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RiverKings look to start new streak vs. Cottonmouths

Game 44: Mississippi RiverKings (25-16-2) vs. Columbus Cottonmouths (25-15-2)

6:30 p.m., Columbus Civic Center, Columbus, Georgia

The Mississippi RiverKings play the middle game of a three-in-three as they visit the Columbus Cottonmouths for the fifth and final match in the season series between the teams. Both teams have two wins in the series, but the RiverKings have collected five out of eight possible points with one overtime loss, which came in their only previous trip to Columbus Nov. 28.

The Cottonmouths enter the night with what is now tied for the league's longest active winning streak, four games, after the RiverKings' nine game winning streak was snapped yesterday. This is the first game of the week for Columbus after sweeping a three-in-three last weekend with two wins over Huntsville and a shootout win over Louisiana. This is the third game of a seven-game homestand for the Cottonmouths, who host Louisiana tomorrow night.

The RiverKings lost last night for the first time since Jan. 23, but they still have wins in nine of their last 10 games. They are 1-1-0 this week and have been involved in three straight shutouts, two wins and last night's loss. The RiverKings finish the week tomorrow in Knoxville against the Ice Bears.

Broadcast Coverage

Hibu RiverKings Pregame at 6:25 p.m.

Radio: Sports 56/87.7 FM

Streaming: Pay-to-watch video on SPHL Live 

Last time out

The Louisiana IceGators scored a goal in all three periods and Marco De Filippo made 26 saves to shut out the RiverKings, 3-0, Thursday night at the Cajundome.

Louisiana went ahead 1-0 about seven minutes into the first period when Bret Peppler had a tap in at the right post. Tyler Klein took the initial shot, which went wide, but Shawn McNeil fed it in front from behind the net and Peppler finished it for the lead. That would hold as the only tally needed for Louisiana, but they added to their lead early in the second when Chris Wilson deflected in a pass from Adam Stuart at 2:23.

The RiverKings had their chances to even the game late in the second, when they hit two posts, and in the third with 13 shots, but De Filippo was up to the task and earned the shutout. Jake Hauswirth added an empty-net goal for Louisiana to make it a 3-0 final.

Going for 100

Two RiverKings players are set to play their 100th career game in tonight's game against Columbus. Defenseman Mike Hayward, who joined the RiverKings at the end of the 2012-13 season, will play his 100th game tonight. In 99 career pro games, all with the RiverKings, Hayward has 38 points (9g, 29a). This season the Toronto, Ontario native has 18 points (5g, 13a), one point shy of last year's total. His five goals are a new career high.

Devin Mantha also will play in his 100th game tonight. The second-year-pro appeared in all 56 games for the RiverKings as a rookie last season, when he scored 43 points (17g, 26a). In 99 career games he has 72 points (12g, 17a), including 29 this season.

Earlier this week forward Matt Whitehead played in his 300th career game as a pro when the RiverKings beat the Ice Flyers, 4-0, Tuesday night. RiverKings defenseman Mike Grace is two games shy of 100 games as a pro.

Head-to-head

Tonight is the final of five matches between the teams this season. Both the RiverKings and Cottonmouths have two wins, although the RiverKings have gathered five out of eight points with a 2-1-1 record. Mississippi won the last match, 5-1, Jan. 27 at the Landers Center in the Face Off Field Trip. The Cottonmouths won the first game in Columbus, 3-2, in overtime Nov. 28. The RiverKings have outscored the Cottonmouths, 14-9, in the four head-to-head matches, getting wins of 5-2 and 5-1. Both Columbus wins were one-goal margins.

Devin Mantha leads the RiverKings in scoring against the Cottonmouths with five points (1g, 4a) and he has at least one point in all four games. Next among active players is Matt Whitehead with three points (2g, 1a). In net both goalies have started two games and both have one win. Adam Courchaine is 1-0-1 with a 1.99 goals-against average and a .931 save percentage. He got the win in the last meeting. Peter Di Salvo is 1-1-0 with a 2.52 goals-against average and a .909 save percentage.

Matt Gingera is the top scorer against the RiverKings with five points (2g, 3a) including one of their two power-play goals. He also scored the overtime game-winning goal in Columbus's win Nov. 28. Neilsson Arcibal is second with four points, all assists. Andrew Loewen and Shannon Szabados have both started two games against the RiverKings and both goalies are 1-1-0. Loewen has given up seven goals and has a 3.49 goals-against average and a .909 save percentage. Szabados has allowed six goals and has a 3.01 goals-against average and a .930 save percentage.

Scouting the Cottonmouths

Columbus is 25-15-2 on the season. The Cottonmouths beat the IceGators in a shootout Feb. 21 after tying the game late in regulation to extend their winning streak to four in a row. Columbus has 52 points and is tied for third place in the SPHL with the RiverKings and Ice Flyers. Columbus has a game in hand on both teams. The Cottonmouths are two games into a season-high seven game homestand and they'll have Louisiana Saturday at the Columbus Civic Center.

Matt Gingera is the team leader with 44 points (28g, 16a) in 40 games. He is also the SPHL leader in goals and he is tied for third in the league with 44 points. His 12 power-play goals paces the league and he is tied with two other players for the league lead with six game-winning goals. Rookie Bryce Williamson is the team's second leading scorer with 40 points (16g, 24a) in 38 games. He is the leading rookie scorer in the league and he leads first-year players in goals and assists. Neilsson Arcibal rounds out the top three for Columbus with 32 points (10g, 22a) in 42 games.

In net both Andrew Loewen and Shannon Szabados have seen significant playing time. Loewen has 24 games played and is 15-7-1 with a 2.11 goals-against average and a .934 save percentage. He missed several games with an injury, returning to win against the IceGators Feb. 21. In 19 games Szabados is 10-8-1 with a 3.16 goals-against average and a .906 save percentage. She went 3-2-0 while Loewen was injured, but won her last three starts.

Special teams

With 206 power plays, the Cottonmouths have been on the man advantage more than any team except Peoria (210), although Columbus has the most power plays per game (4.9). Despite the chances, the Cottonmouths are seventh in the SPHL at 13.6% (28-for-206). They have the fourth most power-play goals scored in the league, but they have also given up a league-high eight shorthanded goals. 

The RiverKings have scored power-play goals in five straight games that they have had a power-play opportunity and seven of their last nine games overall, going 9-for-24 (37.5%). Although Louisiana is the third-most penalized team in the SPHL the IceGators didn't take a minor last night and the RiverKings didn't get a power play. They're still sixth in the SPHL at 14.6% (24-for-164). The RiverKings remain stronger on the power play at home as opposed to on the road. At home the RiverKings are 16-for-100 (16.0%), while on the road they are just 8-for-64 (12.5%).

Columbus is third in the SPHL on the penalty kill at 84.3% (24-for-153). Four teams, including the Cottonmouths and RiverKings, are within four tenths of a point of each other on the penalty kill. They are 12-for-15 (80.0%) in the four game season series with the RiverKings.

The RiverKings penalty has moved from sixth to second in the SPHL this week, going 6-for-6 in two games. They have successfully killed 84.6% (121-for-143). They are a perfect 18-for-18 in the last eight games and are 23-for-24 in the last nine games. This is the best stretch of the season for the RiverKings penalty killing unit. 

Posted by Lukas Favale at 1:30 PM

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

FACE OFF FIELD TRIP

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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