Rivermen Rally to Upset Knoxville in Shootout
December 10, 2021 - 11:20 pm
PEORIA, IL – After several frustrations, the Rivermen finally did it. They got their comeback, storybook ending. They did it behind some key scorers, a hometown crowd, and an FPHL goaltender who wasn’t expected to see a single puck. Unexpected to be sure. But that’s exactly what happened as the Rivermen rallied to defeat the Knoxville Ice Bears by a score of 5-4 in the shootout on Friday night at Carver Arena.
It was not the start Peoria had hoped for as they fell down 2-0 after the first 20 minutes of play. The first Knoxville goal came less than 90 seconds into the contest. The second period saw more of a response from the Rivermen.
Marcel Godbout found the puck streaking up the right side, as he entered the zone, he slowed up right at the face-off dot and rifled a shot just over the glove of Ice Bear netminder Kristian Stead. Godbout, scoring his second goal in as many nights, sent the many teddy bears down to the ice from the Peoria faithful and trimmed the Knoxville lead to 2-1.
But the Ice Bears responded a few minutes later to extend their lead to 3-1. Peoria, undaunted, soldiered on and was able to once again answer with a goal by Mitch McPherson in tight to trim the lead again, this time to 3-2. Again, the punch-counter punch slugfest continued in the second as the Ice Bears scored off a quirky goal to regain the two-goal lead. Down 4-2, Rivermen coach Jean-Guy Trudel elected to pull his starting netminder Eric Levine in favor of Joseph Noonan, who was called up from the FPHL due to Jack Berry being loaned to the Iowa Heartlanders this weekend.
Making his first SPHL appearance, Noonan made the saves he needed to as his defenders rallied around him. They blocked shots, they cleared rebounds and they did what they had to get him into the game. As the second period drew to a close, the Rivermen found themselves on just their second five-on-three advantage of the season. At a critical point in the game, needing a goal, the Rivermen turned to their captain.
As time wore down, Alec Hagaman received a pass from Nick Neville in the high slot. With a precious second to pick his spot, Hagaman sent a rocket of a wrist shot to the top corner and saw it fly in past Stead. Hagaman’s goal, with 24 seconds left in the period, pulled the Rivermen to just 4-3 down going into the third.
The third period was the Rivermen’s period as after a few good attempts, they finally broke through. Alec Baer received a pass in the slot and quickly rifled a shot as soon as it came to his stick. The quick-release took Stead completely off-guard and he had little chance to make the save. Just like that, Peoria had tied the game 4-4.
In the closing stages of the contest, while Knoxville enjoyed several power plays, the Rivermen defense, and Noonan came to the fore, Noonan himself made one spectacular save with his glove to keep the game tied.
In overtime, both sides had several grade-A chances, including some odd-man rushes, but could not find the game-winner.
The contest was to be decided in the shootout, by two teams winless in the skills competition.
Peoria, having lost three shootouts this season, decided that number was not going to get to four. After surrendering the first goal, they rattled off four straight, with the decisive tally coming from Nick Neville to seal the victory.
The win was made all the better due to Noonan’s performance, he made 15 saves on the shots that were sent his way and he was rightfully given a standing ovation as he skated off the ice, smiles as far as the eye could see. The Rivermen will look for the weekend sweep at home tomorrow night at 7:15 pm against Knoxville.
Photo- Rivermen Hockey