The first weekend of SPHL action is in the books, and the season is officially under way. There was a banner raised in Knoxville, the Peoria Rivermen and the Mississippi RiverKings bounced back after tough losses, and the Huntsville Havoc try to complete an undefeated weekend. The league’s reputation for physical play was in full display on Saturday night, as all of last night’s games featured multiple scraps.
Title Belt Game – Knoxville 4, Columbus 2
Rookie forward Doug Reid sparked the Knoxville Ice Bears offensive attack with the first hat trick of his professional career – and the first of the young season. Reid netted a pair of goals past Columbus Cottonmouths’ rookie netminder Joel Danyluk in the second period, then completed the hatty with an empty netter at the end of the game. Reid’s didn’t have the only hat trick of the night, as veteran instigator Dennis Sicard got a Gordie Howe hat trick with a first period goal, an assist on Reid’s first goal, and a fight with the Snakes Ryan Devine at the end of the game. Veteran netminder Bryan Hince was solid for the Bears in his first start of the season, stopping 34 of 36 shots. Knoxville makes their second successful defense of the SPHL Title Belt; their next defense will be on Friday, October 30th in Fayetteville against the FireAntz.
Peoria 4, Pensacola 0
The Rematch at the Riverboat was a salty, 83 penalty minute affair between the Peoria Rivermen and the Pensacola IceFlyers. Rivermen captain Dan Bremner scored a goal and a hat trick of his own on Saturday night. Bremner racked up the minor-major-gamer trifecta of penalties, and his Rivermen teammates scored an additional trio of goals in a physical four-goal blanking of the Pensacola Ice Flyers. Rivermen journeyman netminder Chris Rawlings made stopped all 30 shots in his SPHL debut.
Mississippi 4, Macon 1
The Mississippi RiverKings, shut out in their home opener, found their offense on the road in Macon, Georgia. Early first period goals by Reid Campbell and Benji Rubin sparked Mississippi to a 4-1 win against the Macon Mayhem. Mark McGowan narrowed the Kings’ lead to 2-1 early in the second period, but Mississippi captain Leo Thomas answered soon after to keep their two-goal lead. The RiverKings added an insurance marker on a third period power play. Rookie goalie Matt Grogan made 24 saves in his first start for the RiverKings.
Fayetteville 2, Huntsville 1
It was Fight Night in Fayetteville for the FireAntz’ season opener with the visiting Huntsville Havoc. Referee Sean Fernandez was the hardest working man on the ice on Saturday night, as both teams racked up four fights and 94 minutes in penalties. Huntsville forward John Lidgett opened the scoring with a first period goal. Fayetteville rookie Shane Lust scored the unassisted equalizer, and Berkley Scott – the trade acquisition from Knoxville – scored the game winner for the FireAntz. Sean Bonar played well in net for Fayetteville, stopping 31 of 32 shots.
The Sin Bin’s Three Stars
3rd Star: Dennis Sicard, Forward, Knoxville Ice Bears – A Gordie Howe hatty will almost always get a star here. Especially if it’s Sicard.
2nd Star: Chris Rawlings, Goalie, Peoria Rivermen – Rawlings made 30 saves in shutting out the Ice Flyers.
1st Star: Doug Reid, Forward, Knoxville Ice Bears – Reid scored three goals on six shots against the Cottonmouths.
In Other News…
Pensacola defenseman Zach Josepher got the first suspension of the young season. Josepher earned the impromptu vacation with a major elbowing penalty and a game misconduct in Friday night’s season opener against the Peoria Rivermen. Josepher will not return to action until the Ice Flyers’ November 6th game against the Ice Bears. Peoria Rivermen captain Dan Bremner got ejected on Saturday night on a major elbowing penalty (Retaliation, perhaps?) against the Ice Flyers. Will Bremner also get a two-game break from the league office?
The SPHL resumes action on Halloween weekend with a five-game slate. On Friday, October 30th, The RiverKings travel to Columbus, Knoxville faces off with the FireAntz, the IceGators and Ice Flyers renew hostilities at The Hangar, and the Havoc make their first trip to Macon. The lone game on Halloween night is in Macon, Georgia when the Cottonmouths come trick-or-treating.