LAFAYETTE, LA – The SPHL suffered a black-eye over the past weekend during Saturday night’s game between the Columbus Cottonmouths and the visiting Peoria Rivermen. Cottonmouths coach Jerome Bechard’s team, trailing 4-1 early in the second period and smarting over a first period hit on goaltender Shannon Szabados, decided to take matters into their own hands. At the 2:21 mark of the second period, Columbus forward Craig Simchuk blindsided Peoria goaltender Kyle Rank, running Rank’s head squarely into the goal post. Rank lay motionless on the ice for several minutes before being carted off the ice and hospitalized for concussion observation.

In a story featured on Yahoo’s Puck Daddy blog, Peoria coach Jean-Guy Trudel alleges that Bechard ordered the hit on Rank, an accusation that Bechard quickly denied. History isn’t on Bechard’s side, however. During the 2014 President’s Cup playoffs, Bechard’s Cottonmouths ran Rank during game 2 of the best-of-three series, which the Snakes would eventually win.

Here’s the first period hit on Szabados, followed by the second period hit on Rank. The Rivermen would go on to win the game, 7-1, and Bechard would get ejected later in the second period. The league has suspended both Bechard and Simchuk.

Unfortunately, we’re not talking about the Louisiana IceGators and Mississippi RiverKings and their epic, SPHL-record 15-round shootout to decide a scoreless game. The IceGators’ Jeremy Boyer became the first SPHL player to score twice in the same shootout, and goalie Brad Barone made a record 11 consecutive shootout saves. Games like this that feature the league’s talent should be recognized, rather than shenanigans that give the SPHL a bad reputation. We’re going to keep an eye on the league’s reaction to the events in Columbus over the weekend. The SPHL has been strict this season in handing out lengthy suspensions for unsafe acts, so the pending suspensions on Simchuk and Bechard should be harsh.

Friday’s Games

Peoria Rivermen 4, Columbus Cottonmouths 1

Connor Toomey, playing in his first game since being traded from the Macon Mayhem, scored a goal and an assist in Peoria’s 4-1 win in the first game of a two-game set against the Cottonmouths. Toomey, along with Brandon Greenside, Matt Summers, and Mike Donnellan, would score in a 48-shot barrage on Columbus goalie Shannon Szabados. Shawn Bates scored the only goal for the Snakes, and Peoria netminder Kyle Rank made 27 saves in the victory.

Macon Mayhem 2, Fayetteville FireAntz 0

Macon goalie Garrett Bartus got his second shutout of the season as the Mayhem defeated the FireAntz, 2-0 at the Macon Centroplex. Former FireAntz Matt Robertson scored in the first period, and Austin Daae would score an empty netter in the opening game of a two-game weekend series.

Huntsville Havoc 4, Knoxville Ice Bears 1

Huntsville got goals from four different players as the Havoc rolled over the Ice Bears in Knoxville, 4-1. John McGinnis and Brett Lutes scored in the second period, while John Lidgett scored a shorthanded goal in the third period and Scott Henegar iced the game with an empty netter. Kevin Genoe stopped 21 of 22 shots for Huntsville, and Knoxville goalie Bryan Hince was pulled after two periods due to injury.

Pensacola Ice Flyers 3, Louisiana IceGators 1

The Pensacola Ice Flyers continued their dominance of the Louisiana IceGators with a 3-1 win at the Hangar. Pensacola’s Corey Banfield opened the scoring with a first period goal before the Gators’ Jeremy Boyer would net the equalizer with a second period power play goal. Cole Ruwe would put the Flyers ahead to stay with a third period goal, and John Clewlow would add an empty-netter to close out the scoring. John MacLean made 25 saves in a winning effort for Pensacola, and Louisiana’s Brad Barone – a training camp attendee in Pensacola – made 37 saves in a solid performance.

Saturday’s Games

Peoria Rivermen 7, Columbus Cottonmouths 1

The Rivermen scored a season-high seven goals in a game that will be remembered for the controversial hit of goaltender Kyle Rank, as the Rivermen demolished the Cottonmouths, 7-1. Seven different players scored for Peoria, as they peppered Shannon Szabados for 51 shots. Francois Brassard replaced Rank in goal for Peoria after the hit knocked Rank out of the game, and the two combined for 24 saves as Peoria swept the weekend series in Columbus.

Macon Mayhem 4, Fayetteville FireAntz 1

The Mayhem continued their dominance of the FireAntz Saturday night with a 4-1 victory. Macon now has a 4-1-0 record against the FireAntz this season. Garrett Bartus had another stellar outing in net, making 33 saves in the win. The Mayhem got goals from Vadim Guskov, Shawn Skelly, and a pair of third period tallies from Jake Trask.

