RiverKings seek revenge against Rivermen

Game 53: Mississippi RiverKings (31-19-2) vs. Peoria Rivermen (34-16-3)

6:05 p.m., Landers Center, Southaven, Mississippi

The Mississippi RiverKings square off with the Peoria Rivermen for the second straight night at the Landers Center, looking to avenge last night's 3-2 loss to Peoria. Mississippi is also looking to keep its hopes for first place alive. A loss in any of the remaining three games with Peoria would officially lock Mississippi out of a chance for first place. Tonight is the ninth match in the season series with both sides going 4-4-0, alternating wins in the first eight games.

The Rivermen are trying to hold off the field to win the regular season points championship in their second season in the SPHL. With last night's win, the Rivermen are assured of at least a top four finish in the standings and if they win tonight they will clinch a top three spot and a home playoff series in the first round of the playoffs. Their lead for first is still four points over Columbus, although the Cottonmouths have a game in hand. 

The RiverKings have won six of their last eight, but had their four-game winning streak snapped last night against the Rivermen. They are 31-19-2 on the season and tied with Pensacola for third place in the SPHL. The RiverKings are trying to fend off several teams and clinch home ice advantage in the first round and they currently hold the tiebreaker over the Ice Flyers, based on overall wins. The RiverKings have four games left, three with Peoria and one with Huntsville tomorrow afternoon at home.

Broadcast Coverage

Hibu RiverKings Pregame at 6:00 p.m.

Radio: Live audio on riverkings.com

Streaming: Pay-to-watch video on SPHL Live 

Last time out

In a tale of three totally different periods the Peoria Rivermen edged the RiverKings, 3-2, last night at the Landers Center.

After an even first period, which ended up scoreless, the Rivermen dominated the second to grab a 3-0 lead after 40 minutes. The scoring started when Dan Bremner escaped and got behind the defense down the left wing. He cut across the crease and tucked a backhand past Adam Courchaine for a 1-0 Peoria lead at 4:06. Matt Summers made it 2-0 with a power-play goal at 11:58 as he scored on a spin-o-rama in the slot. Garrett Vermeersch finished the second-period scoring with a breakaway goal with 11.9 seconds to go in the frame.

The RiverKings attempted a comeback in the third. Leo Thomas started it with a 5-on-3 power-play goal 2:38 into the third as he fired a shot in from the slot on a pass from Linden Bahm. Then at 9:33 Paul Ciarelli dug a loose puck near the crease and slid it past Kyle Rank to make it 3-2. The RiverKings outshot Peoria, 16-4, in the third, but their comeback fell just short. 

Scouting the Rivermen

The Rivermen are 7-3-0 in their last 10 games after winning last night. That moved the Rivermen to 34-16-3 with 71 points with three games left in the regular season . They are still in first, but their lead is down to four points over Columbus, who has a game in hand. The Rivermen can secure home ice advantage with a top three finish in the standings if they beat the RiverKings once over their final three matches, all of which are at the Landers Center. They finished 19-8-1 at home and are 15-8-2 on the road.

Josh Harris lead the Rivermen in scoring with 44 points (21g, 23a) and four game-winning goals in 53 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 (18g, 22a) is second with 40 points and he scored the game-winning goal, his fourth, last night. Alex Hudson (13g, 26a) is tied with 39 points, although he didn't make the trip to Mississippi this weekend because of an injury. 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 41 games, which is second most in the league this season, and he is 26-11-2 with a 2.30 goals-against average and a .918 save percentage. He is 4-2-0 against the RiverKings with a 1.51 goals-against average and a .951 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 second best power play, scoring on 19.2% (46-for-239) of their power plays. They went 1-for-3 yesterday, which moved them from third to second in the league. They have scored the most power-play goals in the league with 46; the next closest team is Pensacola with 42 in 24 fewer chances than Peoria. The Rivermen are much better on the road than at home, scoring on 23.0% (28-for-122) of their road power plays and only 15.4% (18-for-117) of home power plays.

The RiverKings snapped an 0-for-15 drought with a 5-on-3 power-play goal last night, but because of the recent dry spell they are down to seventh in the SPHL at 14.9% (30-for-202). At the Landers Center the RiverKings are fifth at 17.3% (19-for-110), which is much better than their road mark of 12.0% (11-for-92). 

Peoria's penalty kill is first in the SPHL at 86.6% (201-for-232), although they have allowed power-play goals in the last three games head-to-head against the RiverKings. Despite being shorthanded 232 times, which is most in the league, the Rivermen have allowed just 31 power-play goals, which is second fewest in the league, behind only the RiverKings' 27 power-play goals against. On the road Peoria is 92-for-107 (86.0%) on the road, which is tops in the league.

The RiverKings penalty kill is second in the SPHL, after going 17-for-19 over their last six games. They have successfully killed 84.4% (146-for-173) of opponent's power plays this season. They are perfect on the kill in 12 of the last 17 game, going 43-for-48 (89.6%). 

Posted by Lukas Favale at 1:00 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