Special Teams Drive Peoria to Sunday Sweep

February 18, 2024 - 06:10 pm

PEORIA, IL – Special teams have been the focus all weekend for the Rivermen as they host the Fayetteville Marksmen. They were the difference maker on Sunday afternoon as the Rivermen defeated Fayetteville 3-2 at Carver Arena to secure a three-game weekend sweep.

Despite not facing a shot for more than half of the first period, Mario Cavaliere made several key stops to keep the Marksmen off the scoreboard. Peoria eventually found the back of the net as Braydon Barker got his stick on a Fayetteville “d-to-d” pass in their zone. The puck deflected to the left-wing boards where it was picked up by JM Piotrowski. Piotrowski stepped in on the left side and rang a shot off the left post and in for his second goal in as many nights to put Peoria up 1-0. It marked the fifth straight game the Rivermen had scored the first goal of a contest.

Fayetteville came into this weekend with the top-ranked power-play unit in the SPHL, coming into Sunday they were held completely off the board. That changed in the second period as the Marksmen found the back of the net on a short-angle shot to tie the game 1-1. Peoria answered with their power-play tally by Jordan Ernst as he found skating room on the left side and rifled in a shot from the face-off circle to re-establish the Rivermen lead to 2-1. But the Marksmen found the tying goal again, this time off of a goal-mouth scramble in the final minute of the second period to tie the game up 2-2 going into the third.

Arguably the biggest moment of the game came in the third period as the Rivermen took back-to-back penalties in quick succession to give the Marksmen a five-on-three power play for over a minute. Peoria, without the services of Alec Hagaman, Alec Baer, Zach Wilkie, or Andrew Durham faced a tough slog. But the Rivermen held firm and held off the Marksmen attack. Soon after, with momentum back in their favor, the Rivermen drew a penalty and went back to the power play.

Mike Gelatt was able to find the back of the net as he took the puck from the side of the net and curled it out into the low slot, from point-blank range he stuffed the puck into the net between the legs of Marksmen goaltender Ron Salmenkangas to put the Rivermen back on top 3-2. It was a lead the Rivermen held on to for the remainder of the game as Peoria completed the three-game sweep of the Marksmen at Carver Arena. The win puts second place firmly in Peoria’s hands and brings them to within two games of first place in the SPHL standings.

The Rivermen will be back at home on Friday night as they host the Evansville Thunderbolts at 7:15 pm.


Photo: Elizabeth Mair - Peoria Rivermen