By Brian Weidler, "Game Time" Prospect Department
RIVERMEN OFFENSE, GOALTENDING HEATING UP:
19 goals scored from Peoria sticks this week; Rivs go 3-1-0-0 in four games
The goal celebration shown at left has become a frequent occurrence of late whenever the Peoria Rivermen are on the ice.
After scoring only eight goals total in their first four games and stumbling out of the gate to an 0-3-0-1 record, the offense has come to life for Peoria. In five of their last six games, the Rivermen have posted five goals to outscore their opposition 29-19, and are 4-1-1-0 in that stretch.
The hot streak for the offense also coincides with "Big" Ben Bishop shouldering aside battery mate Jake "The Snake" Allen to take the reins as the clear number one goalie in P-Town. Bishop's 5-0 whitewashing of the San Antonio Rampage in Texas on Oct. 21 kick-started the offensive explosion, and the big Chaminade grad has started four of the Rivs' last six games (plus a relief appearance in Austin on Oct. 22), surrendering just 8 goals on 142 shots in 270 minutes for a 1.78 GAA and a 94.4% save percentage in that stretch.
The week of Oct. 23-29 began for the Rivermen with a 5-2 home win against the Chicago Wolves on Oct. 23. in which TJ Hensick scored twice, veterans Jonathan Cheechoo and Adam Cracknell chipped in a goal and two assists apiece, and prospect Anthony Nigro capped off the Peoria scoring with his first goal of the year.
After a four-day layoff, the Rivermen hosted the Texas Stars on Thursday and posted a 5-3 win over the visitors from Austin. Bishop made his second start of the week and turned aside 31 of 34 Star shots for the win. In this game, it was Brett Sterling's turn to dent the twine twice, while Hensick chipped in a pair of assists. Nigro scored again for the Rivermen, as did last year's free-agent find Derek Nesbitt and emerging youngster Brett Sonne.
On Friday night, Allen got the start in goal for the Rivermen, and his struggles continued against the rival Rockford IceHogs. Allen was bombarded with 39 shots by the 'Hogs, and surrendered six goals in a 6-4 home loss. The second-year pro from Fredericton, New Brunswick has limped to an 0-2-0-1 record, a 4.74 GAA and an 85.6% saves rate.
Peoria got goals on Friday from Tyler Shattock, his first of the 2011-12 season, as well as from Sterling, Nesbitt and Sonne.
Capping the week last night on the road in Rockford, the Rivermen went back to Bishop in the net, and the big man delivered yet again. For the second straight game, the IceHogs pummelled the Peoria net with 39 shots on goal, but Bishop was equal to all but two of those shots, leading the Rivs to a 5-2 road win.
Rookie blueliner Cade Fairchild was the hero of the game, scoring his first pro goal on a power play at 13:29 of the second period. That goal also proved to be the game-winner.
Sterling added his team-leading seventh goal of the season, Nigro scored his third goal of the week and the season, and Nesbitt and Cracknell also tallied for the Rivermen.
After ten games, the team leaders are as follows:
Goals: Brett Sterling (7).
Assists: TJ Hensick (11).
Points: Hensick (15)
Points Per Game: Hensick (1.50)
Plus/Minus: Cade Fairchild (plus-9)
Penalty Minutes: Anthony Peluso (40)
Hensick is third in AHL scoring with a 4-11-15 line, and Sterling is seventh with a 7-6-13 line. Sterling's seven goals are good for a sixth-place tie, and Hensick is tied with Hershey's Keith Aucoin for the league lead in assists. Fairchild's plus-9 leads rookies, and is second in the AHL behind Norfolk's Trevor Smith, and Peluso's 40 PM is fourth in the league.
Bishop is top 20 in goals-against average (2.31) and save percentage (92.8%), and is in a group of 11 goalies with four wins for fifth-most in the AHL.
THE WEEK IN REVIEW:
Peoria 5 vs Chicago 2, Sunday, Oct. 23, 2011.
Peoria 5 vs Texas 3, Thursday, Oct. 27, 2011.
Peoria 4 vs Rockford 6, Friday, Oct. 28, 2011.
Peoria 5 at Rockford 2, Saturday, Oct. 29, 2011.
THE WEEK AHEAD:
Thursday, November 3, 2011 ... Game Time 7:00 PM CDT at Carver Arena, Peoria, IL. NHL Affiliate: Vancouver Canucks.
Friday, November 4, 2011 ... Game Time 7:00 PM CDT at Carver Arena, Peoria, IL. NHL Affiliate: Vancouver Canucks.
Saturday, November 5, 2011 ... Game Time 7:00 PM CDT at Bradley Center, Milwaukee, WI. NHL Affiliate: Nashville Predators.
RIVERMEN NEWS LINKS:
10/23/11 -- Hensick, Cheechoo lead Rivermen past Wolves, 5-2 (Peoria Journal Star).
10/27/11 -- Eventually, Rivermen shining the brightest in win over Stars (Peoria Journal Star).
10/28/11 -- Rivermen breakdowns fuel 6-4 Rockford victory (Peoria Journal Star).
10/29/11 -- Rivermen check IceHogs with Bishop in 5-2 win (Peoria Journal Star).