BIRTHDAY BOY HELPS RIVERMEN TO 6-2 WIN
Dennis Sievers/Peoria Rivermen
Celebrating his 24th birthday on Friday, Garrett Vermeersch scored two goals and added an assist as the Peoria Rivermen rolled to a 6-2 victory over the Bloomington Thunder at Carver Arena. Rookie netminder Eric Levine (pictured) made 22 saves on 24 shots, and earned his fourth straight win, as the Rivermen never trailed in the contest.
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With the victory, Peoria (8-6-3) is now on a season-long five game win streak and is also 5-0-0 against the Thunder (5-14-0) this season. In addition, the Rivermen have collected points in each of their last seven games for the first time in three years (Nov. 19, 2010 – Dec. 19, 2010).
The Rivermen wasted little time early on and scored the first goal of the game through Nick Wheeler at 2:41 of the opening frame. Defenseman Charlie Carkin collected the puck at the left point and found Wheeler unmarked near the left side of the crease. Wheeler then one-timed a shot past Bloomington goaltender B.J O’Brien for his fifth goal of the season. Carkin picked up his fifth assist of the year as well.
Peoria earned a 5-on-3 opportunity at 11:56 of the first period after Bloomington received a pair of penalties including a five minute major and game misconduct to Ron Cramer for spearing. However, Rivermen failed to convert during the power play chances thanks to numerous saves by O’Brien.
Peoria outshot Bloomington 21-2 in the first.
The Rivermen extended their lead to 2-0 at 4:04 of the second courtesy of Nick Prockow’s league-leading sixth power play goal of the season during another 5-on-3 advantage. Wheeler grabbed the puck near the right point and passed to Vermeersch, who hit a one-time slap shot at O’Brien. The Bloomington netminder couldn’t handle the puck however, and the rebound bounced directly to Prockow, who found an open net from the right post. Wheeler and Vermeersch earned assists on the goal.
At 8:29 of the second, Bloomington cut its deficit to one when Tyler Amburgey, playing in his first game since Nov. 13, picked up a two minute minor for hooking. On the ensuing power play, the Thunder took advantage just nine seconds in when Kevin Walrod scored his eighth goal of the season. After an initial shot was turned aside by Levine, Walrod cleaned it up from the side of the net to make it 2-1. Noseworthy and Sy Nutkevitch picked up assists.
The Rivermen restored their two-goal advantage at 13:26 of the second through Vermeersch. Behind the Thunder net, Parker Stanfield dispossessed a pair of Bloomington defenseman and swiveled around to find Vermeersch streaking in from the left side. Shortly after gaining possession, Vermeersch went glove side and slotted a puck past O’Brien for his team-leading 10th of the year.
Just 69 seconds later, Bloomington made it 3-2 when Walrod scored his second goal of the night at 14:35 of the middle frame. Travis Granbois, who earned an assist on the play, found Walrod at the side of the net who then beat Levine on the backhand.
At 16:25, Peoria capped off the scoring in the middle frame courtesy of Corey Tamblyn’s second of the year. From the left point, Cole Ruwe ripped a slap shot towards net that was deflected to Taylor Larsen in the left circle. Larsen then steered the puck to a wide-open Tamblyn in the slot, who found the back of the net to make it 4-2. Ruwe and Larsen earned helpers.
Peoria added a pair of insurance goals in the third to seal the game beginning with Prockow’s ninth of the year at 10:36. From the right circle, the Rivermen center blasted a shot that clipped the right post and just barely crossed the goal line. The goal was initially credited to Steve Morra, who was camped out at the doorstep and eventually cleaned up the play, then changed to Prockow. Ruwe and Paul Chiasson, who played in his pro debut, earned the assists.
Vermeersch notched the game’s final goal at 13:55 of the third with his eight tally against the Thunder in five games this season. From the left circle, Jarrett Rush sent a cross-ice pass to Vermeersch who hit a one-timer just inside at the right post. Rush and Stanfield each picked up helpers on the goal.
Along with Vermeersch (2g, 1a), Stanfield (3a) and Prockow (1g, 1a) also earned multi-point nights for the Rivermen. Walrod (2g) produced the only multi-point game for the Thunder.
Plus, Prockow and Vermeersch are each on a five-game point streak.
Peoria finished the game 2-for-7 on the power play and 5-for-6 on the penalty kill. In addition, Peoria outshot Bloomington 39-24. O’Brien (2-5-0) suffered his second straight loss after making 33 saves.
The Rivermen continue their three-game series with the Thunder on Saturday night, with a 7:05 p.m. puck drop in Bloomington at the U.S. Cellular Coliseum. The game can be heard locally on CD Country 107.9 FM or online at www.cd1079.net. Fans can also follow along via the live video and audio stream at www.americaonesports.com.