By Brian Weidler, "Game Time" Prospect Department
RIVERMEN EARN THREE POINTS IN THREE GAMES:
Get first win of 2011-12 in San Antonio, and drop a wild 6-5 OT game in Austin the next night
After a slow start to the 2011-12 AHL season, the Peoria Rivermen are showing all the signs of getting on track.
The offense has found a higher gear, scoring 11 goals in three games this week, and that has come largely as a result of an improved power play. Before last Sunday, the Rivermen had scored one power-play goal in ten chances; this week alone, Peoria scorers found the net seven times in 17 man-advantage situations. And the play at the other end of the ice has been equally solid, for the most part.
Ben Bishop (pictured at left) appeared in all three games for the Rivs this week, starting two and earning a 1-1-1 record for the week. Battery mate Jake Allen, meanwhile, is struggling; in his only start this week, last night vs. Texas, Allen surrendered five goals on just 16 shots before giving way to Bishop midway through the second period.
Bishop got the start last Sunday in the second of back-to-back games in Charlotte, giving up three goals on 37 shots in a 3-1 loss. Veteran Brett Sterling tallied the only goal for Peoria, with assists going to TJ Hensick and Danny Syvret.
The Rivermen stayed on the road, and stayed in Dixie as well, traveling to Texas for weekend games in San Antonio and Austin. Down-home cookin' might have been what the doctor ordered for Jared Bednar's charges, as the Rivermen were firing on all cylinders Friday night in a 5-0 rout of the San Antonio Rampage.
On the defensive side, Bishop turned aside all 28 shots from Rampage sticks to post the team's first shutout of 2011-12. On offense, four of the five goals scored by the Rivermen came with the man advantage, and the last goal of the game was scored with Bishop off the ice on a delayed penalty call. Veteran Jonathan Cheechoo led the way for the Rivs with a pair of goals, bracketing scores by Hensick and Brett Sterling, as well as Jay Barriball's first professional goal at 16:56 of the second.
In addition to the team's first shutout this year, and Barriball's first pro goal, there were other firsts for the Rivermen this week. Rookie defenseman Cade Fairchild (pictured at right) assisted on a Phil McRae goal at 14:15 of the first period Saturday night for his first professional point, and the McRae goal was one-third of his first professional hat trick. McRae's offensive explosion, along with goals by Mark Cundari and Derek Nesbitt, enabled the Rivermen to take the Texas Stars into overtime before surrendering a power-play goal to rookie Matt Fraser that gave the Stars a 6-5 win.
Fraser's goal was his team-leading fourth of the season for the Stars, and capped a three-point (2 G, 1 A) night for the free agent from Red Deer, Alberta. The 6' 2, 207-pounder also earned 12 minutes in penalty time last night, with a delay of game penalty in the first period and a game misconduct during a scrum at game's end.
After Fraser's game-winner at 2:00 of OT, Rivermen winger Stefan Della Rovere got involved in an altercation with Fraser at center ice, emptying both benches. A lot of pushing and shoving ensued, with Texas' Luke Gazdik trying to get at both Della Rovere and Anthony Peluso, and Peluso being held back by both linesmen. Della Rovere received a game misconduct and a match penalty for the altercation, which will most likely lead to a suspension.
As noted, Jake Allen started the game and was pulled at 11:56 of the second after giving up five goals on just 16 shots. Bishop stopped 11 of 12 shots in relief.
THE WEEK IN REVIEW:
Peoria 1 at Charlotte 3, Sunday, Oct. 16, 2011.
Peoria 5 at San Antonio 0, Friday, Oct. 21, 2011.
Peoria 5 at Texas 6 (OT), Saturday, Oct. 22, 2011.
THE WEEK AHEAD:
Sunday, October 23, 2011 ... Game Time 7:00 PM CDT at Carver Arena, Peoria, IL. NHL Affiliate: Vancouver Canucks.
Thursday, October 27, 2011 ... Game Time 7:00 PM CDT at Carver Arena, Peoria, IL. NHL Affiliate: Dallas Stars.
Friday, October 28, 2011 ... Game Time3 7:00 PM CDT at Carver Arena, Peoria, IL. NHL Affiliate: Chicago Blackhawks.
Saturday, October 29, 2011 ... Game Time 7:00 PM CDT at BMO Harris Bank Center, Rockford, IL. NHL Affiliate: Chicago Blackhawks.
RIVERMEN NEWS LINKS:
10/16/11 -- Still winless: Rivermen drop 3-1 decision to Checkers (Peoria Journal Star).
10/21/11 -- Rivermen on rampage for first win of season, 5-0 (Peoria Journal Star).
10/22/11 -- Rivermen offense works overtime, but Stars win 6-5 (Peoria Journal Star).