SOUTHAVEN, MS – Mississippi RiverKings forward Todd Hosmer had the shot and made it count. Skating into the zone down the right side boards in a rare moment when Evansville Thunderbolts defenders weren’t in his face, A rare moment of opportunity arose for the veteran forward, a former SPHL first-teamer and a 37-goal scorer in 2013-14.
Hosmer, who spent time during the past two seasons with the ECHL Wichita Thunder, returned to the RiverKings after a trade last season with the Knoxville Ice Bears. Hosmer’s fourth season got off to a good start with a quick snap shot from the left face-off circle. The snipe beat Thunderbolts rookie netminder Tanner Milliron‘s glove, reliable for most of his 40-save evening. Hosmer’s goal at the 7:12 mark of the second broke a 1-1 deadlock, and neither the RiverKings nor the Thunderbolts would light the lamp again. Mississippi won their season opener at the friendly confines of Landers Center, 2-1.
The expansion Thunderbolts, playing their first game against live opposition, sputtered during the first period. Evansville spent eight minutes of their opening period on the penalty kill, including a double-minor high-sticking call on Luke Sandler. However, the Bolts penalty killing unit was effective – going a perfect 7-for-7 – much to the surprise of Thunderbolts coach Jeff Pyle. Pyle remarked after the game, “We haven’t had time to work on our special teams yet, so I’m glad we didn’t allow any goals.”
Despite being outshot 20-6 in the opening frame, the Thunderbolts would be the team which opened the scoring. Andrew Darrigo capitalized on a RiverKings turnover on a botched breakout to beat goaltender Alex Caffi, otherwise impressive on a 33-save evening.
The remainder of the game began to find its character, turning into a chess match featuring conflicting styles. The RiverKings were extremely effective getting pucks deep into the offensive zone using an aggressive forecheck, while the quicker, smaller Thunderbolts generated scoring chances blowing past Mississippi defenders. During the early moments of the second period which the Thunderbolts were dictating play, irony struck again. Brantley Sherwood scored the first RiverKings goal of the season as the puck slid past Milliron during a scrum in the crease at the 6:33 mark.
Thirty-nine seconds later, Hosmer’s shot gave the Riverkings the game-winning marker.
|Thunderbolts||1-0-0 — 1||6-16-12 — 34||0 – 2|
|RiverKings||0-2-0 — 2||20-13-9 — 42||0 – 7|
|Evansville – Andrew Darrigo (Brent Clarke) 10:42|
|Mississippi RiverKings – Brantley Sherwood (Dillan Fox, Sam Higgins) 6:33
Mississippi RiverKings – Todd Hosmer (Mike Grace) 7:12
|Evansville – John Daniels – (Roughing), 2 MIN, 2:14
Mississippi RiverKings – Richard Coyne – (Elbowing), 2 MIN, 2:14
Evansville – John Daniels – (Hooking), 2 MIN, 6:40
Evansville – Andrew Darrigo – (Hooking), 2 MIN, 14:03
Evansville – Luke Sandler – (High Sticking) (Double Minor), 4 MIN, 17:11
|Evansville – Andrew Darrigo – (Interference), 2 MIN, 14:27
Evansville – John Scorcia – (Tripping), 2 MIN, 17:48
|Mississippi RiverKings – Tyler Barr – (Slashing), 2 MIN, 5:05
Evansville – Phil Bronner – (Tripping), 2 MIN, 7:31
Mississippi RiverKings – Matt Harrington – (Holding), 2 MIN, 17:21
The Sin Bin’s Three Stars
★ – Todd Hosmer (MRK) – Goal, GWG, 8 shots.
★★ – Alex Caffi (MRK) – 1 Goal allowed on 34 shots.
★★★ – Tanner Milliron (EVV) – 2 Goals allowed on 42 shots.
Around the League
- Knoxville Ice Bears 2, Roanoke Rail Yard Dawgs 0 – The Bears and Dawgs opened a new era of hockey in the Roanoke Valley before a sellout crowd at the Berglund Center. Kyle McNeil‘s power-play marker in the third period was all the Ice Bears needed. Jake Rivera added a late game insurance marker for Knoxville. Ice Bears rookie netminder Nick Kohn made all 27 saves in his first pro shutout.
- Columbus Cottonmouths 4, Macon Mayhem 3 (OT) – Columbus wins Macon’s home opener despite blowing a 3-0 lead – powered by two Andy Bathgate tallies – after the first period. Mayhem sniper Jake Trask answered with a pair of his own as Macon deadlocked the game by the second intermission. Jonathan Turk scored the game winner at 1:07 into the overtime period.
- Fayetteville FireAntz 6, Pensacola Ice Flyers 3 – The Flyers raised their third championship banner at the Pensacola Bay Center and Steven Buco added an early first-period tally. The rest of the evening belonged to the visitors, as the FireAntz stung Pensacola for six goals from six different players.
- Huntsville Havoc 6, Peoria Rivermen 1 – This is not a typo. The Havoc won their first game against the Rivermen since March 14, 2015, and their first win at Carver Arena since February 7, 2015. Jeff Jones opened the scoring for Huntsville 1:32 into the game, then the Havoc opened the floodgates in the second period. Adam Courchaine continued his excellent play when visiting Peoria, stopping 24 of 25 shots.
- Roanoke at Knoxville – 7:30 ET
- Macon at Columbus – 7:30 ET
- Fayetteville at Pensacola – 7:05 CT
- Huntsville at Peoria – 7:05 CT
- Mississippi at Evansville – 7:15 CT
Join Matthew Harding and Mike Campos for the first episode of the Inside the SPHL Podcast, premiering this Tuesday on thesinbin.net. Our first guest will be Olympic gold medalist and Peoria Rivermen goaltender Shannon Szabados.