RIVERMEN RELENTLESS IN SIXTH STRAIGHT WIN
Dennis Sievers/Peoria Rivermen
The Peoria Rivermen extended their season-long winning streak to six games on Saturday with a 6-3 victory over the Bloomington Thunder at the U.S. Cellular Coliseum. Garrett Vermeersch notched four points (1g, 3a) on the night, while Matt Viola earned his first career three-point game with two goals and an assist. In addition, rookie winger Justin Gvora (1g, 1a) registered his first pro points (1g, 1a) and Eric Levine collected his fifth straight win between the pipes.
Peoria improves to 9-6-3 (21 points) on the season and 6-0-2 in its last eight games. With the victory, the Rivermen are also 6-0-0 against the Thunder (5-15-0) this season heading into the final game of a three-game series on Sunday.
For the full box score, click here.
The Rivermen struck first for the second night in a row when Vermeersch continued his hot streak and found the back of the net at 10:07 of the opening frame. Following a feed from Viola at the top of the slot, Vermeersch snapped a shot top shelf to beat Bloomington goaltender BJ O’Brien for a 1-0 lead. The goal was Vermeersch’s team-leading 12th of the season and extended his point streak to six games.
Peoria extended its lead at 13:39 of the first thanks to Corey Tamblyn on the power play. From the top of the left circle, winger Parker Stanfield found Vermeersch down low, who hit a crisp one-time pass to Tamblyn at the back post. The unmarked Tamblyn then knocked it home for his second goal in as many nights.
The Thunder cut their deficit to one shortly before the end of the first period as Kevin Walrod scored his third goal in the past two nights at 17:22. From the right side, Walrod gained the zone and sent a pass in front intended for Tyler Noseworthy. However, Noseworthy missed it and Levine misplayed it, which allowed the puck to gently slide underneath the Rivermen goaltender and into the back of the net. Travis Granbois and Noseworthy each earned an assist.
At 1:30 of the second frame, Viola restored Peoria’s two-goal lead and made it 3-1. Viola won the puck at the blue line and dished it to Vermeersch, who immediately passed back to Viola for a quick wrister that beat Obrien blocker side.
Just over five minutes later, Viola scored his second goal of the game and his third of the year at the 6:34 mark. From behind the Bloomington net, Gvora collected the puck and fed it in front where Viola found a lane and knocked home a one-timer from the doorstep. Gvora and Joe Schiller were each credited with the helpers. For Gvora, it was his first professional point.
In the third, the Rivermen wasted little time adding to their lead as Gvora scored his first pro goal at 1:57. Taylor Larsen dished the puck to Gvora in the slot, who then deked O’Brien from the forehand to the backhand. Larsen recorded the assist on the goal, which made it 4-2.
Not to be denied, Bloomington made an offensive charge in the third beginning with Sy Nutkevitch’s first of the year at the 3:13 mark. During even strength, Nutkevitch worked his way behind the Rivermen defense and deked Levine backhand to forehand on the breakaway.
Less than three minutes later, Bloomington continued to chip away when Walrod scored his second goal of the night shorthanded at 5:57. On a delayed penalty, Walrod skated through the slot from the right circle to the left side and beat Levine glove side to make it 5-3. Hopfner picked up another assist on the score, his second of the game.
At the 6:59 mark, Stanfield sealed the deal with Peoria’s second power play goal of the game to make it 6-3. Following a tripping minor to Chris Gentile, the Rivermen put together a string of quick passes that culminated with a one-timer by Stanfield that beat O’Brien from the bottom of the left circle. Vermeersch and Tyler Amburgey notched assists on the goal.
Bloomington netminder BJ O’Brien (2-6-0) took the loss after making 27 saves. Levine made 20 saves in the win. In addition, Peoria went 2-for-8 on the power play and a perfect 5-for-5 on the penalty kill.
Peoria outshot Bloomington 33-23.
The Rivermen conclude their three-game series with the Thunder on Sunday, with a 3:15 p.m. puck drop at Carver Arena. Sunday is “Fun on the Run Family Day,” which includes $1 upper bowl tickets for kids 12 and under, $3 kids meals (hot dog, chips and a soda), inflatables, face painting and a post-game skate with the team. In addition, Spongebob Squarepants will be in attendance to meet fans all afternoon. 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.