Cahill's Overtime Winner Lifts Rivermen Over Evansville 4-3

December 23, 2023 - 10:50 pm

PEORIA, IL –  Cayden Cahill’s overtime winner provided the Rivermen and their fans with a satisfying stocking stuffer before the Christmas holiday as the Peoria Rivermen defeated the Evansville Thunderbolts 4-3 in overtime at Carver Arena on Saturday night.

The first period saw Evansville jump out to a quick lead in shots and were rewarded as they capitalized on a two-on-one rush just after the Rivermen came up empty on a similar odd-man break. It marked the fourth straight game between Peoria and Evansville when the Thunderbolts scored the first goal.

The Rivermen were able to tie the game up in the second period while on the power play. Alec Baer, who has been red-hot in his last three games, continued to remain proficient in scoring as he rifled a wrist shot into the back of the net from the top of the left-wing circle. The goal marked his fifth in four games and his second straight while on the power play. Evansville, however, came back with two unanswered goals, including one while on the power play, to re-establish the lead 3-1 going into the third.

It was in the third period that the Rivermen once again stepped up their play and had their best performance of the weekend, playing physical, being strong on loose pucks, and taking the offense to the front of the net.

“We decided to play the Rivermen way,” said Rivermen Head Coach Jean-Guy Trudel “When you play the right way, the hockey gods come through for you.”

Cayden Cahill was able to net his first goal of the game as a shot from the right side came in that produced a rebound right behind Evansville netminder Cole Ceci. Cahill, standing right at the side of the net, pounced on the rebound and swiped the puck into the back of the net to pull the Rivermen within one with just over a minute to play. Then, 37 seconds later with the goaltender pulled, Baer proved to be a third-period hero once again. A shot by Wilkie in the high slot produced a rebound to the base of the left-wing circle, and Baer was in perfect position to rifle the puck into the back of the net with just 42 seconds remaining in regulation time. For the second night in a row, the Rivermen came from behind to force overtime.

“Baersy [Baer] has been dominant for four games now,” Trudel said about his forward.

Baer went on to play a key role in overtime, for the Rivermen did not want to let it get to a shootout like Friday night. After defenseman Dale Deon forced a turnover in his own zone, he sent a head-man pass up to Cahill who skated up on a two-on-one with Baer. Cahill sent a pass to Baer on the left-wing side as he made a bee-line for the front of the net. Baer then held on to the puck for a split second, waiting for Ceci to commit to a shot before touching a pass back to Cahill in front. The Alaska native made no mistake as he directed the puck into the back of the net to secure Peoria’s first victory in overtime this season, which snapped Evansville’s four-game winning streak.

“When you go, and you have guys that buy in, you can win with any personnel,” Trudel said. "We just have to find the right personnel.”

The Rivermen will be back in action on the day after Christmas on December 26 as they take on the Quad City Storm in Moline on Tuesday at 6:10 pm.


Photo: Elisabeth Maier - Peoria Rivermen