By Brian Weidler, "Game Time" Prospect Department
RIVS WIN THREE OF FOUR, BUT CAN'T PULL AWAY:
Enforcer Anthony Peluso emerges as unlikely scoring hero for Peoria this week.
There's good news and bad news for the Peoria Rivermen in this edition of "River Readings."
The good news is, the Rivermen won three of four games in the last week, all against Western Conference and Midwest Division foes.
The bad news? A .750 win percentage in their last four games was still not enough to open up any ground between the Rivermen and the other teams with whom they are jockeying for Western Conference playoff positioning.
At this time last week, the Rivermen sat in the number eight seed in the Western Conference with 53 points. Today, with the three wins in the last week, the Rivermen improved their record to 28-22-2-1, and have 59 points in 53 games played. Those 59 points are good enough for the seventh seed in the AHL playoffs, if the race for the Calder Cup was to begin today. Abbottsford, the Rivs' next opponent on Tuesday of this week, also has 59 points with a 28-20-3-0 record in 51 games.
The Rivermen are just three points out of fourth place and home ice advantage in the AHL playoffs, but the arch-rival Chicago Wolves currently hold that position, and at 29-18-1-3 for 62 points in 51 games, have two games in hand on the Rivermen.
Fourth-line winger Anthony Peluso (above) emerged as an unlikely, but welcome, scoring hero in two of Peoria's wins this week. Peluso tallied the only goal of the game in a 1-0 victory over Rockford at The Big Orange Box (The BMO Harris Bank Center) on Feb. 15, and scored with just over two minutes left in the second period last night in Grand Rapids to pace the Rivs to a 3-1 win over the Griffins. Peluso also assisted on Phil McRae's insurance goal midway through the third period of the Grand Rapids game.
NOT A WEAK WEEK COMING UP FOR RIVS:
As important as the last seven days have been for the Rivermen, the next seven will be just as important, if not even more so.
In the next seven days, the Rivermen will play the team directly ahead of them in the Western Conference standings, as well as the team directly behind them in the Western Conference standings. The Abbotsford (BC) Heat (28-20-3-0, 59 points) come to Carver Arena on Tuesday, Feb. 22 for a game that will determine sole possession of the sixth seed in the Western Conference, at least for a day or two.
Then on Friday and Saturday, the Rivermen will play host to the San Antonio Rampage (27-22-2-1, 57 points) before hosting Abbotsford yet again in an early Sunday evening matchup.
Seven of Peoria's next eight games are in the friendly confines of Carver Arena, and the one road contest of that stretch is in Milwaukee vs. the Admirals. Milwaukee (26-22-2-1, 55 points) is one of three "bubble" teams in the Western Conference playoff chase at the moment, along with Lake Erie (26-23-2-2, 56 points) and Rochester (23-20-6-3, 55 points).
THE WEEK IN REVIEW:
Peoria 4 at Milwaukee 2, Sunday, Feb. 12, 2012.
Peoria 1 at Rockford 0, Wednesday, Feb. 15, 2012.
Peoria 2 vs. Charlotte 4, Friday, Feb. 17, 2012.
Peoria 3 at Grand Rapids 1, Saturday, Feb. 18, 2012.
THE WEEK AHEAD:
Tuesday, February 21, 2012 ... Game Time 7:00 PM CST at Carver Arena, Peoria, IL. NHL Affiliate: Calgary Flames.
Friday, February 24, 2012 ... Game Time 7:00 PM CST at Carver Arena, Peoria, IL. NHL Affiliate: Florida Panthers.
Saturday, February 25, 2012 ... Game Time 7:30 PM CST at Carver Arena, Peoria, IL. NHL Affiliate: Florida Panthers.
RIVERMEN NEWS LINKS:
02/12/12 -- Rivermen: 15 shots, 2 Sterling goals, 1 big victory (Peoria Journal Star).
02/15/12 -- Rivermen shut down the IceHogs (Peoria Journal-Star).
02/17/12 -- Rivermen check out in 4-2 loss to Charlotte (Peoria Journal Star).
02/18/12 -- Rivermen goalie Allen leads 3-1 win over Griffins (Peoria Journal-Star).