Huntsville Havoc 4, Knoxville Ice Bears 3 (OT)

Knoxville and Huntsville traded blows back and forth Saturday night at the Knoxville Civic Coliseum, but Kyle McNeil would end the game with an overtime penalty shot goal to complete the weekend sweep of the Ice Bears. The defending champs struck first early in the game with goals from Todd Hosmer and Doug Reid. Huntsville stormed back in the middle frame with McNeil’s first goal of the night and Brett Lutes equalizer. Jeremy Beirnes would give the Havoc their first lead of the night with his third period goal, but Hosmer would pot his second goal of the night and send the game to overtime. McNeil’s overtime goal was the first time a penalty shot would decide a game in extra time this season.

Louisiana IceGators 1, Mississippi RiverKings 0 (SO)

The third scoreless game through 65 minutes in the SPHL was decided by the longest shootout in league history. Goalies Garrett Sheehan for Mississippi and Louisiana’s Brad Barone combined for 73 saves in the contest. Jeremy Boyer scored his twice in the shootout – the only player to do so – including the game winner. Barone made a record 11 consecutive saves in the shootout.

Sunday’s Games

Pensacola Ice Flyers 4, Louisiana IceGators 3 (SO)

Ice Flyers defenseman Ryan Kesti provided the heroics for Pensacola, scoring a game-tying shorthanded goal with 8:10 remaining in regulation, then scoring the game winner in the shootout. Pensacola has now gone a perfect 5-0-0 against the IceGators, with Sunday’s game being the only one to go to overtime. Corey Banfield and Cody Dion also scored for the Ice Flyers, while Geordie Wudrick had a pair of goals and Johnny Daniels scored for Louisiana.

Peoria Rivermen 3, Huntsville Havoc 0

Connor Toomey continued his hot play since the trade that brought him to Peoria, as he scored a goal and an assist in the Rivermen’s 3-0 shutout of the Huntsville Havoc at the Von Braun Center. The loss was only the second time that Huntsville fell on home ice. Francois Brassard, filling in for the injured Kyle Rank, made all 22 saves in the win.

TSB’s Three Stars

★ – Kyle Rank, Goaltender, Peoria Rivermen – We at The Sin Bin wish Ranker all the best in his recovery for the severe concussion he received on Saturday night.
★★ – Connor Toomey, Center, Peoria Rivermen – Toomey had 3 goals, 3 assists, a game winning goal, and was +7 for the weekend.
★★★ – Garrett Bartus, Goalie, Macon Mayhem – Bartus went 2-0, allowing one goal on 59 shots.

SPHL Power Rankings

  1. Mississippi RiverKings (13-4-2, LW: 1) – Two weeks until the Kings get a chance to finally score against the IceGators.
  2. Peoria Rivermen (13-5-2, LW: 3) – The slumping Rivermen rebounded in a big way against Columbus, then shutout the Havoc to complete a perfect road trip.
  3. Huntsville Havoc (13-7-0, LW: 2) – Huntsville let a signature win get away from them against Peoria.
  4. Pensacola Ice Flyers (11-6-1, LW: 5) – Pensacola plays the IceGators five more times.
  5. Fayetteville FireAntz (11-5-2, LW: 4) – Good news… The Antz don’t play Macon this coming weekend.
  6. Knoxville Ice Bears (7-12-3, LW: 7) – A long-term injury to Bryan Hince could spell disaster for the defending champs.
  7. Louisiana IceGators (7-9-3, LW: 8) – Brad Barone was spectacular in the pipes for Louisiana. Great replacement for Courchaine/Levine.
  8. Macon Mayhem (6-10-3, LW: 9) – If they could play the rest of the season they way they play against Fayetteville.
  9. Columbus Cottonmouths (6-9-4, LW: 6) – Shame. Shame. Shame.

League Standings

TEAM GP W L OTL PTS PCT GF GA PIM HOME AWAY
Mississippi 19 13 4 2 28 .737 55 44 280 8-1-1 5-3-1
Peoria 20 13 5 2 28 .700 61 43 371 6-2-2 7-3-0
Huntsville 20 13 7 0 26 .650 62 46 544 7-2-0 6-5-0
Fayetteville 18 11 5 2 24 .667 57 44 358 6-0-1 5-5-1
Pensacola 18 11 6 1 23 .639 58 52 368 6-2-0 5-4-1
Louisiana 19 7 9 3 17 .447 45 53 334 3-5-3 4-4-0
Knoxville 22 7 12 3 17 .386 59 79 362 3-4-2 4-8-1
Columbus 19 6 9 4 16 .421 46 69 336 4-5-2 2-4-2
Macon 19 6 10 3 15 .395 45 58 240 4-6-2 2-4-1

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