By Brian Weidler, "Game Time" Prospect Department
RIVERMEN LAY AN EGG ON OPENING NIGHT
The much-anticipated regular season debut of the 2011-12 Peoria Rivermen was a disappointment last night.
The veteran top line of Jonathan Cheechoo, TJ Hensick and Brett Sterling accounted for Peoria's goal, but finished the night a combined minus-9 as division rival Milwaukee pulled away late in the game to seal a 4-1 win.
We'll let the Rivermen website tell the tale of this clunker.
The Peoria Rivermen opened the 2011-2012 season at Carver Arena on Saturday night and dropped a 4-1 decision to the Milwaukee Admirals. Ryan Thang scored twice and Jeremy Smith made 22 saves as the Midwest Division rival Admirals spoiled the night for 7,029 fans.
Peoria’s first power play of the season turned into a 5-on-3 advantage nearly halfway through the first period. At 9:06, Brett Sterling scored just seconds after the two-man advantage ended for a power-play goal in his Rivermen debut. T.J. Hensick made a quick pass to Danny Syvret at the point who fired the puck into traffic in front of Smith. Sterling deflected it in on the way by.
Michael Latta tied the game at 15:45 of the first period on a penalty shot. Latta froze goaltender Jake Allen (pictured) with a head fake then slid the puck between Allen’s pads making it a 1-1 game.
With 1:04 left in the first period the Admirals took a 2-1 lead on Thang’s first of the night. Victor Bartley’s shot clanked off the post and the rebound went to right to Thang on the backdoor who put the puck into an open net. Chris Mueller had the secondary assist on the play.
After a scoreless second period, the Admirals took a two-goal lead at 7:24 of the third Milwaukee forward Jani Lajunen poked the puck away and raced down the wall. At the top of the circle, Lajunen made a spin-o-rama pass to teammate Juuso Puustinen who fired a wrist shot low past Allen’s glove.
With 1:30 left in the third period, the Admirals sealed the win with an empty-net goal making it 4-1. Thang found the net for his second of the night and earned a two-point night for Latta as well.
Smith stopped 22 out of the 23 shots he faced. Allen made 26 saves on 29 shots. The Rivermen finished the game 1-for-3 on the power-play and a perfect 4-for-4 on the penalty kill.
ILLINOIS LOTTERY CUP
The three Illinois-based AHL clubs -- the Rivermen, Chicago Wolves and Rockford IceHogs -- have joined forces with the Illinois Lottery to sponsor the inaugural Illinois Lottery Cup competition. The winner of the Illinois Lottery Cup will be the team with the best overall winning percentage in head-to-head games with the other Illinois cubs.
Rivermen COO Jason Penning had this to say about the new trophy.
"We are very excited to take our great rivalry with the other Illinois teams to a new level with the Illinois Lottery Cup," said Rivermen C.O.O Jason Penning. "Plus Illinois Lottery’s involvement is going to add some fun and exciting promotions for our fans to enjoy and maybe even win a little money."
During every game with either Chicago or Rockford, Rivermen fans will have the chance to win $1 instant game tickets and big money, courtesy of the Illinois Lottery.
THE WEEK IN REVIEW:
Peoria 1 vs. Milwaukee 4, Saturday, Oct. 8, 2011.
THE WEEK AHEAD:
Sunday, October 9, 2011 ... Game Time 5:00 PM CDT at Carver Arena, Peoria, Illinois. NHL Affiliate: Chicago Blackhawks.
Saturday, October 15, 2011 ... Game Time 6:00 PM CDT at Time-Warner Cable Arena, Charlotte, NC. NHL Affiliate: Carolina Hurricanes.
RIVERMEN NEWS LINKS:
10/05/11 -- Rivermen to Battle for Illinois Lottery Cup (Rivermen.net).
10/06/11 -- Cheechoo ready for his shot with Rivermen, eyes return to NHL (Peoria Journal Star).
10/07/11 -- Rivermen begin ‘knocking on AHL’s door’ again (Peoria Journal Star).