RIVERMEN FALL IN PRE-SEASON FINALE
Dennis Sievers/Peoria Rivermen
For the second night in a row, the Peoria Rivermen and Bloomington Thunder went beyond regulation in exhibition play. This time, Bloomington’s Eddie Olczyk netted the game-winner in the ninth round of a shootout to clinch a 5-4 win for the Thunder on Saturday at the U.S. Cellular Coliseum.
Rivermen goaltender Phil Cook went the distance, but suffered the loss allowing four goals on 38 shots. With the loss, Peoria concludes its first Southern Professional Hockey League pre-season with a 0-2-0-0 record.
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It didn’t take long for the action to pick up on Saturday. Just five seconds after the opening face-off, Peoria defenseman Olivier Schenk and Thunder forward Dennis Sicard squared off in the first fight of the night. The bout proved costly for the Rivermen however, as Schenk was popped hard in the side of the head and went straight to the locker room.
The Thunder got on the board first at 7:28 of the opening frame when forward Daniel Barczuk netted his third goal in the last two nights. Barczuk found the goal on a one-time shot from the right side after he received a pretty pass from Kevin Walrod. Both Walrod and Paul D’Agostino were credited with an assists.
The Rivermen answered midway through the first period courtesy of Dean Yakura’s first goal of the pre-season. At 13:34, defenseman Joe Schiller gained the zone and made a pair of fancy moves to get behind the Thunder defense. Schiller then found Yakura on the left side of the slot, who buried the equalizer past Bloomington’s starting goaltender Max Strang.
Bloomington bounced back just over four minutes later when forward Matt Puntereri made it 2-1 at 17:37. With speed, Puntereri skated down the right side and went 5-hole on Cook for his first goal of the pre-season.
The middle frame was much more kind to the Rivermen, who scored three times in the period to take a two-goal lead. It all started with Schiller at the 2:59 mark, who found an opening on a blast from the top of the right circle.
Less than six minutes later, newcomer Mike Lysyj put Peoria on top for the first time during a 5-on-3 power play. Just nine seconds after Bryant Doerrsam was booked for a high stick, which put two Thunder skaters in the box, Lysyj walked in from the left side and punched it past Strang at 8:29.
Peoria added its final tally of the middle frame with time expiring and shorthanded. While on the forecheck, winger Matt Graham chased down a loose puck in the corner and backhanded it into the crease, where it deflected off the skate of Bloomington’s backup goaltender Garrett Bartus and in. The unassisted goal came at 19:59.
The momentum swung back towards Bloomington in the final period of regulation as the Thunder scored twice to even the game once again. At the 5:39 mark, forward Kyle Watson rapped a loose puck past Cook from the right circle.
Bloomington knotted the game at 4-4 with less than three minutes to play in regulation courtesy of Kory Helowka. At 17:08, the Thunder forward skated in from the left side and punched it under Cook, who couldn’t secure it and let it slip past the goal line.
After a scoreless overtime, Olczyk netted the only goal of the shootout in the ninth round to win it.
The Rivermen finished the game 1-for-4 on the power play and 2-for-3 on the penalty kill. Bloomington led the shot count 39-37.
Peoria and Bloomington will face off in the season opener next Friday, Oct. 25, at the U.S. Cellular Coliseum at 7:05 p.m. The Rivermen begin the home portion of their schedule next Saturday, Oct. 26 at 7:15 p.m. also against the Thunder. Both games can be heard locally on CD Country 107.9 FM or worldwide on the Internet at www.cd1079.net or www.americaone.com.