PEORIA, Ill. — Saturday was a night full of hockey history, as the Quad City Storm played their first preseason game. It was more than just a preseason game, however, as the opponent was none other than their closest rival the Peoria Rivermen. The first hat trick in team history was scored, as well as the first five minute major recorded. There were positives and negatives to the preseason tilt for both sides.
The penalty kill unit for the newest SPHL team was put to the test just over a minute into the game after Jake Schultz was guilty of high-sticking. Both teams’ penalty kill had complete success on the night, the Rivermen only needing to kill two penalties for the Storm’s six. Peoria dominated possession the first five and a half minutes, as the visitors were unable to register a shot on goal within that time. Shortly after that, however, things picked up for the Storm.
Taylor McCloy, a product of Adrian College, continued in his high-scoring ways. While he was unable to score in his two games with the ECHL Norfolk Admirals last season, he notched a natural hat-trick in roughly 12 minutes over the first and second periods. He was the only scorer for the Storm. Preseason games are a chance to show coaches which of the new players deserve to stay on the roster after the cuts are made, and McCloy certainly presented a strong argument for keeping him. Speedy and with great moves, the forward scored from nearly parallel to the goal, through a defender, and went on a breakaway to score the three goals. With that performance, I’d be very surprised if McCloy isn’t on the opening night roster for the Storm.
The entire game was characterized by physicality, hard hits along the boards and checks on open ice the order of the night. No rivalry game is complete without a fight, according to some, and one Storm player obliged. Nicola Levesque received a bit of a forearm shiver from Jake Hamilton, and the gloves quickly dropped. In recent years in the prior iteration of Quad City hockey, there was a noted lack of physicality on the team. Always it seemed that the Mallards were pushed around on the ice. Quad City hockey fans need worry no more, as throughout the night there was plenty of grit and aggression.
The teams switched goalies at the 9:25 mark of the middle frame — as close to the exact middle of the game as they could get without knowing when the next whistle would be. While Chris Paulin was perfect in net for the Storm, Matt Leon wasn’t as lucky. Paulin turned away all 18 of the shots he faced throughout almost thirty minutes, but after he was replaced Peoria decided they were done with being beaten by an upstart team. The home team peppered Leon with 12 shots over the next ten minutes.
Neither Eric Levine nor Peter Di Salvo played last night since it was a preseason game. Levine spent the entirety of the 2016-17 season with the ECHL Indy Fuel, so I expect he’ll be doing lots of driving up and down I-74 between Indianapolis and Moline this next season if the Fuel needs someone between the pipes. With that said, having a third goalie would be wise for Coach Dave Pszenyczny. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: having three goalies in minor league hockey is a smart move. The trickle-down effect of callups means it’s more than likely a team will lose its goalie for a while at some point in the season to a higher league. Paulin would be my bet for the Storm’s third goalie. Leon’s glove side looked weak, as all three goals slipped past on his left. Going coast to coast seemed to be another issue for Leon, but some credit must be given to him, as the overtime winning goal was scored on an uncontested breakaway and those aren’t easy to stop.
Quad City was able to sustain pressure during the third period, but they were still nearly doubled up on shots by the time the buzzer sounded to end regulation, Peoria up 47-26. There’s lots of potential for both of the lineups, and each coach has his work cut out for him to make the league-mandated cuts today. Dalton Mills is likely to be on the Storm’s opening night roster, as he served as play-maker to assist on two of McCloy’s goals.
For Peoria, Lane King, Austin Vieth, and Vincent Beaudry are just a couple players likely to make the season-opening roster. King and Vieth both assisted on goals, as well as tangling with Storm players when the need arose. Beaudry scored the goal sending the game to overtime.
The rosters on opening night will be vastly different from the ones that appeared in the preseason game. Most veteran players were missing from the line-up, allowing the coaches to evaluate the other players in a game situation. After going down 3-0, the Rivermen kicked into a higher gear; whether the addition of experience to both lineups would have prevented the home team having that large of a deficit or stopped the comeback from being completed is uncertain.
It was a close game for the most part, each team dominating for a time. I expect the rivalry which began between the Storm and Rivermen to carry on in full force for Quad City’s opening night on October 20th. It should be a good show for Quad City fans who were unable to attend the preseason tilt, as time only allows bad blood to ferment. Puck drop is set for 7:05 CST at the TaxSlayer on October 20th. The official fan page is running a tailgate before the game, as well as a winter clothes drive for the homeless. The Storm booster club is having a bus food drive at the game as well, with donations accepted pregame and during intermissions.
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