ROANOKE, Va. – In a chippy, back-and-forth contest at the Berglund Center in Roanoke, the Peoria Rivermen would fall in the final minutes of regulation to the Roanoke Rail Yard Dawgs 4-3 off of Dawgs rookie Josh Nenadal‘s deflection goal. Rivermen Head Coach Jean-Guy Trudel chose to go with goaltender Storm Phaneuf in net over, who many thought would be the starter, Stephen Klein.

Game one started with both teams putting a lot more focus on physically wearing down their opponent rather than generating offense, with big hits coming from both sides. Roanoke would get on the board first off of Mac Jansen‘s shot produced from a 2-on-1 break for the Dawgs halfway through the opening period.

The second period is where things got crazy on both the score sheet and in the penalty box. Within the first five minutes of the middle frame, Peoria and Roanoke would trade a pair of roughing minors and Peoria would tie it up off a blast from the blue line by defenseman Ben Oskroba. Roanoke would retake the lead just past the halfway point of the game, as Jansen would get his second of the night. After looking at the replay, however, SPHL Editor Mike Campos on Twitter noticed that the goal was scored following a missed offside call a few seconds earlier against Roanoke. Since no video review is available in the SPHL, the goal wouldn’t even be looked at and as such would stay on the scoreboard.

Craziness would soon follow though, as the final three minutes were packed to the brim with action. During a moment of 4v4 play as Austin Vieth and Colton Wolter sat in the box for separate minors, Roanoke defenseman Alex Adams hit Rivermen captain Alec Hagaman from behind, and Hagaman went face-first into the boards and was down for a while. Guillaume Naud would go after Adams, sticking up for his fallen captain. Adams would get a major boarding penalty and only gave the Rivermen more energy. After Wolter was released from the box, Peoria would score two goals in 14 seconds on the 4v4 action before Vieth was let out, getting the scores from Kevin Patterson and Joe Kalisz. Both goals were also off of miscues and mistakes by the Dawgs, especially on Kalisz’s breakaway goal from a Roanoke turnover at their own blue line.

Hagaman would come back out for the third period, after taking the hit from Adams late in the second. Some missed opportunities would soon haunt the Rivermen, especially a massive chance for Ryan Siiro about five minutes into the final period. Roanoke would take a page out of Peoria’s typical playbook, skating circles and playing “no quit” hockey in the third period. Soon after Siiro’s missed chance, a pair of former Rivermen in Cody Dion and Colton Wolter would combine on a play to tie the game up at three aside.

Coach Trudel had this to say on a phone interview from Virginia to the Peoria Journal-Star after the game:

“Our horses played like sheep. When your top forwards do nothing, don’t play, you can’t win.” Trudel also had this to say about the Rail Yard Dawgs, “Give Roanoke credit, they out-worked us. Those guys have every right to feel confident against us.”

The Rivermen had some serious powerplay issues during the game, going 0-for-5 on the man advantage, which included most of a five minute PP from Adams boarding call. Dawgs goaltender Jacob Caffery made some huge saves throughout the game, certainly keeping the Dawgs in it at many points and stopping 30 of the 33 Rivermen shots. Meanwhile, Phaneuf had issues on the rebound, something that has been plaguing him all season, and would only stop 20 of the 24 Roanoke shots.

Game two will be on Friday back in Peoria at the Rivermen’s practice home at the Owens Center, a venue where the small building can create a deafening atmosphere that is hard to play in as an opposing team. Game three will also be at the Owens Center on Saturday if the Rivermen extend the series.

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