The book is finally closed on what is arguably the most lopsided trade in Southern Professional Hockey League history. For the price of the Fayetteville FireAntz’ hotel bill, the Peoria Rivermen got sixty-two wins – ten by shutout – over three seasons out of two-time SPHL goaltender of the year Kyle Rank. The winningest goaltender over the past three seasons announced his retirement on Sunday after a five-year professional career.
The Bentley (MA) College product ends his career with an 85-38-16 record. Thirteen of his wins came by shutout, tied with Columbus goalie Andrew Loewen for the SPHL record of career regular-season shutouts. Eight of those shutouts – also a league record – came during the 2013-14 season.
“He’s brought so much to our organization,” said Peoria head coach Jean-Guy Trudel. The Rivermen bench boss calls Rank “A great professional” and “The heart and soul of our team and a huge presence in the community. We can’t thank him enough for all he’s done for us.”
“This was a very difficult decision for me, but my health is a concern and I’m doing what is necessary,” said Rank. “(With) some of the hits I’ve taken on the ice, it’s a factor for me. These are not issues exclusive to the SPHL, these kind of hits can happen in any league.”
One hit, in particular, was a scary shot Rank took from Columbus Cottonmouths forward Craig Simchuk last December. Simchuk ran Rank head-first into the goal post in one of last season’s most controversial events. In addition to recovering from a concussion as a result of the hit, Rank also underwent eye surgery in March to repair damage to his retina.
Despite the concussion and eye surgery, Rank went on to backstop the Rivermen to the SPHL President’s Cup Final in record-setting fashion. In the semifinal against the FireAntz, Rank did not allow a single goal the entire series, in the middle of a record 159:28 postseason scoreless streak. Rank finished the playoffs with a record three shutouts and racked up another record of five career postseason blankings.
Despite his accomplishments, one bullet point remains off Rank’s resume. “The only thing I couldn’t get done in my career was win a championship,” said Rank. “I will always feel as if it was a personal defeat. That will be my only regret. I appreciate everything the Peoria community, the fans, and the organization has done for me. If not for them, my career would never have been of a significant note.”
Rank will also go down as the best SHPL netminder never to have appeared in an ECHL game. Earlier in his career with Knoxville and Fayetteville, Rank took a pair of call-ups to Cincinnati and Greenville, only to not see action. Once in Peoria, Rank made the decision to stick with the Rivermen and refuse ECHL suitors. It’s hard to fault Rank in his specific case, given his lack of utilization – the kind of breaks which disrupt a goalie’s routine – in his previous ECHL experiences.
In last month’s podcast episode, Peoria head coach Jean-Guy Trudel hinted at a possible career change for Rank, saying “I think he’s going to be looking at a job (in fitness and nutrition) and he’s really smart at what he does.”
The next chapter of Kyle Rank’s life will take place on the Florida Gulf Coast. Rank, who resides in Pensacola, will begin a highly-coveted internship with Exos, a sports performance company. In Pensacola, Exos is associated with the Andrews Institute of Orthopaedics and Sports Medicine, directed by world-renowned surgeon Dr. James Andrews. “They train athletes, and Pensacola has a has a big military presence, of course, so we also work with members of the military, providing physical therapy to assist them toward returning to duty,” said Rank. “Training and improving athletes is a passion for me, and this is a real chance to establish myself in it.”
“He’s going to be really missed in Peoria,” Said Trudel.
He’s going to be missed across the league. All the best to you, Ranker.
Kyle Rank’s SPHL Records
Career Regular Season Shutouts: 13 (T-Andrew Loewen)
Single Season Shutouts: 8 (2013-14)
Postseason Shutouts, Career: 5
Postseason Shutouts, Single Season: 3 (2016)Scoreless Streak, Postseason: 159 minutes, 28 seconds
Goals Against Average, Single Postseason Series: 0.00 (2016 vs. Fayetteville)
Save Percentage, Single Postseason Series: 1.000 (2016 vs. Fayetteville)
From the Peoria Rivermen Press Release