PEORIA, Ill. – Sometimes a team is good because of their talented goalscorers, other times it’s due to their goaltending tandem, and sometimes it is just everything falling perfectly into place. In this case, could the Peoria Rivermen be good because of much too favorable scheduling? Let’s look at past seasons and see how it played between Peoria and the other northern teams in the Southern Professional Hockey League.

I feel I have to respond to something Managing Editor Mike Campos described a while back saying the current Rivermen Schedule, saying they should hand the William B. Coffey Trophy right now to the Rivermen. The Sin Bin boss’ thoughts are based on the fact that about half of their games are against the Quad City Storm, an expansion team in the SPHL and the Evansville Thunderbolts, who are off to quite the rough start this season.

Let’s start in the 2013-14 season, the inaugural season for the Peoria Rivermen SPHL franchise. Although, not only was it the Rivermen’s inaugural season, but it was also the inaugural season of their sister team, the Bloomington Thunder. The Rivermen finished third in the SPHL standings with a record of 30-18-8 and 68 points. The

Photo Credit: Dennis Sievers/Peoria Rivermen

Bloomington Thunder finished in tenth place in the SPHL standings with a mark of 20-33-3 and 43 points. Now, the Rivermen and Thunder played each other a total of 17 times that seasons, almost a third of the SPHL season. What was the head-to-head record for the Rivermen against their now-defunct in-state foe?

Ten wins, and seven losses.

If you do the math on the point percentages, the records for both teams in their head-to-head match-ups with each other end up almost perfectly reflecting how their entire season went as a whole. It shocked me quite a bit honestly, but the numbers don’t lie.

How did it all play out?

Well, the Rivermen got off to a hot start in the season series, but then the Thunder fought back and made it close at times in the original SPHL Cold War on 74. In the end, though, the Rivermen came out on top in the series.

Could we expect the same thing to happen with the season series against Quad City, who the Rivermen are beating in the season series so far at 3-0-1? Perhaps, and we will have to wait and see how the rest of the season plays out.

Now, what about the Rivermen’s rival in Indiana, the Evansville Thunderbolts?

The Evansville Thunderbolts came into the SPHL back in 2016 and have been the Rivermen’s main rival the last couple seasons. Let’s take a look at how that has gone so far between the two teams.

The 2016-17 season saw the Thunderbolts come into the league and with it a schedule that had them play against the Rivermen a total of 12 times. During that season, the Rivermen went 32-13-11 for 75 points, good for third in the SPHL standings. The Thunderbolts, however, went 14-32-10 for 38 points, last in the league. Now onto the season series, where the Rivermen won the series with a record of 9-1-2. While it doesn’t truly reflect the Rivermen’s overall record, I guess it isn’t too surprising, given the Rivermen were at that point an established team in the SPHL and the Thunderbolts just came into the league. But that also shows maybe the Rivermen were perhaps not as good as their record suggested, despite making the Presidents Cup Final.

Now onto the previous season, where the Rivermen finished with a record of 38-13-5 for 81 points, good for claiming the William B. Coffey Trophy as the top team in the regular season. While the Thunderbolts improved from the season prior, finishing with a record of 27-20-9 for 63 points, good for a sixth-place finish and becoming the first of the Rivermen’s northern rivals to make the SPHL playoffs. With the season series, however, things didn’t change much. After 13 games between the two teams that season, the Rivermen won the series with a 10-3-0 record. So far this season, the Rivermen are 4-0-0 against the Thunderbolts, which only furthers their dominance over their Indiana rival.

So in total, before the 2018-19 SPHL season, the Rivermen played 42 games against other northern teams, gaining a record of 29-11-2 in those games, a point percentage of 0.714. Now to compare it, we’ll need to calculate the total point percentage of the Rivermen during the 2013-14, 2016-17, and 2017-18 seasons. It turns out to be exactly 224 points out of a possible 336, precisely a two-thirds point percentage for the Rivermen during those three seasons.

But the Rivermen have also put together a very sparkling record during the two seasons they didn’t have a northern rival in the SPHL as well. During the seasons where the Rivermen were the lone northern team, they put together a 0.705 point percentage, collecting 158 out of a possible 224 points, taking home the Coffey in both seasons as regular season champions.

So, what does it all mean?

It means that the Rivermen ever so slightly do better on average against the other northern teams in the SPHL than they do the squads in the south, which may very well indicate that the Rivermen highly benefit during the regular season – making an easier path for the Rivermen to land atop the standings yet again.

So while Campos was a bit tongue-in-cheek when he said “You might as well engrave the Coffey Trophy now for the Rivermen,” it turns out that statement is well-supported by history and math. It’s honestly even more likely this season given the number of games being played in total for the Rivermen against other northern teams.

But like I mentioned earlier in the article, we’ll have to see how the rest of the 2018-19 season plays out. Nothing can be said until it’s all said and done, especially in the game of hockey.

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