So here we are….the final two teams left standing in the SPHL are the top-seeded Macon Mayhem and the third-seeded Peoria Rivermen. Here are the five reasons I believe the Peoria Rivermen will win the Presidents Cup this year.

  1. Defense: The Peoria Rivermen have the ability to shut down top rated offenses. If you look at the regular season, the Rivermen held teams to three goals or less a whopping 39 times. Veteran Dave Pszenyczny headlines a defensive group that has plenty of talent and experience. The Rivermen keep prime scoring opportunities to a minimum and that takes the pressure of their rookie goaltender Storm Phaneuf. I believe the Rivermen can keep the Macon offense in check.
  2. Speed: While Macon possesses some talented forwards, the Rivermen have some serious speed up front. Rookie Connor Gorman, with a postseason high six goals and ten points, has been on fire recently and another rookie, Dakota Klecha, is also a handful. Both of these diminutive players (Gorman is 5’10” and Klecha is 5’9″) use their speed and fearlessness to terrorize opposing defenses. They both should give the Macon defense quite a bit of trouble in this series.
  3. Jean-Guy Trudel: In my opinion, Trudel is the best coach in the SPHL and could easily be coaching at the next level. His systems he puts in place and the unique ways he motivates his players and demands the best are an example for any minor league coach. Trudel makes in game adjustments that work and now that he has a week to look at Macon and prepare a specific game plan to beat them, I have full confidence he will do just that. Not that I don’t believe in what Kevin Kerr has done in Macon this season but Trudel coached teams always are organized and are just tough to play against.
  4. X-Factor: To me, the X-factor is rugged forward Alec Hagaman for the Rivermen. Hagaman throws his body around, chirps the other team, and has a sneaky lethal wrist shot. Hagaman’s presence on the ice and his ability to play both ends of the ice could be the difference for the Rivermen in this series. While Macon loves to play offense and score goals, the Rivermen and players like Hagaman are coached to play both ends of the ice. I believe Hagaman will make a huge impact on this series on both the scoresheet and in the intangibles department. That might mean drawing a penalty at a crucial time in the game throwing a big hit to free up the speedsters, or wrecking havoc in front of the Mayhem goalie Jordan Ruby.
  5. It’s Time: The Rivermen have been at the top of the SPHL since they joined the league but the Presidents Cup has been elusive. Peoria has dealt with postseason adversity like Kyle Rank getting banged-up against Columbus in 2014, the wild overtime losses to Louisiana in 2015, and the 2016 Final against Pensacola where every goal seemed like it was controversial – including the Ice Flyers’ series winner with one-tenth of a second remaining in regulation. For this simple reason, I believe the stars have aligned and the hockey gods are with the Rivermen this year. It is time for coach Trudel and the Rivermen to hoist the President’s Cup.

Prediction: The Peoria Rivermen are ready to take care of business after previous years’ disappointments and win the Presidents Cup in a two-game sweep of the Macon Mayhem.

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