LAFAYETTE, LA — Last week in the Southern Professional Hockey League, the Peoria Rivermen began to get back on track after firing blanks on opening weekend against the Huntsville Havoc. The Rivs axed opening night goaltenders Storm Phaneuf and Shannon Szabados in favor of Matt Grogan and Tyler Green. Grogan went through his three-goal limit 21 minutes and 19 seconds into last Friday’s game against the Macon Mayhem and was replaced by Wisconsin-Eau Claire prospect Green.

Green allowed his third goal at the 110:32 mark of his (likely permanent) stint as Peoria’s netminder, backstopping Peoria’s 4-3 comeback win on Friday night. Green fell about 30 seconds short in Saturday’s 2-1, overtime goalie duel with Macon’s Jordan Ruby – formerly of the Havoc. We know Green was about 30 seconds shy of defeating Ruby because Rivermen forward Dimitri Ognev scored Peoria’s game-winning goal about 30 seconds after Macon’s Stephen Pierog scored his overtime marker for the Mayhem.

That’s right, folks. Two game-winning goals in a single game. This is why I love the SPHL – anything can happen in this league.

I’ll explain. At the 1:40 mark of settling a 1-1 tie between Peoria and Macon, Pierog – along with Daniel Gentzler on a 2-on-1 breakaway – appeared to fire a shot off the crossbar. In a communication breakdown between on and off-ice officials, the goal judge (with a far better view of the action than the video on SPHL Live) lit the goal lamp briefly. Referee Walker Holton, far behind the play, did not have a good enough view of the shot, did not signal the goal, and allowed play to continue. Half a minute later, Ognev bangs home his shot and the game ends with the Rivs believing they have won the game. After a lengthy review with his linesmen and the goal judge, Holton signaled Pierog’s goal and made Ognev’s heroics moot. Two game-winning goals; one hockey game.

SPHL fans are in the market for new headwear after a rash of trifectas hit the league last weekend. We’re not sure when the last time two hat-tricks were scored by teammates in a single game before Knoxville Ice Bears forwards Mark Pustin and Kyle McNeil scored theirs in a 7-3 win last Friday night against the visiting Huntsville Havoc. McNeil’s hat trick was his first in his six SPHL seasons. Pustin, while with the Mississippi RiverKings, victimized the Havoc last season with a trio of goals on 11/24/15.

Also on Friday night, Tayler Thompson of the Fayetteville FireAntz got his first professional hatty in the Antz’ 4-1 win over the RiverKings. Roanoke Rail Yard Dawgs forward Tyler Gjurich scored the franchise’s first hatty on Saturday night in Evansville. The Dawgs would go on to defeat the Evansville Thunderbolts, 3-2, for their first-ever franchise win.

SPHL Announces 5K Toy Drive

The league announced its first-ever 5K Toy Drive this morning.

The initiative was proposed by RiverKings president Robin Hurdle during a Community/Charity breakout session at the league’s Annual Meeting this past June and was unanimously approved by the Board of Governors. The League Office then met with its Marketing Committee to further develop the plan before presenting it to all member clubs.
“As part of the SPHL’s continuing dedication to its communities, our teams have committed to toy drives in each city as we head into the holiday season, with a league-wide goal of 5,000 toys,” said SPHL Commissioner Jim Combs. “Fans and corporate sponsors are challenged to show the impact they can have on their community by donating toys for underprivileged children. We are inviting our fans and teams to get involved in local events and help brighten their community as we come together for this holiday season.”
Fans can check out how their team/community is matching up against the rest of the league at and support their team during the following events:
  • Columbus Cottonmouths: Toys for Tots Toy Drive (December 2 & 3), Teddy Bear Toss (February 18)
  • Evansville Thunderbolts: Teddy Bear Toss (December 16)
  • Fayetteville FireAntz: Teddy Bear Toss (November 18)
  • Huntsville Havoc: Teddy Bear Toss (November 25)
  • Knoxville Ice Bears: Teddy Bear Toss (December 16)
  • Macon Mayhem: Teddy Bear Toss (December 10)
  • Mississippi RiverKings: Teddy Bear Toss (November 12)
  • Pensacola Ice Flyers: Gulf Coast Kids House Toy Drive (all November home games), Teddy Bear Toss (December 2)
  • Peoria Rivermen: Teddy Bear Toss (November 26)
  • Roanoke Rail Yard Dawgs: Teddy Bear Toss (December 17)

