ICEGATORS SNATCH 6-5 SHOOTOUT WIN FROM PEORIA
Dennis Sievers/Peoria Rivermen
The Peoria Rivermen let a three-goal lead in the third period slip away on Saturday as the Louisiana IceGators rallied for a 6-5 shootout win at Carver Arena. Dean Yakura and Matt Viola each scored twice for Peoria, while Ron Cramer netted two goals for the IceGators, which began the third-period comeback. In the five-round shootout, Chris Wilson and Jeremy Boyer each scored for Louisiana, while Garrett Vermeersch notched Peoria’s only tally.
After trailing much of the night, Louisiana evened the game with just 15 seconds remaining in regulation when Adam Stuart scored with an extra attacker.
With the loss, Peoria falls to 24-16-6 on the season (54 points), but controls sole possession of fourth place in the standings and is just five points from clinching a spot in the Southern Professional Hockey League’s President’s Cup playoffs. In addition, Peoria snapped an eight-game winning streak at home, where they had not lost since January 19.
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At 7:01 of the first period, Yakura opened the scoring with his third goal of the year. During a 2-on-1 break, Yakura wristed a shot from the right wing that beat Louisiana goaltender Matt Zenzola left side and low. Locke Jillson was credited with the assist – his first professional point.
The IceGators answered on the power play at the 8:42 mark of the first with Jeff Grant’s 17th of the year. Following a slashing minor to Taylor Larsen, Kirk Byczynski ripped a slap shot from the top of the point that was redirected by Grant past Rivermen netminder Kyle Rank. Byczynski and Shawn McNeil notched the helpers.
Just 10 seconds later, the Rivermen regained the lead with Viola’s eighth of the season. At 8:52, Garrett Vermeersch took a slap shot from the top of the right circle that was denied by Zenzola, but the rebound popped right to Viola who cleaned up the second chance. Vermeersch and Stanfield earned the assists.
In an attempt to change things up, Louisiana pulled Zenzola at 10:23 for Kiefer Smiley, who started each of the first three games against Peoria this season. However, the Rivermen extended their lead just 1:54 into the second courtesy of Jillson. From the right side, Taylor Larsen fired a shot on target that was stopped by Smiley, but the rebound came loose to Jillson who scored from the bottom of the right circle for his first professional goal. Larsen and Cole Ruwe collected the assists.
Louisiana was not idle not much longer and scored at 5:37 of the second to make it 3-2. From the left post, McNeil bated in two defenseman leaving Aaron McGill wide-open at the backdoor for a tap-in goal against his former team.
The pendulum continued to swing in the middle frame as Peoria made it 4-2 on the power play at the 7:09 mark. With Jordan Braid in the box for tripping, Steve Morra found Yakura at the bottom of the right circle who went five-hole on Smiley for his second of the game. Morra and Ruwe notched the helpers.
At the 18:28 mark, Viola made it 5-2 with his second goal of the game. From the slot, Stanfield spun and threw a shot towards the net that was knocked down, but collected by Viola who went top shelf on the backhand from the door step. In addition, Stanfield and Vermeersch each produced their second assists on the night.
Louisiana kicked off its comeback at 1:32 of the third when Cramer scored on the power play. With Larsen in the box for tripping, Cramer cleaned up a rebound chance created from a Clark Byczynski slap shot from the left point. Byczynski and Wilson tallied the assists.
Cramer cut the IceGators deficit to one yet again at 14:04 of the third when the former Bloomington forward wristed a shot from the right circle between the pads.
Louisiana pulled Smiley with 1:06 remaining for the extra attacker and applied plenty of pressure on the Rivermen net. So much so that Peoria was called for intentionally dislodging the net at 19:28, which led to a penalty shot for McNeil, who was denied by Rank to keep the Rivermen ahead.
However, Stuart tied the game at the 19:45 mark when he redirected (Kirk) Byczynski’s drive from the blue line. Following a scoreless overtime session, Wilson notched a shootout goal on Louisiana’s first attempt, while Boyer scored on its last.
Rank (15-7-2) suffered the loss and made 25 saves on 30 shots. It was his first shootout loss with Peoria. On the other hand, Smiley (16-9-2) earned the win and made 18 saves on 21 shots. Additionally, Zenzola made seven saves on the nine shots he faced.
Peoria finished the game 1-for-4 on the power play and 2-for-4 on the penalty kill. Louisiana led in shots 31-30, including each of the last nine shots in the game.
Ruwe (2a), Stanfield (2a), Jillson (1g, 1a), Viola (2g), Yakura (2g), Vermeersch (2a) each recorded multiple points for the Rivermen. Plus, Vermeersch now has points in eight straight games at home.
The Rivermen return to action on Tuesday with a 7:05 p.m. puck drop against the Bloomington Thunder at the U.S. Cellular Coliseum. The game can be heard locally on CD Country 107.9 FM or online here. Fans can also follow along via the live video and audio stream at www.americaonesports.com.