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RiverKings open season against Pensacola

Game 1: Mississippi RiverKings (0-0-0-0) vs. Pensacola Ice Flyers (0-0-0-0)

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

The quest for the President’s Cup begins tonight for the Mississippi RiverKings as they host the two-time defending league champion Pensacola Ice Flyers in the season opener. The RiverKings begin the 2014-15 campaign with a pair of home games, wrapping up the opening weekend with the Knoxville Ice Bears tomorrow. 

The Ice Flyers won their second straight President’s Cup in 2014 by defeating the Columbus Cottonmouths in two games. The Ice Flyers had a 6-1 record during the playoffs, with their only loss coming in the first game of the semifinals against Knoxville.

The RiverKings earned the four seed in the playoffs, but played their first-round series against Huntsville on the road and lost in three games. The Havoc won Game 3, 5-3, to advance to the semifinals.

Broadcast Coverage

Hibu RiverKings Pregame at 6:55 p.m.

Audio: Free stream available via riverkings.com.

Streaming: Pay-to-watch video on SPHL Live.

League Shake Up

The Southern Professional Hockey League had a few shake ups in the offseason, with two teams departing. The Bloomington Thunder left the SPHL to join the USHL after just one season in the league. The Mississippi Surge ceased operations after last season.

With two fewer teams, the SPHL now stands at eight teams: Columbus, Fayetteville, Huntsville, Knoxville, Louisiana, Pensacola, Peoria and the RiverKings. The league has established a new playoff format for this season, with the top six teams making the playoffs.

Getting the Offense in Gear

The RiverKings played a two-game exhibition schedule last weekend and were shut out in both games. They lost 3-0 to the Havoc Saturday and 3-0 to the Ice Bears Sunday. Despite that, the outlook for the season is still bright as the RiverKings have an opening night lineup full of returning players.

The team returns 11 skaters from last year’s team, which finished fourth in the league. In fact, the RiverKings return seven of their top eight scorers from 2013-14, with only Todd Hosmer (55pts) not on this season’s roster.

Scouting the Ice Flyers

The Ice Flyers, who have won two straight President’s Cups, return 10 players from last year’s roster. Out of the returning players, Corey Banfield had the most points last season with 45 (19g, 26a) in 39 games. He was fifth overall on the team in scoring last year.  

Like the RiverKings the Ice Flyers have two new goaltenders. Max Strang spent his first professional season with three different organizations in 2013-14. He played four games with ECHL-Fort Wayne, seven with ECHL-South Carolina and 23 games with Bloomington. Spencer McLay enters his rookie season with the Ice Flyer this year.

After the Ice Flyers play the RiverKings tonight they return home for their home opener against Columbus Saturday. Eight of their next nine games are at home.

Head-to-Head

The Ice Flyers swept the four-game regular season series with the RiverKings last season. They scored 22 goals in the four games, outscoring the RiverKings 22-13, although two of the wins were one-goal games. Pensacola went undefeated against three other teams in addition to the RiverKings.

Since joining the SPHL prior to the 2011-12 season, the RiverKings are just 3-13-2 against the Ice Flyers. They face each other 10 times this season, with six coming at the Landers Center.

Special Teams

Last season the Pensacola power play finished third in the SPHL at 19.0% (51-for-268). Only Columbus scored more power-play goals (60) than the Ice Flyers did last season.

The RiverKings power play eneded fourth in the SPHL last season, converting on 18.8% of chances (45-for-239). They did most of the damage on the man advantage while on the road, scoring 30 of their 45 power-play goals away from the Landers Center. At 23.3%, their road power play was tops in the league, but they were eighth at home at 13.6%. 

Pensacola’s penalty kill was seventh in the league last year at 82.7%. They were better on the road (84.7%) than they were at home (80.9%).

The RiverKings had a strong penalty kill in 2013-14, finishing second in the league at 85.2%. They were especially tough at home, where they killed off 86.0% of opponent’s power plays.

Posted by Lukas Favale at 12:32 PM

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Next Game

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

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ListenWatch

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