MOLINE, Ill – The Quad City Storm really need the Christmas break to regroup and decide what kind of team they are. After nineteen games, the team is in the middle of its second seven-game losing streak of the young season. Peoria came to town and swept the weekend, and what a weekend it was.
First off, let’s talk about Friday. I feel like I repeat myself a lot, so here’s another reiteration of what I’ve said before. The Storm came out on Friday hungry for a win; they played fantastic hockey, scored first, and showed chutzpah with their aggressive hits. The arena was fairly buzzing with energy when the first intermission started, because the level of play the Storm exhibited was worthy of a top team. Passes were good, and they had great scoring chances.
Then the teams returned for the second period, and Peoria went full sails to the wind on Quad City. The difference between the periods was night and day, as Peoria outskated, outshot, and outplayed the Storm. Everything the Storm weren’t doing, the Rivermen were. Peoria dominated the second and third periods, while Quad City sat on its heels and puck watched. Peoria is good at adapting on the go and finding those passing lanes, and that played a large part in the victory on Friday.
Eric Levine kept the game within one goal, with the third Rivermen goal coming on an empty net. Levine’s skill and work ethic was rewarded with a call-up to the Fort Wayne Komets, and he’s expecting to return after the Spengler Cup ends.
There’s not much more to say about Friday; inconsistency was the word of the night.
“We wanted it in the first, we showed it, and then second and third we decided we didn’t want to play,” coach Dave Pszenyczny said.
Saturday’s game was set to be a knock-down, drag-out affair from the start after a suspension or two were not handed out.
Early in the third period on Friday, Rivermen captain Alec Hagaman delivered a high hit on Dalton Mills in front of the Storm bench. Hagaman gave Mills a good look at his forearm after Mills passed the puck to Walsh, and Mills went down hard on the ice after getting an arm to the face. Hagaman was called for charging, and earned not only a five minute major but a game misconduct for charging. Storm forward Al Graves earned a game misconduct for verbal abuse of officials following Hagaman’s ejection.
I fully expected either Hagaman or Graves, or both, to be suspended for Saturday’s game, just to keep the two from creating chaos together, to say nothing of Hagaman’s hit. Neither were suspended, and 62 seconds into Saturday’s game Graves took out Hagaman. Graves then was ejected for being the aggressor, which made the Storm even more short-benched, as the team was already without Mills.
The Graves-Hagaman fight never should have been allowed to happen. Hagaman’s forearm shiver to Mills was definitely a high hit, and watching the video again it carried body-weight behind it as well.
By the time the game ended, 199 penalty minutes had been awarded and eight players had been ejected. The game, to put it bluntly, was barely a game. The officials lost control of the game after Graves’ ejection, and the attempts to regain control were ineffective. The game devolved into a sixty-minute long brawl, culminating in a goalie fight late in the third period.
Being short two men almost the entire game, as well as having numerous short-handed sequences to kill, it’s hard to find fault with the Storm losing 6-1. The Storm did show good effort, and there were multiple scoring chances for the team that very well could’ve wound up in the back of the net. Just a little too wide of a shot, losing the puck when deking, and getting tripped by a defender without being awarded a penalty shot were reasons the Storm didn’t score. The plays were being made and the passing was good, but the bounces continue to elude the Storm. Nathan Pelligra did well in his SPHL debut after being signed to a three-game try-out before the game. He was in the middle of the action but didn’t engage in the extracurriculars that I could see. He went to the net, had a shot on goal, and played hard.
Something needs to be done about the officiating at Saturday’s game; games with 199 penalty minutes give the league a bad name. The league needs to take responsibility for not handing out a suspension prior to the game.
Everyone knew Graves and Hagaman would have an altercation as soon as both were on the ice Saturday, and nothing was done to prevent it. Whether the best course of action would have been to suspend both Graves and Hagaman, or only Hagaman, I’m not sure; it’s possible that another Storm player would have tried to fight Hagaman if he was in the line-up and Graves wasn’t, and chaos would have still ensued. I expect several suspensions to be handed out today, however, for the ruckus at 16:08 of the third.
“We had a small bench to begin with,” detailed Pszenyczny. “that happens, I have no problem with it, that’s the way the game of hockey is played. I have a lot of guys banged up, and I couldn’t be more proud. They gave the effort, and unfortunately it’s 6-1, but it’s a little tough when you’re constantly killing penalties for Mickey Mouse calls.”
The Storm will face Evansville in a home-and-home series following the Christmas break, with puck drop for Friday set for 7:10 p.m. CT at the TaxSlayer Center. On Saturday the teams will be at the Ford Center, with puck drop set for 7:15 p.m. CT.
Be sure to follow @SinBinStorm on Twitter for game updates and takes on the games.