GOLD AND STREAKING 

As I mentioned at the top, the RiverKings the won five straight, the most recent of which was a thrilling overtime win against Evansville on Saturday, 3-2. The longest winning streak of the 2016-17 season was four games, which they did twice between November 11th and November 20th and again between March 11th and March 18th. The last time the RiverKings won five straight, you’d have to go back to 2015-16 where they followed up two losses to start the season with a five-game run beating Macon twice, Columbus twice, and Peoria.
 

2) The art of the deal 

Coach Landmesser has made several trades since the 2017-18 calendar year began back in the summer. His executive decisions deserve a considerable amount of praise as the contributions of pieces brought in have far outweighed the production of the players sent out of town. Let’s take a look at the three big trades so far this season.
 
- Pete Di Salvo/Joe Sova to Fayetteville for Tyler Green/Nick Ravait/Graham Strukoff
The pessimists out there would immediately point out that Ravait and Strukoff have yet to play in a RiverKings uniform as they spend their season overseas in Europe. But taking them out of the equation, Tyler Green in his own right is proving to be worth the cost of admission. After spending 2016-17 as a backup, Green is showing why he belongs as a number one goalie in this league. Green owns a 5-1 record and sits in 4th place among SPHL goalies in both save percentage (.912%) and goals against average (2.35).
 
As for the other components of this trade, Di Salvo, who is now in Fayetteville, is 9th in the league in save percentage (.876) and goals against average (4.29). His record is 2-3-1. Sova, on the other hand, was shipped from Fayetteville to Roanoke almost immediately. He’s the veteran defenseman alongside team captain Nick Schneider in Roanoke and has done a decent job anchoring the blue line. His stat line of zero goals, two assists, and six penalty minutes is about what you’d expect from a player with his skill set and age. His plus/minus of +2 rounds out a good-not-great season so far for the 29-year-old.
 
At this point, Green for Di Salvo and Sova alone looks like a win for the RiverKings. Add in the rights to Strukoff and Ravait as sugar on top and this deal is heavily in favor of Mississippi so far.
 
- Future Considerations to Knoxville for Trever Hertz - Trever Hertz to Pensacola for Daniel Tedesco

This is a deal that’s not 100% fleshed out yet since the RiverKings still owe considerations to Knoxville, but as far as the Mississippi/Pensacola side of things goes, both teams are making out in their respective deals.

The two teams are tied for first place, and both teams received a top line forward who is paying off immensely. In the case of Trever Hertz in Pensacola, he’s averaging a point per game with the Ice Flyers; five goals and four assists in nine games played. Daniel Tedesco has only played seven games for the RiverKings and is averaging above a point per game, having netted two goals with seven assists for the black and gold. Tedesco leads Hertz in total points as Tedesco has a total of 10 on the season, he had a goal in his one and only game with Pensacola this season. If we look at just his time in Mississippi, he has the same amount of points as Hertz in fewer games. 

- Robbie Hall to Evansville for Donald Olivieri
Robbie Hall did a formidable job here in Mississippi starting a handful of games. His stat line wasn’t anything to write home about, but he fulfilled his role as a defender and managed to notch an assist while with the RiverKings. Despite the solid work he did on the back end, it’s hard not to think the RiverKings won this trade considering the offensive explosion they’ve gotten from Donald Oliveri. Olivieri is equally as strong as Hall defensively (if not better), and with two power play goals and a beautiful game-winner versus Evansville on Saturday night, Olivieri is light years ahead of Robbie Hall in the offensive department. Olivieri came to the RiverKings with a goal and an assist in eight games. Since arriving in Southaven, he’s put up three goals in three games.
 

The one thing that all these deals have in common is at MINIMUM, the RiverKings and their trade partners are in win-win situations. In the case of the Olivieri and Green trades, the RiverKings are clear front-runners and Head Coach Derek Landmesser is building the team he envisions, and it’s paying immediate dividends.

3) LEADING BY EXAMPLE - It’s not just the newcomers that are getting on the score sheet. Captain Devin Mantha leads the team in total points with 11. He’s scored a point in his last five games, a span that includes three goals and four assists. The chemistry between Mantha and his linemates Tedesco and Sutliffe has proven to be explosive as the three of them are the top three in points on the team.

