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President's Cup Finals open in Knoxville

President's Cup Final Game 1: Mississippi RiverKings (2-1) vs. Knoxville Ice Bears (4-1)
Series tied 0-0

6:35 p.m. CT, Knoxville Civic Coliseum, Knoxville, Tennessee

After nearly two weeks since their last game the Mississippi RiverKings return to action in Game 1 of the President's Cup Finals against the Knoxville Ice Bears Thursday night at the Knoxville Civic Coliseum. It's the first game of the best-of-three championship series, with all three potential games to be played in Knoxville. 

The Ice Bears ended the regular season with a 5-5-0 record over their last 10 games and they finished in fifth place in the SPHL with 65 points. In the first round of the SPHL playoffs, Knoxville knocked off number two seed Columbus, two games to one. They then swept the sixth seeded Louisiana IceGators in the semifinals in two games to advance to the finals. In Game 2 of the semifinals the Ice Bears needed double overtime to defeat Louisiana and move on to the finals.

The RiverKings defeated the two-time defending President's Cup Champion Pensacola Ice Flyers, two games to one, in the first round. They won both games in Pensacola, going 2-0 on the road against the Ice Flyers. Because the RiverKings were the highest seed left in the playoffs after the first round they received an automatic bye into the finals. It's the first time the RiverKings have advanced past the first round since 2008-09 and the first time they'll play for a championship since winning back-to-back CHL titles in 2001-02 and 2002-03.

Broadcast Coverage

Hibu RiverKings Pregame at 6:30 p.m.

Radio: 87.7 FM

Streaming: Pay-to-watch video on SPHL Live 

Last time out

The RiverKings scored two goals in the first five minutes of the second period to overcome a 1-0 deficit and defeat the Pensacola Ice Flyers, 2-1, in Game 3 of their First Round series Saturday, April 4 at the Pensacola Bay Center. The win gave the RiverKings a 2-1 series win and advanced them to the President's Cup Finals.

The Ice Flyers grabbed a 1-0 lead for the second straight games just 5:27 into the first period. Brett Lutes kept a puck in at the blue line then sent it diagonally across to the left circle where Adam Pawlick fired it past Peter Di Salvo for a power-play goal and a 1-0 Ice Flyers lead. That would hold as the only goal of the first period.

The RiverKings jumped out of the gates in the second and stunned the Ice Flyers with two goals in the first 4:43 of the period. First, at 2:35 Leo Thomas scored a shorthanded goal to tie the game. Andrew Randazzo floated the puck out of the defensive zone and Thomas raced it down to start an odd-man rush. He wristed a shot from the right circle to beat Max Strang. Then at 4:43 Devin Mantha gave the RiverKings a 2-1 lead when he buried a rebound after Bryon Paulazzo put a puck on net.

In the third the Ice Flyers outshot the RiverKings 17-8, but their best chance came with 8.2 seconds remaining in the game when they were awarded a penalty shot. Corey Banfield took it, but was denied by a glove save from Di Salvo to preserve the RiverKings win.

Finals history

This year's President's Cup Finals features two teams who have won multiple championships in their franchises' history. The RiverKings won back-to-back President's Cups while playing in the CHL. They won in 2001-02 and 2002-03. Current RiverKings Head Coach Derek Landmesser was a member of the 2002-03 team, along with Kahlil Thomas, who is the older brother of current RiverKings captain Leo Thomas. This is the first trip to the finals for the RiverKings since then and it's their first trip to the President's Cup Finals as a member of the SPHL.

The Ice Bears are looking to add to their league-high three championships in the SPHL. Knoxville won three of the first five President's Cups in the SPHL, winning titles in 2005-06, 2007-08 and 2008-09. This is their first trip to the finals since then. Current Head Coach Mike Craigen was a player for two of the three previous Ice Bears championships.

Head-to-head

The RiverKings and Ice Bears faced six times in the regular season, with Knoxville winning the season series 4-2. One game went to overtime and the Ice Bears won that one, 3-2, Nov. 15 in Mississippi. Knoxville won the first four games of the season series, but the RiverKings responded by winning the final two, both in Knoxville. They played five times by mid-December, but only once since. The RiverKings won two of the three matches at the Knoxville Civic Coliseum. 

Ryan Salvis leads all players in the season series with 13 points (2g, 11a) in the six games. He has assists on four of the five Knoxville power-play goals against the RiverKings. Matt Whitehead is the top scorer for the RiverKings with seven points (3g, 4a). Leo Thomas (2g, 4a) and Andrew Randazzo (1g, 5a) are next with six points apiece. 

In net Adam Courchaine played in four games and went 1-2-1 with a 2.95 goals-against average and an .876 save percentage. Peter Di Salvo has appeared in two games and is 1-1-0 with a 4.00 goals-against and an .855 save percentage. For the Ice Flyers both Braely Torris and Bryan Hince have started three games against the RiverKings. Torris is 3-0-0 with a 1.30 goals-against average and a .954 save percentage while Hince is 1-2-0 with a 3.04 goals-against average and a .905 save percentage.

Scouting the Ice Bears

The Ice Bears finished the regular season 31-22-3 and with 65 points they finished in fifth place in the SPHL. They had a winning record against five of the seven teams they played during the regular season. The only teams they had losing records against were Columbus (4-6-0) and Peoria (2-9-1).

Ryan Salvis was the leading scorer for the Ice Bears in the regular season with 57 points (12g, 45a) in 54 games, which was fourth in the SPHL. Eric Satim was second on the team with 52 points (23g, 29a), with a team-high 23 goals. Francis Drolet rounds out the top three with 46 points (22g, 24a) in 45 games. In the playoffs Ben Power leads Knoxville with nine points (3g, 6a) in five games.

In net Bryan Hince played 33 games and went 16-12-2 with a 2.85 goals-against average and a .913 save percentage. Braely Torris played in 23 games and went 14-6-1 with a 2.63 goals-against average and a .919 save percentage. Torris spent over a month with Greenville in the ECHL, returning just before the playoffs. In the playoffs Hince is 3-0-0 with a 2.27 goals-against average and a .934 save percentage while Torris is 1-1-0 with a 3.50 goals-against average and a .909 save percentage.

Special teams

The Ice Bears ended the season with the sixth-ranked power play in the SPHL at 14.8% (32-for-216). At home they were successful on 15.7% (18-for-115) of their power plays. In the postseason the Ice Bears are 2-for-22 (9.1%), but they were 1-for-7 (14.3%) in the semifinals series against Louisiana.

The RiverKings power play finished the regular season 2-for-33 over their last eight games, moving them to seventh in the SPHL at 14.3% (31-for-217). In the playoffs the RiverKings are 0-for-6, although one lasted just 24 seconds. 

Knoxville's penalty kill was seventh in the SPHL at 82.4% (168-for-204) during the regular season. They were slightly better at home where they stopped 82.6% (95-of-115) of opponent's power plays. In the playoffs the Ice Bears are just 12-for-16 (75.0%) on the penalty kill, although they went 5-for-5 in the two-game series with the IceGators. 

The RiverKings penalty kill finished second in the SPHL in the regular season, after going 25-for-28 (89.3%) over their last 10 games. They have successfully killed 84.6% (154-for-182) of opponent's power plays this season. They ended the season going perfect on the kill in 15 of the last 21 game, going 51-for-57 (89.5%). They are 5-for-7 (71.4%) in the playoffs.

Posted by Lukas Favale at 1:30 PM

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Next Game

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

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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