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RiverKings look to clinch series vs. Ice Flyers

Playoff Game 2: Mississippi RiverKings (1-0) vs. Pensacola Ice Flyers (0-1)
RiverKings lead series 1-0

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

The first round series between the Mississippi RiverKings and Pensacola Ice Flyers shifts from Pensacola to Southaven for Game 2 of the best-of-three series tonight at the Landers Center. The RiverKings won Game 1, 3-2, in double overtime Wednesday in Pensacola to take a 1-0 lead in the series and put the Ice Flyers on the brink of elimination.

The Ice Flyers won six of their last 10 games to finish the regular season 32-18-6, which gave them 70 points. They finished tied with Columbus in points, but the Cottonmouths owned the tiebreaker, so the Ice Flyers finished third in the SPHL. Last year they were the number one seed and beat the Mississippi Surge in the first round 2-0 and then beat the Knoxville Ice Bears and Columbus Cottonmouths the next two rounds to win the President's Cup.

The RiverKings lost their season finale, 4-3, to the Peoria Rivermen March 28 at the Landers Center. Mississippi finished the regular season with a 33-21-2 record and 68 points, two points behind both Pensacola and Columbus. The RiverKings need one win out of a possible two games to advance past the first round for the first time since joining the SPHL. The RiverKings last advanced past the first round in 2008-09 when they went to the third round while still in the CHL.

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

The RiverKings tied the game in the final minute of regulation then Bryon Paulazzo scored 3:49 into double overtime to give the RiverKings a 3-2 win over the Pensacola Ice Flyers in Game 1 of their best-of-three first-round series.

Paulazzo scored the first goal of the series to give the RiverKings a 1-0 lead at 5:38. He scored on a wraparound against Max Strang after the Ice Flyers iced the puck twice in a row. Pensacola tied the game at one at 14:21 when Brett Lutes sent a short pass to Nick McParland in the crease for a tap in past Peter Di Salvo. The game remained tied into the third before McParland scored his second of the game at 7:31 on a rebound in the crease to give the Ice Flyers a 2-1 lead. The RiverKings rallied from that deficit with less than a minute to play when Andrew Randazzo fired a shot from the left circle that got past Strang with 40.5 seconds left in regulation.

After both goalies held the teams off the board in the first full overtime period the RiverKings grabbed game one after Paulazzo snapped in a shot from the crease on a pass from Devin Mantha at 3:49. 

Head-to-head

The RiverKings and Ice Flyers met 10 times in the regular season, including the season opener Oct. 24 at the Landers Center. Pensacola won five of the first six, but the RiverKings won the last four meaning both teams ended the series with five wins each. Only one game went past regulation and that was a 2-1 win for the RiverKings in overtime Dec. 12 in Mississippi. The Ice Flyers won three of four in Pensacola and the RiverKings went 4-2 at home. Both teams ended with 25 goals each in the series.

Matt Whitehead was the leading scorer for the RiverKings in the season series with 10 points (3g, 7a). He scored five seconds into the game Feb. 6 at Pensacola, a new SPHL record for fastest goal to start a game, as the RiverKings won their only game in Pensacola, 3-1. Leo Thomas (4g, 4a) and Andrew Randazzo (1g, 7a) were next with eight points each. For the Ice Flyers Corey Banfield had 10 points (5g, 5a) to lead scorers against the RiverKings. 

In net Peter Di Salvo has appeared in six games and is 4-2-0 with a 2.22 goals-against and a .934 save percentage. He has allowed 13 goals and one of his two shutouts this season came against his former team. Adam Courchaine has played in five games and is 1-3-0 with a 2.91 goals-against average and an .899 save percentage. For the Ice Flyers Max Strang is 4-3-1 in eight games against the RiverKings. He has a 2.59 goals-against average and a .920 save percentage.

Scouting the Ice Flyers

The Ice Flyers finished the regular season by going 6-4-0 in their last 10 games, but 4-1-0 in their final five. That moved their record to 32-18-6 and with 70 points they finished in third place in the SPHL, giving them home ice advantage against the RiverKings in the first round of the playoffs.

Adam Pawlick finished the season tops in the SPHL with 66 points (32g, 34a), giving him the inaugural Kevin Swider Leading scorer award in the SPHL. He finished second in the SPHL in goals, two behind Columbus' Matt Gingers, while playing in all 56 games. Corey Banfield finished second on the team and in the league with 61 points (20g, 41a) in 47 games. He only played three games out of 11 for the Ice Flyers in March, last playing March 20. Brett Lutes was third with 45 points (17g, 28a). Nick McParland had 41 points in the regular season and he scored the only two goals in Game 1 for the Ice Flyers.

In net Max Strang played the majority of the games for the Ice Flyers. In 47 games Strang tied an SPHL record with 28 wins, going 28-14-5 with a 2.33 goals-against average and a .919 save percentage. He was tops in the league in games played among goalies, wins, goals-against average and saves. The current backup for Pensacola is 6-foot-9 John McLean, who has played in three games since signing out of Gustavus Adolphus College. He is 2-0-0 with a 3.54 goals-against average and a .895 save percentage.

Special teams

The Ice Flyers ended up with the third-best power play in the SPHL, finishing the year at 18.9% (43-for-228). Only Peoria scored more power-play goals this season than the Ice Flyers. On the road Pensacola was 24-for-116 (20.7%) and they went 6-for-36 (16.7%) in the season series against the RiverKings. They had just one chance, which lasted 24 seconds, in Game 1 and they went 0-for-1.

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). At the Landers Center they were fifth, going 20-for-125 (16.0%). They finished 8-for-38 (21.1%) on the power play against the Ice Flyers. In Game 1 the RiverKings had two power plays and went 0-for-2, although one was just 24 seconds.

Pensacola's penalty kill was fourth in the SPHL at 82.7% (186-for-225), but their percentage of successful kills falls to 79.5% (93-for-124) away from the Pensacola Bay Center. Only Fayetteville (44) allowed more power-play goals the Pensacola's 39 against during the regular season. 

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 are perfect on the kill in 15 of the last 21 game, going 51-for-57 (89.5%).

Posted by Lukas Favale at 12:00 PM

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Next Game

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

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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