4) DEFENSE WINS CHAMPIONSHIPS - It took a couple of games and some moves by Coach Landmesser to get the RiverKings offense flowing, but the one staple of this team has been the defense. Here’s a team that ranks second on the Penalty Kill, is tied for the league-low in Power Play Goals Against, and third in Goals Against with 24.

5) IF YOU AIN’T FIRST, YOU’RE LAST - The RiverKings have scored the first goal in six of their first nine games this season. They have won every single one of those games with Evansville being the only game they’ve won when their opponent jumped on top early. The other two games where opponents got on the board first, versus Pensacola and Macon, the RiverKings ended up losing. So the thing to take away here, get on the board first and let your defense and goaltending (see: the previous point) do what it does best.

6) ON THEIR BEST BEHAVIOR - We already talked about how strong this team’s penalty kill is, but what we didn’t mention is how little time they are spending in the box. Currently, the RiverKings have the fourth fewest penalty minutes, with 128. By comparison, the team that is in first (Huntsville) has committed 110 minutes worth of penalties. The most undisciplined team in the league is Birmingham who's amassed 203 total penalty minutes. So, despite the fact that the RiverKings are fourth in this category, they are well below the league average of 149.6 penalty minutes per season.

7) HOME IS WHERE THE WINS ARE - This is an easy one to grasp, the RiverKings have more wins at home than any other team in the league. Mississippi’s 4-1-0 record at Planters Bank Ice at Landers Center is slightly ahead of their co-first place opponents Pensacola (3-1-0). This bodes well for the team as they have six home games coming up in December.

8) FOR THOSE ABOUT TO FIGHT - So far this season Mississippi is (unofficially) undefeated in the fight category. While it’s not an official stat and no judge determines a winner, it’s been Vytal Cote and Jake Schultz (twice) who were left on their feet after the teams three fights this season.

9) TWO WAY TERRORS - We talked about the RiverKings defense and their ability to limit goals against, but what we can’t overlook is their offensive prowess. Mississippi is second in the leagues in points from defensemen with 24 total on the year. Key members like Olivieri, Grinbergs, and Cote lead the way with even the stay at home defenders like Richard Coyne and Kristaps Bazevics chipping in. Every blue-liner has a goal this season with only two exceptions; Matt Harrington who started on defense before shifting back to his usual forward position as of late, and recent addition Jake Schultz who only has four games under his belt since signing back on November 10th.

10) THE ROAD AHEAD - The RiverKings schedule was favorable to start the season as far as road travel goes, opening with three out of four at home. While November required more work on the part of the RiverKings with back-to-back games in Roanoke and the upcoming back-to-back in Peoria, the month of December looks decent. Starting the month with three straight home games, the RiverKings will welcome the Rail Yard Dawgs and Birmingham. They’ll hit the road in the second weekend of the month with a solo road game in Evansville before coming back home for a rare Tuesday game against Huntsville. The only back-to-back road game weekend in December is probably going to be the toughest stretch when the RiverKings battle with Birmingham on Friday night December 15th and Roanoke the following evening. In those twelve games in December they play Birmingham and Pensacola three times apiece.

Next Game

Fri, Dec. 15 @ Birmingham - 7:35 PM

ListenWatch

RiverKings vs. Ice Flyers
Sat, Dec. 23 - 7:00 PM

Holiday Luau • Kids' Club Event

TicketsListenWatch

Planters Bank Ice @ Landers Center

Schedule

Standings

TEAM GP W L OT PTS
PEN Pensacola 16 12 4 0 24
PEO Peoria 16 11 4 1 23
HUN Huntsville 15 9 4 2 20
MRK RiverKings 16 10 6 0 20
EVV Evansville 16 9 5 2 20
MAC Macon 16 7 5 4 18
KNX Knoxville 15 7 7 1 15
FAY Fayetteville 18 5 9 4 14
RKE Roanoke 15 5 8 2 12
BIR Birmingham 13 3 9 1 7
 
Full Standings

Updated: December 12, 2017