MOLINE, Ill. — Not much went right for the Quad City Storm in their second game of the season. After winning their first game in history in overtime last week, they garnered their first loss this week, and boy was it a doozy. The Peoria Rivermen had a fire lit beneath them on Friday, showing in part why they were last season’s regular season champions.
The first period wasn’t terrible for the home team. The first ten minutes of the game, the Storm seemed relatively in control of the situation, even with a goal being scored by Lane King just under six minutes into the frame. Shots were roughly even, and the play was mostly not in the Quad City zone. Afterward, the teams on the ice definitely weren’t the same as for opening weekend.
Pucks just kept flying at Eric Levine, though, and that never ends well in hockey. Losing defenseman Kristaps Nimanis with roughly seven minutes left in the first period didn’t help matters for the Storm. Nimanis didn’t return to the game.
Peoria piled on shots on goal throughout the game, Quad City managing to get six through the first 20 minutes for Peoria’s 18. The play was less physical for the most part compared to the season-opener, both teams seemingly deciding to try for skill over strength. There wasn’t a lack of hard hits, however; it is hockey, after all.
Austin Hervey had the best scoring chance for the Storm in the opening period, going on a breakaway at 17:20, but no twine was to be found from that attempt.
A two-goal lead is often the most dangerous in hockey, but the Rivermen didn’t seem to know that. Piling on three more goals through the course of the middle frame, they skated circles around the newest SPHL team. The Storm had a parade to the penalty box in the sandwich stanza, taking four in the first 15 minutes of the period. Peoria scored 18 seconds into a 5-on-3 man advantage, as both Donald Olivieri and Taylor McCloy took a seat. Thirty seconds after Olivieri left the sin bin after two minutes, he returned with the same call against him.
After being outshot 34-10 after 40 minutes, the Storm responded in the third period by putting 19 shots on goal, as Peoria took their foot off the gas after being up 5-0, even extending their lead to 6-0. Ben Boukal ruined the shutout bid of Stephen Klein late in the third period, but the result was long since decided. Coach Dave Pszenyczny said that the fact that the team “Didn’t give up in the third” would be a positive from the night, but “Obviously [we] gotta start the game on the right foot.”
According to Pszenyczny, several things went wrong for the Storm in the second period. “Penalties, not sticking to the game plan, not wanting. They had the game plan to execute, and they chose not to do it. Third period, we showed that when we do it, good things happen.”
There’s no real nice way to say it, and my job isn’t to sugarcoat things. The Storm were the vastly inferior team on the ice on Friday night. Taking far too many penalties, failing to attack the puck for most of the game during Peoria possessions, and giving up two power play goals all spelled doom for the Storm. During one Storm power play, the Rivermen controlled the puck in their own zone for most of the kill, and even had a breakout scoring chance.
The Storm defense, short-manned with Nimanis out, didn’t do any favors on keeping shots away from the net.
Peoria had something to prove in this game, mainly that they wouldn’t be beaten by a new team full of players that went unprotected in the expansion draft. Last week’s overtime match showed how fickle Lady Luck and goalposts are, as the game was won on a penalty shot after both teams experienced posts that refused to bounce to their benefit for most of the night. Save for some antics at the end of the second period, there was nothing that spoke of the rivalry that’s attempting to form between the teams.
Maybe the rivalry is being forced, as there had only been two prior meetings of the teams, with one being the preseason when much of the rosters were different. Maybe the Rivermen didn’t want to risk injuries from fights the night before facing the Evansville Thunderbolts. Storm forward Vincent Caligiuri did try to fight Austin Vieth in the aforementioned antics, but Vieth wouldn’t go.
The Storm were out-skated, out-played, and out-gritted for most of the game. They didn’t put effort into the game during the second period, and for much of the first, as well. After the goal by King, things began to fall apart for the Storm. They registered only one more shot on goal in the following roughly 14 minutes, and that doesn’t scream success or competence. Six minutes into the game, and to be knocked for a loop by a goal, that’s not good at all. It seemed like the Storm suddenly realized that it wasn’t the home opener in front of almost 7,000 people, it was a regular Friday game with about 3400 people in the stands. They tried to get back in the game, but no matter what they did for the next 30 minutes, it failed. Only in the final 20 minutes was there a return to good playing and good effort.
It’s hard to say whether Peoria was just that good, or if Quad City was just that bad. Peoria appeared to be levels above the Storm in skill. Peoria was doing the right things at the right times, with good passing, good systems, and good luck. The systems Pszenyczny uses are not bad, as evidenced by the turn around in the final frame when he said the players stuck to the game plan. While probably both cliche and obvious, failure to execute the game plan doesn’t lead to additions in the win column.
To be short (which I always am, but moving on…), the Storm lacked effort during almost two-thirds of the game. They could have had another win if they had played the entire game like they did the third period. Certainly not a perfect period, but it was a heckuva lot better than the previous periods. One bad game doesn’t spell doom for a team, though. There are 54 games left before April, with 14 more against Peoria.
Next Friday the Storm will go on their first road trip of the season, taking the Cold War on 74 down to Peoria for a 7:15 face-off. The teams will then travel back up I-74 to face off at the TaxSlayer Center the following night.
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