Rivermen Clinch 5th Regular Season Title Behind 4-1 Victory Over Pensacola
April 7, 2023 - 10:25 pm
PEORIA, IL – Jack Berry was spectacular in net, Alec Hagaman was scoring and hitting, and the Rivermen were in sync as they downed the Pensacola Ice Flyers 4-1 at Carver Arena in Peoria. As a result, Peoria clinched first place in the SPHL and the William B. Coffey Trophy for the first time since 2019.
The Rivermen were able to strike first less than six minutes in as Vadim Vasjonkin skated up the ice on a two-on-one rush and sent a quick back-door pass to Austin Wisely to tuck the puck into the net to put the Rivermen up 1-0. After killing off a penalty midway through the game, the Rivermen struck again this time courtesy of their captain. After Pensacola defenseman Jason Price bobbled the puck at the Rivermen line, Hagaman picked up the puck and skated in on a breakaway from center ice. Electing to shoot, Hagaman ripped a hard wrist-shot past Pensacola netminder Brad Arvanitis to give Peoria a 2-0 lead.
The second period saw several great chances for both sides and tensions boil as Mitch McPherson and Sean Gulka dropped the gloves at center ice. Despite all of this, the score remained unchanged and Peoria took a 2-0 lead into the second period.
Peoria extended their lead early in the third period with a power-play tally from Jordan Ernst. After receiving a pass on the left-wing Ernst took his time and sent a quick wrist-shot on the net from the top of the circle. The shot found its way into the net to give Peoria a 3-0 lead. Though Pensacola got on the board late in the third, they were held from getting any more goals by Rivermen goaltender Jack Berry who made 21 saves, most of the exceptional quality, to limit Pensacola’s offensive prowess. Defenseman Nick Neville provided the icing on the cake with an empty-net goal from the base of the left-wing circle to secure the 4-1 victory.
With the win and a Birmingham loss, Peoria clinched a first-place finish in the SPHL and the franchise's fifth William B. Coffey Trophy. The last time Peoria won the league regular season title was back during the 2018-2019 season when the Rivermen finished with a 40-7-4-5 record.
Peoria will conclude the regular season on Saturday night against the Pensacola Ice Flyers, face-off is set for 7:15 pm at Carver Arena.