The Peoria Rivermen became the first team to punch their ticket to next week’s SPHL President’s Cup Final with a convincing 4-0 win over a scrappy Fayetteville FireAntz squad. Peoria swept Fayetteville in two games, not allowing a goal in the process. The Rivermen, playing at the Owens Center for the final time this postseason, scored a pair of first period goals from Ben Power and Connor Toomey, then proceeded to employ a stifling defensive effort and a sparkling 26-save performance from Kyle Rank – who is having a postseason of historical proportions – to send the FireAntz home for the summer.
Tonight’s shutout ensured a series shutout of the FireAntz, the first since Bryan Hince and his Knoxville Ice Bears blanked the Columbus Cottonmouths during the 2013 playoffs. Rank set three SPHL postseason records during Friday night’s game. First, Rank’s postseason scoreless streak is currently at 156:59, breaking Hince’s record of 147:27 from 2013. Rank’s clean slate tonight is his third blanking of this postseason and his fifth career postseason shutouts – both new SPHL records previously held by Hince.
Through two rounds of the SPHL playoffs, Rank is 4-0 with three shutouts, a .988 save percentage, and a 0.25 goals against average. If his SV% and GAA numbers hold, they will also be new SPHL postseason records.
Here’s Rank’s signature save from late in the third period of Friday night’s game, as he commits grand larceny on Fayetteville’s Kyle Gibbons.
— #SPHLGameNight (@SinBinSPHL) April 23, 2016
Rank, and the rest of the Peoria Rivermen, will certainly be tested in the President’s Cup Final. Both the Mississippi RiverKings and Pensacola Ice Flyers – who will play this weekend to decide the Rivermen’s opponent next week – have had success against Peoria during the regular season. The RiverKings went 4-2-1 against Peoria this season, and the Ice Flyers, 5-3-0 against Peoria, swept the Rivs in last month’s three-game series in Pensacola.
The Ice Flyers took Game 1 in their series against the RiverKings on Thursday night in Pensacola. Game 2 will take place Saturday night at Landers Center in Southaven, with a possible Game 3 on Sunday at the Columbus Civic Center.