MOLINE, Ill — A new page has been added to the hockey history books, as the Quad City Storm have played their first game in franchise history. The newest SPHL team took on their in-state rivals at the TaxSlayer Center on Saturday, in a rematch of the preseason game in Peoria seven days before. While both games went to overtime tied at three apiece, the difference was in the victor.
It didn’t take long for the hostilities to begin, as only 48 seconds into the game there was some shoving between the two teams. With 15 more meetings between the teams over the course of the season, it’s a sure sign that all the “Cold War on 74” games will be aggressive and chippy games. Jake Schultz was sent for an early shower after getting into one-sided fisticuffs with Alec Hagaman; the fisticuffs came after Hagaman welcomed Vincent Caligiuri to the SPHL with an elbow at center ice.
Though not a deciding goal, the first Rivermen goal was one that Storm goaltender Peter Di Salvo wasn’t happy about. Immediately after the play he, along with fans, protested for goalie interference that wasn’t even considered by the officials. At the end of regulation, Joe Kalisz believed he had scored the game-winning goal with a buzzer-beater, but the buzzer beat his goal instead.
Though being a new team, the Storm weren’t dominated by the Rivermen. Overall, both teams were evenly matched. Of course, there were stretches where one team controlled play over the other, but none of those stretches lasted for overly long. The overtime period was the best period of hockey for the Storm, and not just because they ended up winning.
Forward and game-winning penalty shot goal scorer Vladimir Nikiforov said that the team was up throughout the game.
“[It’s] very important to have a positive environment — even if we were down, we were down 3-1, we still felt like we could come back, and that’s exactly what we started doing, and it worked,” Nikiforov said.
The Storm penalty kill was superb again, just like in the exhibition game last Saturday at Carver Arena. Peoria had six chances on the man advantage, but the Storm PK unit kept them from adding to the score sheet. In fact, the goal which began the Storm comeback was a shorthanded marker. The Storm were one for five on the power play, the goal which sent the game to extra hockey coming while Ben Oskroba thought about what he’d done. The Storm’s penalty kill unit was aggressive and offensive, sparking some of the best scoring chances of the night while down a man. However, the power play unit was not as well oiled as the penalty kill, having difficulty maintaining pressure in the offensive zone.
Coach Dave Pszenyczny emphasized balance on the bench, which I believe was a large factor in his first career win as a coach.
“You can’t be too high or too low,” Pszenyczny said. “I’ve been in situations as a player where you’re up a couple and the next thing you know you lose a game by two. You just need to keep to the systems, make sure you’re executing and not taking chances.”
The final frame saw less aggression than the prior two periods, as the two teams buckled down to try to win the game. With a total of four of the six goals scored in the final 20 minutes, everything came down to the wire at the TaxSlayer Center.
The biggest takeaway from the night is that the Storm are capable of being just as good a team as Peoria is. While it was the first game of the season for both teams, being able to hang with last year’s regular season champions, it will certainly go a long way in showing that the Storm are a force to be reckoned with.
Another takeaway would be the fact that the community turned out in full force for the first game in franchise history. Just over 6500 people were reported for the night. While not the 8,000 the team had been hoping for, those in attendance made up for it with excitement and noise.
The Storm next take the ice on Friday, October 26. Puck drop is set for 7:10, once again facing the Rivermen.
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