Final weekend opens with match against Rivermen

Game 55: Mississippi RiverKings (32-20-2) vs. Peoria Rivermen (35-16-3)

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

The Mississippi RiverKings play the first game of the final weekend of the regular season against the Peoria Rivermen, in the first of back-to-back games at the Landers Center this weekend. It's the 10th of 11 matches head-to-head this season. After winning twice in Mississippi last week the Rivermen lead the season series 5-4, their first lead in the series this season. 

The Rivermen won both games at the Landers Center last weekend, which locked the RiverKings out of first place. Peoria, at 35-16-3, can secure the regular season points championship with a win or Columbus loss over the final two games of the regular season. They have a three point cushion over the Cottonmouths entering the weekend. The Rivermen finished the season with a 19-8-1 home record and are 16-8-2 on the road.

The RiverKings won the final game of their last three-in-three weekend of the season with a 4-2 win over the Huntsville Havoc Sunday afternoon. Mississippi has matched their points total from last season with 66 and they have 32 wins, which is the most they have in a season since joining the SPHL prior to the 2011-12 season. The RiverKings need one point to increase their point total from the previous season every year since joining the SPHL.

Broadcast Coverage

Hibu RiverKings Pregame at 6:55 p.m.

Radio: Live audio on riverkings.com

Streaming: Pay-to-watch video on SPHL Live 

Last time out

Matt Beer scored his first professional goal and Dylan Quaile had his second three-point game of the season as the RiverKings snapped their two-game losing streak with a 4-2 win over the Huntsville Havoc Sunday, March 22.

The RiverKings needed to overcome two, one-goal deficits to defeat the Havoc. Huntsville took a 1-0 lead 10:07 into the first period when Luke Greiner snapped a shot through traffic from the right circle. The RiverKings tied the game late in the first period when Beer received a pass from Quaile following a Havoc turnover and he buried it in the crease for a 1-1 tie at 18:07.

The Havoc went up 2-1 just 27 seconds into the second period as Ray Ortiz scored on a rebound after Dave Williams was stopped on a partial breakaway by Courchaine. Just over two minutes later Paul Ciarelli scored on a wraparound to tie the game at 2:48. Then at 12:02 of the second Mike Grace scored his first goal of the season on a shot from the left point, as Ryan Marcuz provided a screen in front of Kevin Genoe. The RiverKings capped the scoring in the third when Matt Whitehead scored on a rebound at 11:33, giving the RiverKings a 4-2 win. 

Scouting the Rivermen

The Rivermen are 7-3-0 in their last 10 games, after beating the RiverKings twice last weekend. They are 35-16-3 and have 73 points, which puts them in first place in the SPHL. They are still battling for first place though, as Columbus is just three points back. The Rivermen need one win this weekend to clinch the regular season championship. They are 19-8-1 at home and 16-8-2 on the road.

Josh Harris lead the Rivermen in scoring with 46 points (21g, 25a) and four game-winning goals in 54 games. He is one of two players with more than 20 goals for Peoria and he is tied with Jake Trask for the team lead in goals. Garrett Vermeersch (18g, 22a) is second on the team with 40 points and Alex Hudson (13g, 26a) is third with 39 points. Hudson missed last weekend's trip to Mississippi with an injury. Vermeersch leads the team with 17 power-play points (7g, 10a) and Hudson has a team-best plus-20 rating, which is fifth in the SPHL. Dan Bremner, who had three points last weekend, was suspended by the SPHL for two games for his hit on the RiverKings Justin Gvora March 21.

In net Kyle Rank is closing in on tying the SPHL record for wins, which stands at 28. Rank has appeared in 41 games, which is second most in the league this season, and he is 26-11-2 with a 2.30 goals-against average and a .918 save percentage. He is 4-2-0 against the RiverKings with a 1.51 goals-against average and a .951 save percentage. Since joining Peoria, backup Dustin Carlson has appeared in seven games and he is 5-2-0 with a 2.29 goals-against average and a .925 save percentage.

Special teams

The Rivermen have the league's third best power play, scoring on 19.0% (46-for-242) of their power plays. They went 1-for-6 last weekend in Mississippi, which temporarily moved them from third to second in the league, but they have slid back to third entering this weekend. They have the most power-play goals in the league with 46; the next closest team is Pensacola with 43 in 17 fewer chances than Peoria. The Rivermen are much better on the road than at home, scoring on 22.4% (28-for-125) of their road power plays, which is tops in the league, while scoring on only 15.4% (18-for-117) of home power plays.

The RiverKings power play is just 1-for-25 over the last six games, moving them to seventh in the SPHL at 14.4% (30-for-209). At the Landers Center the RiverKings are fifth at 16.2% (19-for-117), which is much better than their road mark of 12.0% (11-for-92). 

Peoria's penalty kill is first in the SPHL at 86.9% (206-for-237), although they have allowed power-play goals in three of the last four games head-to-head against the RiverKings. Despite being shorthanded 237 times, which is most in the league, the Rivermen have allowed just 31 power-play goals, which is second fewest in the league, behind only the RiverKings' 27 power-play goals against. On the road Peoria is 97-for-112 (86.6%), which is just behind Columbus in the league. 

The RiverKings penalty kill is second in the SPHL, after going 21-for-23 (91.3%) over their last eight games. They have successfully killed 84.7% (150-for-177) of opponent's power plays this season. They are perfect on the kill in 14 of the last 19 game, going 47-for-52 (90.4%). The RiverKings scored their fifth shorthanded goal of the season Saturday against the Rivermen.

Posted by Lukas Favale at 1:30 PM

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PEO y-Peoria 56 38 13 5 81
MAC x-Macon 56 33 16 7 73
PEN x-Pensacola 56 33 16 7 73
HUN x-Huntsville 56 30 16 10 70
KNX x-Knoxville 56 30 20 6 66
EVV x-Evansville 56 27 20 9 63
MRK x-RiverKings 56 29 25 2 60
RKE x-Roanoke 56 26 26 4 56
BIR Birmingham 56 22 28 6 50
FAY Fayetteville 56 12 38 6 30
Full Standings

Updated: April 8, 2018

x-Clinched Playoff Berth
y-Clinched Regular Season Title