In the Regular Season
Rivermen: 38-13-5 — 81 points (1st in SPHL)
Rail Yard Dawgs: 26-26-4 — 56 points (8th in SPHL)
Game 1 — 4/11/18 at Liberty Univ., Lynchburg, VA – 7:00 ET
Game 2 — 4/13/18 at Peoria (Owens Center) – 7:15 CT
Game 3 — 4/14/18 at Peoria (Owens Center) 7:15 CT (if necessary)
The Season According to Peoria
After a season of playing second-fiddle to the Macon Mayhem, the Peoria Rivermen have once again seized control of the William B. Coffey Cup and the SPHL’s regular season crown. The Rivermen went through their usual slow start before hitting their stride around Thanksgiving and didn’t look back from there.
Defenseman Dave Pszenyczny had his first 50-point season in the SPHL, while Alec Hagaman exploded for a career-high 61 points. In the crease, the Rivs managed the losses of Eric Levine by injury and Tyler Parks by call-up with a stretch by Peter Di Salvo before the impressive debut of Mason Pulde. Will the Rivermen finally hoist the Presidents Cup, or will their unfinished business be tabled for yet another season?
The Season According to Roanoke
The beginning of the season was not kind to the Rail Yard Dawgs. The team struggled out of the gate in coach Sam Ftorek‘s second season as the Dawgs bench boss. After a 5-11-2 start, Ftorek was dismissed on December 18th. Replacing Ftorek was former Peoria captain Dan Bremner. The Dawgs responded under Bremner’s control, eventually going on an eight-game win streak in February – the longest win streak by any SPHL team this season. The streak springboarded Roanoke into their first playoff appearance.
Steve Mele had a career year, almost doubling his point total with a 59-point season. A pair of former Louisiana IceGators maintains the crease for Roanoke with Brad Barone and former postseason MVP (with Pensacola) Matt Zenzola. The Dawgs are the newcomers to the SPHL postseason party. Will the Dawgs become another team to pull off an upset of Peoria, or will they be rolled by the Rivermen?
When these teams played in the regular season
If familiarity breeds contempt, this series is going to be a war. The Rivs and Dawgs have played each other for the past two weekends. The Rivermen have dominated the series, winning four straight games before dropping the season finale at Carver Arena.
In the Challenge Round, the Rivermen, picking first, decided to take the traditional route and chose the eighth-seeded Rail Yard Dawgs.
Peoria’s Keys to Winning
- The Rivermen like to set a furiously quick pace early in games. Look for Peoria to play the puck in deep and set up back-door scoring opportunities.
- Defensively, look for Peoria to keep shot attempts to the perimeter.
- Roanoke tends to allow plenty of shot attempts. If big forwards like Cody Dion can establish himself in front of the crease, he’ll get his goals.
Roanoke’s Keys to Winning
- The upcoming battle between Dion and defenseman Joe Sova is going to be crucial. So long as Sova keeps the crease and slot clear, the chances for rebound and deflection goals will be minimized.
- Slow down the pace and hold Peoria scoreless in the first period. Macon used this strategy effectively in last years Presidents Cup Final.
- Set up the counterattack. When Peoria pushes the pace and pinches in a defenseman, use the opening to set up 2-on-1 breaks.
Sin Bin Swami Sez:
We’re all in agreement here at the Sin Bin Southern Command. Experience is going to win out here. Rivermen get the win and move on to the semifinals.