MOLINE, Ill — The Cold War on 74 is very cold indeed, as there hasn’t been much competition so far between the two teams — the Peoria Rivermen and Quad City Storm — in four games. In the weekend series, only Saturday’s contest had any excitement. Friday’s match, while offering aggressive play and lots of goals for Peoria fans to celebrate, was a very lopsided affair. It’s time to break down the weekend, starting with Friday’s match.
NOVEMBER 2 — Peoria Civic Center
Even though I was in a different building compared to a week ago, I had an overwhelming sense of deja vu. After the game, Coach Dave Pszenyczny said that the same things went wrong in the first road game for the Storm as in their second game of the season.
In the first period, Peoria scored as many goals as there were penalty calls against Quad City — three. Two of those goals were on the man advantage, just like in last week’s contest — though the October game’s power play tallies were in the sandwich stanza rather than the opening frame. Going down a man doesn’t help the team, and that is never more obvious than when the other teams scores on the power play. The Storm needed to stop taking penalties on Friday, but they didn’t realize they could do that. Ten penalties were called against the visiting team through 60 minutes, and while that averages to about six minutes between calls, averages don’t mean much most of the time. In the first period, the first power play goal came on a 5-on-3 man advantage for Peoria. The next goal came four minutes later, with less than a minute remaining in the special teams’ time.
Peoria dominated because they didn’t take bad penalties. The Storm, being on the penalty kill so often, didn’t control possession during those stretches. That meant Peoria had free rein to pepper Peter Di Salvo with shots, and they did. Di Salvo faced 31 shots and turned away 26 of them in a little over two periods of play. The first shot by the Rivermen for the third period was the one that chased him from the net. But even when the teams were at even strength, Quad City still had trouble getting shots put on goal.
Something needed to change for the Storm, or else it was sure to be a very long season series and a season in general. Something did change overnight.
NOVEMBER 3 — TaxSlayer Center
A team on a two game skid to start the season isn’t bound to stay a team for long. Trades are a part of hockey, and can be threatened when performance is poor. Saturday’s match was sure to be a do-or-die for several players, and they came with their A-game to keep their roster spots.
Coach Pszenyczny implemented a new system overnight, and it paid off. Penalties were fewer during the first two frames, but shots on goal were still lopsided in Peoria’s favor. Peoria’s power play unit seems to specialize in rapid-fire opportunities in front of the net, managing at one point to send six shots on goal in a single man advantage in the first period.
Peoria has a really beautiful diamond formation on the power play, but none of the five chances were able to convert in the Saturday rematch. Peoria’s penalty kill consisted of clearing the puck to force the Storm to re-enter the zone repeatedly, but the Storm seemed content for most of the night to allow the play to stay in their own zone and block shots while down a man.
The Storm played one of their best periods to start the game, even managing to score in the first period for the first time. When asked about positives from the 2-1 loss, Pszenyczny said, “[I] implemented a new system and the boys got the job done in a day’s notice.”
The home team on Saturday showed that they’re capable of skating with Peoria, and not being blown away if they try. In the third period, after the bad bounce goal from Alec Hagaman that ended up being the game winner, things fell apart for the Storm. They only tallied three shots on goal in twenty minutes, and accuracy through superior firepower was the mantra for the night for the Rivermen.
Sticking to the game plan and the system works, as shown by the turn-around between Friday and Saturday’s final scores. The team is capable of playing on par with the better teams in the league, but it’s hard for them to prove that when being down a man. Have I mentioned penalties enough so far? Let me do it one more time. Penalties can be game-changers; the fewer penalties taken by the Storm, the higher their probability of winning.
The Storm will take on the as of yet undefeated Birmingham Bulls on Friday and Saturday in Moline, with puck drop set for 7:10. The games against Birmingham will be part of Military Weekend for the Storm, who will wear two special jerseys for the games. THe VFW Post 1303 jerseys will be auctioned off in April, while the military jerseys worn on Saturday will be auctioned off following that contest.
Be sure to follow @SinBinStorm on Twitter for news on the Storm.