#1 Peoria Rivermen vs #4 Huntsville Havoc
Game 1 – 4/18/18 at Peoria – 7:15 CT
Game 2 – 4/20/18 at Huntsville – 7:00 CT
Game 3 – 4/22/18 at Peoria – 4:15 CT (if necessary)
How Peoria Got Here
The Rivermen’s trip to their third-straight Presidents Cup Final began by selecting the Roanoke Rail Yard Dawgs at the Challenge Round Selection Show. The eighth-seeded Dawgs proved to be a tough challenger in their first game, playing a competitive opening game at Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia. The Rivermen would need some late-game heroics from Justin Greenberg to secure their first win of the 2018 postseason, then dominated the second game to sweep the Dawgs.
The Knoxville Ice Bears, fresh off their series win against the Pensacola Ice Flyers, proved to be no match for the Rivermen in the semifinal round. The Ice Bears got the first goal of the series, then Peoria scored ten unanswered goals over the next two games. The Rivermen dispatched the Ice Bears by 6-1 and 4-0 victories.
On the ice, Mike Gurtler leads the Rivermen in scoring this postseason with four goals and two assists. Defenseman Brandon Rumble has been a standout with five assists and a +10 rating. Finally, goaltender Tyler Parks has been an absolute brick wall, allowing only four goals in his four starts, making 105 stops in the process. Parks’ stat line is 4-0, 1 shutout, 1.00 GAA, and a .963 SV%.
How Huntsville Got Here
If the Rivermen’s cruise to the final was smooth sailing, the Havoc has been on a roller coaster. This season, the boys from Rocket City have accomplished something never done before in the SPHL. Both of the Havoc’s series wins were accomplished after losing the opening game. In the opening round against the Mississippi RiverKings, the Havoc were down 3-1 in game two – ten minutes away from elimination – before scoring two goals in 31 seconds to force an overtime Christian Powers would eventually end.
The series against the Mayhem would be equally dramatic. On the road in Macon, the Havoc lose defenseman Nolan Kaiser for most of the game with an injury. Kaiser would return in the third period, and send game three to overtime on his tally with 1:03 remaining.
Veteran Sy Nutkevitch leads the Havoc in assists and points, scoring two goals and seven assists for nine points. Powers’ four goals lead the team in the sniping department. Huntsville has seen both goaltenders – Keegan Asmundson and Mike DeLaVergne see action this postseason, with Asmundson – with ECHL experience with several teams – getting the bulk of the action. Asmundson is 2-2 with a 2.95 GAA and a .919 SV%.
When These Teams Played in the Regular Season
The Havoc and Rivermen faced off eight times this season. Peoria dominated the beginning of the season, winning the first three games. Huntsville then took three straight – all at the Von Braun Center. Finally, the Rivermen took the final two games in the regular season series. Alec Hagaman and Dave Pszenyczny both tallied 11 points against the Havoc this season, while the diminutive Tyler Piacentini scored five goals and three assists when playing Peoria.
Peoria’s Keys to Winning
- Win game one, and get the monkey off the back – Despite Huntsville’s flair for the dramatic, no team has won the Presidents Cup after losing the opening game.
- Make Huntsville pay on special teams. The Havoc has taken the most penalty minutes in the postseason.
- Play the game which got you here. No need to change things up now. Stick to your systems, play big on defense, and let Parks be Parks.
Huntsville’s Keys to Winning
- Don’t panic. The Havoc have overcome adversity all postseason, so don’t expect them to start getting skittish now.
- Get offensive production from all three lines. Huntsville has had thirteen different goal scorers in the playoffs, making a guessing game for Peoria when matching lines.
- Ride the hot hand in net. Asmundson has been a big reason in Huntsville comeback against Macon in the semifinals. DeLaVergne, however, was the netminder with the touch against the RiverKings.
Who’s Got the Edge?
Forwards – The Havoc have better depth of scoring throughout the lineup, especially at the center position with Nutkevitch, Powers, and Shawn Bates. Slight edge to Huntsville.
Defense – Peoria has always been stout on the blue line, anchored by Pszenyczny, Rumble, and Ben Oskroba.
Goalies – Parks is the likely playoff MVP if Peoria wins the championship. Big edge to Peoria.
Special Teams – Peoria had better head-to-head special teams against Huntsville in the regular season and also has the edge in the postseason.
Team Speed – The slight edge goes to the Havoc. Piacentini is the fastest player on the ice in this series, with Bates another player who can create space. The Rivermen, however, run their systems like clockwork.
Intangibles – The Rivermen are playing in the final for the third straight season and have the experience of playing in a championship series. The Havoc’s ability to win both of their playoff series despite being a game down and are 2-0 in overtime. Also, the series schedule favors Huntsville with a home game on Friday night in the always-packed Von Braun Center.
Coaching – Glenn Detulleo is making his second trip as a coach to the final and has guided his Havoc through adversity throughout the postseason. Peoria has the three-time SPHL Coach of the Year in Jean-Guy Trudel.
Sin Bin Swami Sez
I’ve picked the Peoria Rivermen to win the Presidents Cup the last two seasons. The third time’s a charm. Huntsville has played Peoria tough over the past couple of years and their never-say-die attitude should push this series to the brink. Defense wins championships. Rivermen in three games.