PEORIA, Ill. — The Peoria Rivermen will start their sixth season in the SPHL on Saturday. As always in minor hockey, there are some new faces on the roster mixed with returning players. In five years, the team has gone to three consecutive Finals appearances. This season they’ll be gunning hard to finally hoist the trophy and raise a banner at Carver Arena.
Nuts and Bolts:
Division/Conference Finish: Finished first overall in the league
Playoff Finish: Lost to Huntsville in Presidents Cup Final
Goals For Per Game: 3.77 average, second
Goals Against Per Game: 2.75 average, first
Power Play: 19.77%, fourth
Penalty Kill: 83.58%, third
- The Roanoke Rail Yard Dawgs are collecting former Rivermen, as Cody Dion, Michael Economos, Jeff Jones, Eric Witzel, and Jordan Carvalho have all now signed with the Virginia-based team. The Rail Yard Dawgs will visit Peoria three times this season, the only time the teams will face each other this campaign. Those three games are likely to be tough games, as there’s no such thing as friends once the game starts.
- Along those same lines, the rivalry between Quad City and Peoria is sure to be exacerbated by having both of the goaltenders for the Storm be former Rivermen tendies. Eric Levine and Peter Di Salvo are now both with the Storm.
- Three straight Finals appearances, three straight years of no victory parade down William Kampf Boulevard. Once is luck, twice is coincidence, and three times is a pattern. Whether coach Jean-Guy Trudel will change tactics this year or continue with the same systems that have brought the team so close yet not close enough remains to be seen.
“We’ve seen enough to know I think we’re going to be another year of a pretty good team. And the guys seemed to have a lot of pep and a lot of speed, so I think we’re going to be okay… I always say [the most competition is] in Peoria for eight months. Every position is a competition.” – Rivermen Coach Jean-Guy Trudel
Joe Kalisz returns for his second season with the Rivermen. He began his second professional campaign with the Fayetteville Marksman before a mid-season trade that brought him to Illinois. With the Marksmen, he scored six times and added three assists in 25 games, but improved to 10 goals and seven assists in 27 games. In the post-season Kalisz played a pivotal role in the Finals against the Huntsville Havoc, scoring three times and adding two assists in the bookend games of the three-game series.
Olivier Schingh-Gomez is fresh out of the major junior ranks and is thought of highly by coach Jean-Guy Trudel. While Schingh-Gomez’s stats aren’t those of a top-scorer but rather a fighter, that’s not a bad thing. Hockey is more than just scoring goals and making plays, as drawing penalties one way or another is an important part of the game as well. Schingh-Gomez certainly draws penalties, racking up 89 minutes in nine games for the Rockland Nationals of the Central Canadian Hockey League last season.
Storm Phaneuf, a goaltender, is returning from a torn hamstring suffered on December 22. Phaneuf had been the top goaltender in 2016-17 with a goals against average of 2.06 through 23 games. He was also third in the league for save percentage with .924. According to Dave Eminian of the Peoria Journal Star, Phaneuf hasn’t been cleared to play yet but is expected by the first of next month.
Gone but Not Forgotten:
Ryan Siiro has made the jump to the ECHL after splitting last season between Peoria and Loveland, CO with the Colorado Eagles prior to the big leap. Siiro amassed 22 points (10G, 12A) in 33 regular season SPHL games, as well as a single goal and three assists in seven playoff appearances. With the Eagles, he scored three times with as many assists in 21 games. Siiro will start the 2018-19 campaign with the Orlando Solar Bears.
As mentioned earlier, Dion has moved east to the Roanoke Rail Yard Dawgs for his sixth professional season. He spent the last two and a half years in Peoria, where he both scored well and racked up penalty minutes. In 38 games last season he scored 12 goals and added as many assists, as well as serving 107 minutes in the sin bin. The season before, he scored 24 times and totaled 15 assists in 48 games.
Joseph Widmar split last season between three teams — the Rivermen, the Greenville Swamp Rabbits, and the Fort Wayne Komets. While in his 20 ECHL he was only able to add three assists (three per team), he amassed 40 SPHL points (11G, 29A) in 36 games. In Peoria’s playoff run, he scored twice and added three assists in seven games. He’s now with Fort Wayne to start their season.
Sin Bin Swami Sez:
After three consecutive appearances in the President’s Cup Finals without hoisting the trophy, I think the team will go through a rough season. To lose in game three of three at home can’t be easy, and with the captain leaving to coach the Quad City Storm, some of the veteran presence is gone from the team. They’ll make the playoffs, of that I have no doubt; but another Finals appearance doesn’t look probable. Losing in the second round is most likely.
What do you think? Let us know how you think the Peoria Rivermen will do?
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