Tonight’s Games

Title Belt Game: Columbus Cottonmouths at Huntsville Havoc

  • After winning the SPHL Title Belt from Knoxville last Saturday, the Havoc make their first defense tonight.
  • Last season, Huntsville won six of the eight games in their season series with the Cottonmouths.
  • Columbus has played Huntsville more than any other team in the SPHL. The Snakes lead the all-time series, 58-46-12.
  • Both teams have played well on visiting ice this season. On the road, Columbus is 2-0-0 and the Havoc is 2-1-0.
  • Among rookies, Huntsville’s Jordan Wood leads the SPHL with four goals and Riley Spraggs of Columbus tops the league with five assists.

Fayetteville FireAntz at Roanoke Rail Yard Dawgs

  • First-ever meeting between the teams. Last week, the FireAntz split with the RiverKings, while the Dawgs swept the Thunderbolts in Evansville.
  • On the road, Fayetteville is 3-for-6 on the power play, while the Rail Yard Dawgs have only allowed one power play goal in six penalty kill situations at home.
  • In the second period, Roanoke has seven goals on 51 shots.
  • Fayetteville is the only remaining SPHL team to have not allowed a third-period goal.

 Pensacola Ice Flyers at Peoria Rivermen

  • First meeting between the teams since the 2016 President’s Cup Final, which Pensacola won in a three-game sweep.
  • The Ice Flyers won five of eight regular-season games last season and lead the all-time series, 13-3-2.
  • Pensacola has scored first in all of their games this season.
  • The Rivermen have allowed 17 goals this season, but only three since Tyler Green assumed netminding duties.
  • Today, the Ice Flyers re-signed winger Nick McParland for his third season with Pensacola. McParland appeared in 11 games for the Flyers, scoring three goals with six assists before spending the remainder of the season with ECHL Brampton.

Knoxville Ice Bears at Evansville Thunderbolts

  • First-ever meeting between the teams. The Ice Bears become the first to face both expansion teams this season. Knoxville swept Roanoke in a two-game set on the league’s opening weekend.
  • Knoxville and Evansville are the league’s most and least penalized teams, respectively. The Ice Bears average 32.5 penalty minutes, while the Bolts average only 11.2 per game.
  • Evansville has scored first in every game this season, yet remains winless on the season. The Thunderbolts have followed-up with the game’s second goal only once.
  • Ice Bears forward Danny Cesarz leads the SPHL in scoring with nine points – all assists.

Macon Mayhem at Mississippi RiverKings

  • First meeting this season between Macon and Mississippi. The Riverkings were 6-1-1 against the Mayhem last season and lead the all-time record, 8-4-2.
  • Last season, the Riverkings had the league’s best home-ice penalty kill at 89.5% and are a perfect 2-for-2 this season.
  • On the road, Macon had the second-best power play last season with an 18.6% success rate and converted on their only power play chance on the road this season.
  • Tonight is the first game goaltender Peter Di Salvo is eligible to return after spending the first two weeks of the season on the 14-day injured reserve.

Tomorrow’s Games

  • TSB’s SPHL Game of the Month – Knoxville at Mississippi – 7:30 CT
  • Huntsville at Roanoke – 7:05 ET
  • Columbus at Fayetteville – 7:30 ET
  • Evansville at Macon – 7:35 ET
  • Pensacola at Peoria – 7:05 CT

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