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Critical week begins with home game vs. Ice Flyers

Game 42: Mississippi RiverKings (24-15-2) vs. Pensacola Ice Flyers (23-13-6)

7:05 p.m., Landers Center, Southaven, Mississippi

The Mississippi RiverKings open a stretch of four games in five nights with the only home game of the stretch tonight against the Pensacola Ice Flyers. All four games this week are the final matches of four different season series against the four teams closest to the RiverKings in the standings. This is the 10th match against Pensacola and the RiverKings have a chance to even the series. Pensacola has five wins and the RiverKings have four, including three straight.

After losing eight straight games Jan. 16-Feb. 7, including three to the RiverKings, the Ice Flyers have points in their last seven games (6-0-1). They won two out of three in a three-in-three series with Fayetteville last weekend, with their only loss coming in a shootout. Pensacola visits Louisiana and Huntsville later this week as they begin a six-game road trip tonight.

The RiverKings have won eight straight games and 12 of their last 13, after beating Louisiana and Huntsville last week. They beat the Havoc, 3-0, for their first shutout win of the season Saturday. After an off day tomorrow the RiverKings have a three-in-three in three different cities starting Thursday in Louisiana. They then go to Columbus on Friday and Knoxville on Saturday.

Broadcast Coverage

Hibu RiverKings Pregame at 7:00 p.m.

Radio: Live audio on riverkings.com

Streaming: Pay-to-watch video on SPHL Live 

Last time out

Peter Di Salvo stopped all 26 shots he faced to pace the RiverKings to their eighth straight win, 3-0, Saturday afternoon against the Huntsville Havoc. It was Di Salvo's first carrer shutout and the first one for the RiverKings this season.

Paul Ciarelli provided the only goal Di Salvo would need less than five minutes into the first. Off an offensive zone faceoff win Ryan Marcuz gathered the puck along the wall near the right circle. He passed to Corey Leivermann who quickly sent it to the slot for Ciarelli, who stashed it past Kevin Genoe at 4:40 of the first for a 1-0 lead. That would stand as the game-winning goal, but the RiverKings finally added insurance in the third period, after a scoreless second.

Sean Jones made it a two-goal game with a power-play goal at 9:57 of the third period, finishing a rebound in front of the net on a shot from Daniel Sobotka. Andrew Randazzo would net the final goal with an empty-net tally with 16 seconds to play, making it 3-0. Di Salvo faced just four shots in the third period to earn the shutout.

Head-to-head

Tonight is the final of 10 matches between the teams this season. The RiverKings have a chance to even the season series as Pensacola has five wins and Mississippi has four. The RiverKings are 3-2-0 at home against the Ice Flyers.

20 players have recorded at least a point for the RiverKings against the Ice Flyers in the season series with Matt Whitehead (3g, 4a) and Andrew Randazzo (1g, 6a) tied for the team lead with seven points each. Devin Mantha is next with six points (2g, 4a) and his two goals are both game-winning goals, which leads the RiverKings. Both goalies have seen action in five contests against the Ice Flyers. Peter Di Salvo is 3-2-0 with a 2.68 goals-against average and .917 save percentage while Adam Courchaine is 1-3-0 with a 2.91 goals-against average and .899 save percentage.

Corey Banfield has 10 points (5g, 5a) in nine games against his former team. Two of his goals are game-winning goals, which is the most for Pensacola. Brett Lutes is second with nine points (3g, 6a) and Adam Pawlick is third with eight points (5g, 3a). Max Strang has played in seven games against the RiverKings and is 4-2-1 with a 2.22 goals-against average and a .932 save percentage. 

Scouting the Ice Flyers 

After an eight-game losing streak, which included three losses to the RiverKings, the Ice Flyers have points in seven games in a row (6-0-1). Their only loss during the last seven games came in a shootout against Fayetteville Feb. 20. They did win two out of three in a three-in-three with the FireAntz over the weekend. The Ice Flyers embark on a six-game road trip starting Tuesday. They play in Louisiana Friday night and in Huntsville Saturday afternoon to finish the week.

Corey Banfield continues to pace the SPHL in scoring with 54 points (19g, 35a) in just 41 games. He has points in five of his last six games, including three multi-point efforts, giving him eight points (4g, 4a) during that stretch. He has a three point lead over Adam Pawlick, who is second in the league with 51 points (24g, 27a). He has 10 points (2g, 8a) during a seven-game scoring streak. Nick Larson is the hottest player of the bunch entering the week, riding an eight-game scoring streak, the longest active streak in the SPHL. He has 11 points (6g, 5a) during the streak and he has 13 points in 10 games since joining the Ice Flyers Jan. 31. The only game without a point for him was Jan. 6 against the RiverKings.

In net Max Strang has played 35 games, which leads the SPHL, and he is 21-9-5 on the season. He has a 2.23 goals-against average and a .923 save percentage. He has started the last seven games for Pensacola, going 6-0-1 and allowing just 13 goals.

Special teams

The Ice Flyers power play is up to second in the SPHL at 18.8% (32-for-170) after scoring power-play goals in six straight games. During this run the Ice Flyers are 7-for-21 (33.3%). They have scored the second-most power-play goals in the SPHL this season with 32, four behind Peoria. Pensacola's power play is actually better on the road, where it ranks second at 20.5% (17-for-83).

The RiverKings have scored power-play goals in four straight games and six of their last seven games, going 7-for-21 (33.3%). They're up to sixth in the SPHL at 13.7% (22-for-161). The RiverKings remain stronger on the power play at home as opposed to on the road. At home the RiverKings are 14-for-97 (14.4%), while on the road they are just 8-for-64 (12.5%).

On the penalty kill, the Ice Flyers are second in the SPHL at 84.8% (140-for-165). They are 23-for-25 (92.0%) during their seven-game point streak, although they were 3-for-4 in their last game against Fayetteville.

The RiverKings are sixth on the penalty kill in the SPHL at 83.9% (115-for-137). They are a perfect 12-for-12 in the last six games and are 17-for-18 in the last seven games. This is the best stretch of the season for the RiverKings penalty killing unit. 

Posted by Lukas Favale at 7:39 AM

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Next Game

RiverKings vs. Havoc
Tue, Dec. 12 - 10:30 AM

FACE OFF FIELD TRIP

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Planters Bank Ice @ Landers Center

Schedule

Standings

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

Updated: December 9, 2017