FAYETTEVILLE, NC – The Peoria Rivermen came to the Crown Coliseum on Saturday night riding an eight-game winning streak and had gained at least a point in 10 straight games. The Fayetteville FireAntz came into the game on the move to the top of the standings riding the goaltending of Sean Bonar and the offensive play of forward Taylor Thompson. Saturday night was no different.
FireAntz goaltender Sean Bonar; leading the SPHL in wins, minutes played, goals against average, and saves; made 28 saves backstopping the FireAntz to a crucial 2-1 win over the Peoria Rivermen and climb within two points of the Rivermen for third place in the SPHL standings.
The two teams seemed to take some time getting into a game flow as both teams clogged up passing lanes and tried to prevent the other team from gaining speed in the neutral zone for much of the first period. Both Sean Bonar and Rivermen G Tyler Parks made some good saves to keep the game scoreless. The FireAntz had their best chance of the first period when Thompson found himself all alone on the doorstep to the right of Parks during a 5-on-3 power play but rang his high shot off the far post.
After a choppy defensive battle in the first period, both teams opened up a little bit in the second and it resulted in some fun up and down hockey. Peoria broke the scoreless tie when F Dakota Klecha went to the front of the net and was able to squeak a puck past Bonar at the 3:54 mark of the middle period after Rivermen D Cole Hutchinson blasted a shot form the blue line with traffic in front of the net. Bonar ended up in the net and briefly argued with the referee lobbying for goaltender interference but none was given.
Peoria continued to apply pressure forcing Bonar to make a couple of stellar saves. One of the best of the night was a glove save off a 3 on 2 rush when a Rivermen forward redirected a puck that was labeled for the top corner of the net only to have the glove of Bonar snag it before it crossed the goal line. The save seemed to energize the team and FireAntz soon responded with a goal of their own. Forward Bobby Chaumont took a pass from SPHL points leader Taylor Thompson down the wing and sent a shot low to the far side of the net that got past Rivermen netminder Parks. The goal was Chaumont’s 20th of the season. Since joining the FireAntz, Chaumont has scored 38 points in 35 games – good for third on the team. Thompson, who picked up his league leading 36th assist on the goal, stretched his league lead in points to 13 over teammate Jake Hauswirth with 53 points on the season.
The third period saw both teams pushing hard to get the game winner but nothing would give. Bonar and Parks were both brilliant and the goal post also saved a couple of shots to send this game to OT. Fayetteville started OT with a flurry of chances but it wasn’t until Peoria defenseman Brandon Greenside sent a blast form the high slot towards Bonar that rang off the post that either team came seriously close to ending the game. This game would be decided by a shootout and that is where the FireAntz stars shined. Bonar stoned all five Peoria shooters. Thompson took an unconventional penalty shot technique to win the game for the FireAntz. Thompson skated in slowly towards Parks and then wound up and unleashed a slapshot that quickly found it’s way into the top right corner of the net, garnering a nice celebration from the crowd and the FireAntz bench. It was the only goal needed to pick up the two points. The FireAntz face the same team Sunday afternoon where a regulation win would put them in a tie with Peoria for third place.
SinBinFireAntz 3 Stars of the Game:
1st star: G Sean Bonar
2nd star: F Taylor Thompson
3rd star: F Bobby Chaumont