RiverKings renew rivalry with Rivermen

Game 52: Mississippi RiverKings (31-18-2) vs. Peoria Rivermen (33-16-3)

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

The Mississippi RiverKings open their second-to-last weekend of the regular season as they host the Peoria Rivermen. It's the eighth of 11 matches between the teams this season. The RiverKings have a 4-3-0 record against Peoria in the first seven meetings this season, including a 3-2-0 mark at Carver Arena in Peoria. They faceoff four times over the final two weekends of the season.

The Rivermen are trying to hold off the field to win the regular season points championship in their second season in the SPHL. Their lead atop the standings has been cut to just four points ahead of Columbus and five ahead of the RiverKings. Peoria's final four games come at the Landers Center, two this weekend and two next weekend. 

The RiverKings have won six of their last seven and four straight after a brief two-game losing streak near the end of February and they are 31-18-2 on the season. They clinched a playoff berth for the fourth year in a row since joining the SPHL prior to the 2011-12 season with March 14's win over Fayetteville. The RiverKings have five games left in the regular season, four with Peoria and one with Huntsville, which is a makeup game that will be played this Sunday.

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 got two goals from captain Leo Thomas and beat the Fayetteville FireAntz, 2-1, Sunday at the Crown Coliseum. It gave the RiverKings a sweep of the three-in-three in Fayetteville and a five-game season series sweep of the FireAntz.

Thomas opened the scoring with his 20th goal of the season at 12:18 of the first when he buried a feed from Linden Bahm after Bahm spun a no-look pass from behind the net. Fayetteville responded in the second period when Mike Montrose converted on an odd-man rush by firing a shot past Peter Di Salvo from the left circle, after receiving a pass from Chad Hohmann.

Thomas wrapped up the scoring with a goal 9:29 into the third period. Andrew Randazzo sent a pass from the defensive zone to Thomas in the neutral zone and he skated into the offensive zone down the left wing. He stopped at the left circle then quickly started again to shake his defender before cutting across and beating Kevin Murdock with a shot through traffic, for a 2-1 RiverKings lead. The RiverKings held the FireAntz to five shots in the third to get their fourth straight win.


Scouting the Rivermen

The Rivermen are just 7-3-0 in their last 10 games, but lost to Huntsville in their last game. That moved the Rivermen to 33-16-3 and kept them at 69 points entering the final two weeks of the season. They are still in first, but the rest of the league is pulling closer, with the RiverKings in third, just five points back with a game in hand. Peoria's final four games are all on the road at the Landers Center. They finished 19-8-1 at home and are 14-8-2 on the road.

Josh Harris lead the Rivermen in scoring with 44 points (21g, 23a) and four game-winning goals in 52 games. He is one of two players with more than 20 goals for Peoria and he is tied with Jake Trask for the team lead in goals. Garrett Vermeersch (17g, 22a) and Alex Hudson (13g, 26a) are tied with 39 points each. Vermeersch leads the team with 17 power-play points (7g, 10a) and Hudson has a team-best plus-20 rating, which is fifth in the SPHL.

In net Kyle Rank is closing in on an SPHL record for wins, which currently stands at 28. Rank has appeared in 40 games, which is second most in the league this season, and he is 25-11-2 with a 2.30 goals-against average and a .918 save percentage. He is 3-2-0 against the RiverKings with a 1.41 goals-against average and a .954 save percentage. Since joining Peoria, backup Dustin Carlson has appeared in six games and is 4-2-0 with a 2.35 goals-against average and a .923 save percentage.

Special teams

The Rivermen have the league's third best power play, scoring on 19.1% (45-for-236) of their power plays. They have scored the most power-play goals in the league with 45; the next closest team is Pensacola with 41 in 25 fewer chances than Peoria. The Rivermen are much better on the road than at home, scoring on 22.7% (27-for-119) of their road power plays and only 15.4% (18-for-117) of home power plays.

The RiverKings were held scoreless on the power play during their three-in-three trip to Fayetteville last weekend, going 0-for-13 at the Crown Coliseum. They are still sixth in the SPHL at 14.7% (29-for-197). At the Landers Center the RiverKings are fifth at 17.1% (18-for-105). 

Peoria's penalty kill is first in the SPHL at 86.8% (197-for-227). Despite being shorthanded 227 times, which is second most in the league to Fayetteville's 228, the Rivermen have allowed just 30 power-play goals, which is tied for the second fewest in the league, behind only the RiverKings' 26 power-play goals against. On the road Peoria is 88-for-102 (86.3%) on the road, which is tops in the league.

The RiverKings penalty kill is second in the SPHL, after going 15-for-16 over their last five games. They have successfully killed 84.7% (144-for-170) this season. They are perfect on the kill in 12 of the last 16 game, going 41-for-45 (91.1%). 

Posted by Lukas Favale at 2:00 PM

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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