Piotrowski's Hat Trick Sparks Rivermen Comeback
December 11, 2021 - 11:15 pm
PEORIA, IL – It took less than three months for the Rivermen to net their first hat trick of the season, ironically it was scored entirely in the second period, by a first-year Rivermen forward. It was J.M. Piotrowski’s three goals that sparked the Rivermen offense to rally back and post a 5-4 victory against the Knoxville Ice Bears on Saturday night at Carver Arena.
The night started on an eerily familiar tone for the Rivermen, with themselves being down 2-0 after the first 20 minutes. Both of Knoxville’s goals were weird ones that deflected in off of Rivermen skates of helmets.
But like on Friday, Peoria’s offense came alive in the second period and it was aided by a power-play goal.
A broken play, off of a fanned shot, saw the puck deflect right to Piotrowski who was curling in behind the net. Piotrowski quickly jumped on the loose puck and buried it into the net to pull the Rivermen to 2-1.
But also, like Friday night, the Knoxville Ice Bears responded to each Rivermen thrust. They extend their lead to 3-1 off of a short-angle shot soon after Peoria's first goal. Again, down by two, Piotrowski and the Rivermen fought back. On a goal-mouth scramble in front, Piotrowski got several good whacks at the puck as it sat right at the goal line. On the third or fourth try, he was able to chip the puck into the net to record his second goal of the night and, once again, pulled Peoria to within one.
Piotrowski was able to strike again, soon afterward. After picking up a rebound, Piotrowski contorted his body and shot the puck around the Knoxville netminder. The fitness play allowed him to record the first Rivermen hat trick to tie the game at 3-3.
The Ice Bears did not go quietly however and capitalized on a pass in front of the goal to retake the lead 4-3.
Heading into the third period, the Rivermen dominated the time of possession and shots on goal, desperate to find the equalizer. Desperate for a goal the Rivermen, as they have done all year, turned to their captain.
Alec Hagaman received a pass in the high slot, almost in the exact same position as Baer did on Friday, and fired a hard wrist shot into the back of the net to draw Peoria even at 4-4.
Though overtime was in the back of everybody’s mind, the Rivermen took another step in their development and decided that they wouldn’t let the contest get to that point. Paul Deslauriers’ quick-strike goal in the final five minutes marked Peoria’s first lead of the weekend, a lead that they refused to surrender.
The Rivermen held on for the final four minutes of regulation to earn another weekend sweep at home and the first sweep the Ice Bears have been forced to endure all season.
The win marked the fourth straight game the Rivermen have erased a third-period deficit and their eighth straight game in which they’ve earned a point or more. That streak is now the longest active in the Southern Professional Hockey League. Peoria will look to continue its streak against the Quad City Storm on Friday, December 17.