The Peoria Rivermen mustered up 43 shots on Saturday, but only one found the back of the net as the Mississippi RiverKings edged Peoria, 2-1 at Carver Arena. RiverKings' goaltender Dan McWhinney made 42 saves, while forward Matt Whitehead netted the game-winner less than two minutes into the third as the visitors topped Peoria for the second straight night.
After starting the season with back-to-back wins, the loss drops Peoria to 2-2-0-0 in their first SPHL season. Starting goaltender Russ Stein went the distance in his third appearance of the year, but suffered the defeat after allowing two goals on 35 shots.
The first period was an offensive struggle as neither team found the back of the net in the first 20 minutes. It wasn’t for a lack of chances, however, as Peoria failed to score on three power play opportunities.
Mississippi broke the scoreless tie at 5:11 of the first period courtesy of veteran Leo Thomas. The 11th year pro center ripped a slap shot from the left side, which went top shelf past Stein for a 1-0 score. Whitehead and Todd Hosmer each assisted on the goal.
(Dennis Sievers / Peoria Rivermen)
The game turned physical towards the end of the second period and resulted in a near fight between Cole Ruwe and Charles Lachance with five minutes left in the frame. Three minutes later, defenseman Matt Smyth was called for tripping, which created Peoria’s sixth power play of the game. The Rivermen pounced on the opportunity and evened the game at the 19:27 mark, when center Nick Prockow passed to Tyler Fernandez at the top of the right circle, who then found Nick Wheeler for a one-time goal.
The RiverKings regained the lead during a power play at 1:55 of the third and never looked back. From the top of the point, Hosmer unloaded on a slap shot that was initially saved by Stein, but the puck trickled between the netminder’s pads and Whitehead was there to knock it home.
A relentless attack in the final minutes of the game by the Rivermen kept it exciting down to the wire, but Peoria never found the equalizer. Following a hooking minor to Smyth at the 17:46 mark, Stein was pulled with 1:13 to play which created a 6-on-4 chance for the Rivermen. Peoria however notched just one shot on goal during the final minute.
Peoria finished the game 1-for-7 on the power play and 2-for-3 on the penalty kill.
The Rivermen hit the road for their first out-of-state road trip next weekend, which begins in Huntsville, Alabama on Friday. Game-time is 7:05 p.m. and you can follow all of the action locally on CD Country 107.9 FM or online at www.cd1079.net.