MOLINE, Ill. — This weekend was about more than just hockey. It was more than just a game this weekend, as the names of those who have fought or are fighting one of the greatest battles were painted on the ice. While it was another #ColdWaron74 weekend, that wasn’t the war on most people’s minds. Seeing the ice covered, with names in varied colors makes it easy to remember the real battles going on. But it shouldn’t be something that crosses your mind once a year when this night comes around, just like mental health shouldn’t only be thought of on Bell Let’s Talk Day.
The weekend began on Wednesday when the community was invited to paint the names of loved one on the ice at the TaxSlayer Center. The ice was covered in various colors, barely any white ice to be seen after nine hours of painting. The names of Birmingham Bulls defenseman Andrew Darrigo and Quad City Storm defenseman Sean Kacerosky both appear on the ice. Kacerosky is a survivor, while Darrigo is just beginning his fight. Kacerosky’s name actually appears twice on the ice, painted once by himself and the other by two teammates — Vincent Beaudry and Tyler Minx.
Friday’s contest was the first for either team after the four-player deal that went down on Tuesday, Dean Yakura, Stephen Gaul, and the rights for Joe Widmar coming to Quad City in exchange for Austin Hervey. Familiarity breeds contempt, but it wasn’t as physical a game as one might expect.
Two referees are now assigned to the rest of this season’s #ColdWaron74, a smart move after the December 22 game that saw eight players ejected and a total of 199 penalty minutes handed out between the two teams. By contrast, only 22 minutes of penalties were dished out on Friday. Peoria was able to stay out of the box, for the most part, only serving four penalties. Two of the 11 total infractions were coincidental minors.
Quad City’s special teams, which had been league-leading only a few weeks ago, is now in freefall. Before, the Storm’s major issue was a less than stellar even strength scoring ability. Now, scoring even on the man advantage has gone down, falling to fifth place with a 19.12% conversion rate. Having only one chance on the power play on Friday didn’t give the team much time, especially considering it was a 4-on-3, but Saturday’s unit had slightly better luck, getting on the board with a power-play goal.
The Storm seemed to feed off the energy from a packed house at home on Saturday, just over 5000 people filling the TaxSlayer Center. Peoria controlled the play and possession in each of the period’s opening minutes, but as the clock ticked down, the Storm seemed to get more engaged. Peoria didn’t want to take their first regulation loss of 2019 at the hands of the ninth in the league Storm, pulling within one goal time and again, but it wasn’t enough.
The Storm scored three of the four goals off set face-off plays Saturday night. Those plays helped the Storm snap an eight-game losing streak. Quad City is the only team this season to defeat Peoria twice in regulation, quite the feat for a team with a 10-22-3 record.
Peoria didn’t play sloppy or like a lesser team; it would be easy to pass off the contest that way. Other than the face-offs that spelled doom for the team, they played like a team that’s been to the Finals three years in a row — and then lost. The Storm seems to have found a groove, at least against Peoria, of enough physicality to outmuscle them without earning too many excessive penalties.
“I had everyone contributing,” said Dave Pszenyczny following the victory on Saturday, “I mean, from Al to all five my d, to everybody. It’s tough when you’ve got that many forwards going, and everybody was buying in and understanding that everybody’s got to get a shift in, so it was a great all-around game.”
During the third period, the Storm announced that Gilda’s Club, an organization whose mission is “to ensure that all people impacted by cancer are empowered by knowledge, strengthened by action, and sustained by the community” was receiving a check for $5500 prior to the jersey auction. The money came from ticket revenue and puck-a-chuck sales. After the auction, Gilda’s Club received a grand total of $21,700. The highest bid for a jersey was $1150, on Pszenyczny’s sweater; Al Graves’ was a close second at $1050.
Hockey Fights Cancer weekend wrapped up on Sunday, as the Quad City Blues of the Midwest High School Hockey League put on their ninth annual benefit game. The Cedar Rapids RoughRiders High School Hockey team came to town to help raise money for the Genesis Outpatient Pediatric Therapy Center in the Battle for the Genesis Cup. Genesis Health Systems donated specialty jerseys, which were auctioned during the game. A bake sales, raffle items, and silent auctions rounded out the fundraising methods for the Blues. While not cancer specific, the Genesis Outpatient Pediatric Therapy Center offers occupational, physical, and speech/language therapy to pediatric patients.
The Storm will return to action on Friday, February 15 when they host the Macon Mayhem on “Anti-Valentine’s Day,” night. On Saturday and Sunday, the Birmingham Bulls come to town for the first time. Saturday night is Super Hero Night, while Sunday’s contest goes to the dogs on Pucks and Paws Night.
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