RiverKings host Ice Flyers for Heroes Night

Game 36: Mississippi RiverKings (18-15-2) vs. Pensacola Ice Flyers (17-10-4)

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

The Mississippi RiverKings hit the final weekend of January with back-to-back games starting at home against the Pensacola Ice Flyers Friday night for Heroes Night, presented by Delta Medical Center. It’s the seventh of 11 matches between the teams. The Ice Flyers have won five of the first six and have points in all six (5-0-1) against the RiverKings.

The Ice Flyers have lost four straight games for the first time this season and lost their only game last week, Jan. 24 vs. Fayetteville, a 4-3 defeat. The Ice Flyers are just 2-6-0 in January, although one win came against the RiverKings Jan. 2 in Pensacola. The Ice Flyers are home tomorrow against Peoria to finish the weekend. The four straight losses is the first four-game losing streak for the Ice Flyers since Mar. 10-17 in 2012.

The RiverKings have already played 13 games in January and are 9-4-0 in the month. They went 1-1 last week against Peoria then opened this week with Tuesday morning’s 5-1 win over Columbus. The RiverKings close out their 15 game month tomorrow night in Huntsville against the Havoc.

The RiverKings salute all of our local, real-life heroes during the game tonight. There will be a special tribute for all police officers, firefighter, military personnel and other heroes during the game.

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

The RiverKings scored five straight goals and gave elementary school students a day to remember in their 5-1 win over the Columbus Cottonmouths Tuesday at the Landers Center for the FaceOff Field Trip. 

Mississippi got its first goal 1:02 into the first period when Paul Ciarelli potted a rebound in front for his third goal in two games. Leo Thomas scored a shorthanded goal unassisted at 10:28 into the first. Devin Mantha would go on to score the final goal of the first period, redirecting a point shot from Dylan Quaile and giving the RiverKings a 3-0 lead. Mantha would add the primary assist on the RiverKings first of the second, a power-play goal by Bryon Paulazzo at 9:33. About a minute later Joey Holka tapped in a pass from Thomas for his first professional goal and a 5-0 lead, which carried into the third.

Columbus spoiled Adam Courchaine's shutout bid in the third period when Tyler MacPherson scored a power play goal 3:38 into the period. That was the only marker for Columbus as Courchaine stopped 27 of 28 shots for the 5-1 win.

Follow the Captain 

RiverKings captain Leo Thomas has paced the team over the last six games as he has a six-game scoring streak. It’s the longest streak for any RiverKings player this season and he has 11 points (5g, 6a) over those six games. He has two shorthanded goals during that span which now ties him for most in the SPHL.

Thomas has a plus-7 rating during this six-game scoring streak and the RiverKings have a 5-1-0 record.

Rolling lines

Throughout the season the RiverKings have rolled their three lines out consistently and that is really starting to pay dividends with scoring over the last few games. In particular the third line for the RiverKings has surged in production over the last week.

In the last two games Paul Ciarelli has three goals, including his first multi-goal game as a professional Jan. 24. Linemates Ryan Marcuz and Joey Holka had helpers on those goals, and over the last two games Marcuz has back-to-back multi-point games and four assists total. Holka also has four points (1g, 3a) and he scored his first professional goal Tuesday against Columbus.

Scouting the Ice Flyers 

With several key players in the ECHL, the Ice Flyers have slumped from first place to sixth place with four straight losses. They are just 3-7-0 in their last 10 games and at 17-10-4 the Ice Flyers have 38 points. The Ice Flyers, Cottonmouths and RiverKings all have 38 points, but Pensacola is in sixth currently because they have fewer wins than the other teams.

Corey Banfield leads the Ice Flyers with 43 points (14g, 29a), which also paces the SPHL. He is tops in the league in assists, which includes a league-best 10 power-play helpers. The former RiverKings forward has five game-winning goals, which is tied for the most in the league, and that includes two against Mississippi. He has points in 24 of the 30 games he's played this season. Adam Pawlick is second with 38 points (22g, 16a) and he leads the league with 22 goals. Brett Lutes is third among active players on the team with 26 points (9g, 17a) in 29 games. Cody Ferriero, who is on loan with ECHL-Rapid City, had 31 points (13g, 18a) in 23 games with Pensacola.

It's mainly a one-man show for the Ice Flyers in net, as Max Strang has appeared in 25 of their 31 games. He is 15-7-3 with a 2.15 goals-against average and a .926 save percentage. He is tied for the league lead with 15 wins and has a league-best four shutouts, although he doesn't have one since Nov. 29. Over his last six starts Strang is 1-5-0, allowing 16 goals, 2.67 goals-against per game.

Special teams

The Ice Flyers power play is strong, as they are third overall in the SPHL at 18.4% (25-for-136). They are better on the road than at home, scoring on 20.8% (15-for-72) of power plays away from the Pensacola Bay Center, which ranks first in the league. Despite losing their last four games the Ice Flyers do have power-play goals in three of those, going 4-for-24 (16.6%) during that stretch. They were 2-for-7 in their last game, Jan. 24 vs. Fayetteville.

The RiverKings power play is seventh in the SPHL at 11.3% (16-for-142). They have power-play goals in two of their last three games, going 2-for-14 (14.3%). The RiverKings remain considerably better on the power play while home than on the road. At the Landers Center they are 12-for-89 (12.6%), while they are just 4-for-53 (7.5%) on the road.

Pensacola ranks third in the SPHL on the penalty kill at 85.2% (104-for-122). In the last four games the Ice Flyers have allowed three power play goals in 16 shorthanded opportunities (81.3%). Pensacola is sixth in the SPHL for penalty kills at 83.9% (52-for-62) while on the road.

Although the RiverKings are eighth overall in the SPHL on the penalty kill at 82.4% (22-for-125), they have started scoring to even things out. Over the last six games the RiverKings have scored four shorthanded goals and with four total on the season the RiverKings lead the SPHL in that category. Mississippi hadn't scored one shorthanded goal in its first 29 games.

Posted by Lukas Favale at 11:24 AM

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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