#1 Peoria Rivermen vs #5 Knoxville Ice Bears
Game 1 – 4/18/18 at Peoria – 7:15 CT
Game 2 – 4/20/18 at Knoxville – 7:35 ET
Game 3 – 4/22/18 at Peoria – 3:15 CT (if necessary)
Peoria’s Playoffs so Far
For about 50 minutes into their first-round series with the Roanoke Rail Yard Dawgs, Rivermen fans may have questioned whether or not coach Jean-Guy Trudel made the right decision in choosing the eighth-seeded Dawgs in the Challenge Round. Thanks to the goaltending of Tyler Parks (2-0, 1.51 GAA, .943 SV%) and a timely third-period goal from Justin Greenberg, the Rivermen took the lead, the opening game, and never looked back. The Rivermen defeated the Rail Yard Dawgs by 3-2 & 4-1 decisions, and are primed to return to the Presidents Cup Final for the third consecutive year.
Knoxville’s Playoffs so Far
The Knoxville Ice Bears, under rookie coach Jeff Carr, raised a few eyebrows when his team thumped the Pensacola Ice Flyers, 6-2, in the opening game of the series. The second game of the series would prove to be historic, as the teams played the second triple-overtime game in league history. Lawrence Cornellier’s game & series-winning goal at the 108:58 mark of game two sent the Ice Bears into a rematch from last year’s playoffs with the Rivermen. Veteran netminder Zoltan Hetenyi (2-0, 1.78 GAA, .945 SV%) returned to form as the Ice Bears workhorse in the crease and will be a huge factor if Knoxville will continue in their quest for a fifth Presidents Cup.
When These Teams Played in the Regular Season
In five games this season, the Ice Bears managed only one win against the Rivermen and forcing OT in the series finale. Peoria and Knoxville haven’t faced each other since January and both teams ended the season strong. The Ice Bears will have to find some additional offense against the Rivermen – their leading goal scorer against Peoria, Anthony Flaherty, was traded to Fayetteville in February.
Peoria’s Keys to Winning
- With the series opener at Carver Arena, look for the Rivermen to open up the offense and take the Ice Bears out of the series early.
- Keep the penalties down and make Knoxville play 5-on-5 hockey. The Ice Bears’ special teams have been excellent all season and were big factors in Knoxville’s win over Pensacola.
- Keep Cody Dion engaged in the game. The power forward was a big factor in the Rivermen’s win over Roanoke. Dion’s physical game down low opens up opportunities and mismatches.
Knoxville’s Keys to Winning
- Win the first period and build from there. Last year, the Ice Bears game up three first-period goals in their 2017 series opener and never recovered.
- Neutralize Alec Hagaman. Peoria’s feisty winger has long been the Ice Bears’ nemesis and has four goals against Knoxville this season.
- Berkley Scott will need a big series. Scott is one of the league’s best players in big moments and will have to be on the scoresheet against Peoria.
Sin Bin Swami Sez
The Ice Bears have shown a lot of heart and they have a bright future under Carr’s leadership. The Rivermen have shown repeatedly they know how to pull through in tight games. Both games will be competetive, but the Rivermen will prevail in two games.