BIRMINGHAM, Ala. – One versus two. It doesn’t matter if it’s little league baseball, high school football, the NFL, NBA, or in this case, the SPHL, nothing stirs up the emotions in sports fans when the top two teams square off.
Tonight, the top two ranked teams in the SPHL will face off at Carver Arena in Peoria, Illinois. The top-ranked Peoria Rivermen have been dominant this season. The Rivermen are 14-0-1 at home this season. Peoria leads the SPHL in goals scored, and fewest goals allowed. The Rivermen’s roster also has the league-leading scorer in rookie Ben Blasko, the top two rated defensemen in Ralfs Grinsbergs and Nick Neville, and the active league leader in saves percentage and goals against average in Stephen Kline. Kline also set a league record this season for consecutive minutes without allowing a goal. Finally, the icing on the domination cake that Peoria has baked this season, they’re tied for the league lead in power play goals.
On the visitors’ bench will be the Birmingham Bulls. The Bulls have had moments of dominance as well: an SPHL-record 11-game winning streak to start the season, goaltender Mavric Parks leads the league in wins, saves, and second in both shutouts & save percentage. Birmingham leads the league on the power play scoring 21.43% of the time with a man advantage. The Bulls are second on the penalty kill, stopping teams 85.44% of the time.
Birmingham and Peoria are lead by two of the most respected coaches in the SPHL among their peers. Both selected to be the coaching representatives for the SPHL All-Star teams, Jean-Guy Trudel and Jamey Hicks, have a history that goes back to their playing days in the ECHL. In 1997-98 both Trudel and Hicks were first-team All-ECHL. Hicks has the bragging rites for that season as he was awarded the “ECHL Most Valuable Player”. On the ice, despite both being All-ECHL in 97-98, they never faced off on the ice.
When you finally break down the numbers for Friday nights, it shapes up to what a #1 vs #2 game should be.
Who will win? Wish I knew. But, what I do know is this should be a closely contested game between the two best teams in the SPHL so far this season.
Did you know head coach Jamey Hicks and three Birmingham Bulls made The Sin Bin’s 2019 SPHL All-Star Team? Their specially made jerseys are being auctioned off on DASH Auction. This is your chance to get your hands on history…so don’t miss your opportunity. https://web.dashapp.io/auction/5c61a9d26f34451a5f4a15d6