The SPHL Sets up Shop in Evansville
Last month, the ECHL Evansville IceMen announced they were leaving their Indiana home for nearby Owensboro, Kentucky for the 2016-17 season. The city, and their gleaming new Ford Center, would not go without professional hockey for long. Monday marked the beginning of a new era in hockey with the announcement of Evansville becoming the 11th SPHL team. The new Evansville team will join the Roanoke Rail Yard Dawgs and begin play in the 2016-17 season.
Fayetteville Ends Peoria’s Record Road Win Streak
All good things – and winning streaks – must come to an end. The Peoria Rivermen’s incredible 12-game road winning streak is no exception. The Fayetteville FireAntz ended Peoria’s tear on Friday night with a 3-2 overtime victory over the Rivermen. Peoria managed to restart their road win streak the next day with a 4-3 shootout win the following night. It will be a while before the Rivs can extend their new streak – they play the next eight games at Carver Arena before traveling to Huntsville on March 11th.
Knoxville is Bearing Down on Another Title Defense
Winter must be ending soon, because the Knoxville Ice Bears have officially come out of hibernation. Long before some rodent in Pennsylvania predicted an early spring, Knoxville coach Mike Craigen thawed out the Ice Bears with the departure of struggling goaltender Braely Torris and signing former Boston College netminder Brian Billett. Knoxville has gone 8-3-0 since the acquisition of Billett, who has gone 5-2-0 with a sparkling 2.05 GAA and .930 SV%.
Kicking Off Our President’s Cup Coverage
It’s officially two months before the end of the regular season and the unofficial start of the President’s Cup playoff push. The Rivermen have already surpassed the 50-point plateau which is traditionally needed to secure a playoff berth. Eight of the SPHL’s nine teams will qualify for the postseason, and the tail-dragging Columbus Cottonmouths (at 11-20-6, and losers of their last eight games) are currently the odd team out. If we seed the remaining teams by point percentages, we come up with some interesting playoff matchups.
- #1 Peoria Rivermen (.792) vs. #8 Macon Mayhem (.421) – Macon is winless against the Rivs. Could be just what Peoria needs to finally break out of the first round.
- #2 Mississippi RiverKings (.657) vs. #7 Louisiana IceGators (.456) – Total trap series. The IceGators (5-2-0 vs. Mississippi) are the last team the Kings want to see in the postseason.
- #3 Pensacola Ice Flyers (.636) vs. #6 Knoxville Ice Bears (.487) – Nobody wants to face the red-hot defending champs right now, and the Flyers are currently 1-2-0 against Knoxville.
- #4 Fayetteville FireAntz (.621) vs. #5 Huntsville Havoc (.528) – A matchup of the two teams who did not qualify for last year’s playoffs. The FireAntz are a perfect 3-0-0 against the Havoc this season.
Team Sin Bin’s Power Poll
- Peoria Rivermen (27-6-3, 57 pts., LW: 1) – Simply dominating. The Rivs are playing on a different level right now.
- Mississippi RiverKings (20-9-6, 46 pts., LW: 3) – The return of Todd Hosmer has sparked this team, and they’ve won their last five games.
- Pensacola Ice Flyers (20-11-2, 42 pts., LW: 4) – Keegan Admundson got three quick wins, and off to the ECHL. Their defensive unit in the wake of Cole Ruwe’s retirement is patchwork, but experienced.
- Fayetteville FireAntz (19-11-3, 41 pts., LW: 2) – The call-up of goalie Sean Bonar and losing Berkley Scott to injury have really hurt this team.
- Knoxville Ice Bears (17-18-3, 37 pts., LW: 7) – This is a completely different team from a couple of months ago. The Ice Bears are looking like the team who won it all in April.
- Huntsville Havoc (18-16-2, 38 pts., LW: 5) – The Havoc need Jordan Ruby back in the pipes.
- Louisiana IceGators (14-17-3, 31 pts., LW: 6) – The IceGators just lost defenseman Nick Kuqali and goaltender Brad Barone to call-ups. Dicey times upcoming for the Crocs as they head to Peoria.
- Macon Mayhem (14-20-4, 32 pts., LW: 8) – Similar to Louisiana, their only win last week was against Columbus.
- Columbus Cottonmouths (11-20-6, 28 pts., LW: 10) – The Snakes are an absolute mess right now. They have allowed 42 goals in their last ten games. Defensively, they’re putting up FHL-caliber numbers.
This Week’s Games
- Macon 0 at Knoxville 2 – Brian Billett gets his first pro shutout as the Ice Bears stifle the Mayhem.
- Knoxville at Fayetteville
- Mississippi at Pensacola
- Louisiana at Peoria
- Huntsville at Columbus
- Mississippi at Huntsville
- Columbus at Pensacola
- Louisiana at Peoria
- Fayetteville at Knoxville
- Louisiana at Peoria
- Mississippi at Columbus
- Macon at Huntsville