PEORIA – The Peoria Rivermen were good theater on Saturday, playing the role of Globetrotters to Vermilion County’s Generals in an SPHL match where league and team records were broken and no shortage of lead roles and historic subplots.
The Rivermen destroyed the worst team in pro-hockey, 10-3, in a match where Peoria could easily have had another five or six goals before 3,340 at Carver Arena.
Veteran Rivermen winger Mike Gurtler, who played on his 35th birthday, celebrated with two goals and an assist.
Veteran Rivermen goalkeeper Eric Levine achieved his league-best 28th win of the season, surpassing Kyle Rank to set a franchise record for most wins by a goalkeeper in a single season in Peoria’s SPHL era.
SPHL rookie and league league goal scorer Marcel Godbout had two more goals to raise his season total to 32, making Joe Rybar’s 1998-99 ECHL effort number six of a rookie in Peoria’s 40-year franchise history.
The Rivermen jumped over Huntsville and into second place in the SPHL race with three games left. They are three points behind first place in Knoxville.
“I did not have to do too much for the goals,” said Gurtler, who looked after his young child in the locker room after the game. “My job is to go online and that’s all I did. I got great passes from teammates.
“You probably never get too old to have fun with the game. I have to go home and celebrate my birthday with a glass of wine and go to bed.”
BOX SCORE:Rivermen 10, Vermilion County 3 | POSITIONS:SPHL 2021-22
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Erik the Great
Levine is 28-7-4 and continues to push to get SPHL Goalkeeper of the Year. His 28 wins are the most by a Rivermen goalkeeper in a single season since Kenric Exner won 28-9-6 in the 2000-01 ECHL season.
Levine paid tribute to another former Rivermen and SPHL Goaltender of the Year, Kyle Rank, whose single-season winning streak he beat. Rank was Levine’s net partner in Peoria’s inaugural SPHL season 2013-14.
“I was with him and his approach and focus was so good,” Levine said. “He was a small goalkeeper, I was a bigger goalkeeper, but the things he did applied to me and made me better.
“He’s the goalkeeper who showed me how to be really good. I remember he woke up every morning and read the newspaper with one eye closed. He trained his eyes to focus on things. He was elite in that way, he could track the puck, just swallow it. “
Levine now has the most wins by a Rivermen goalkeeper in 22 seasons. But he has not focused much on it.
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“It’s hard for me to talk about it right now,” he said. “We’re so close to the playoffs that the number I focus on is six.”
It takes so many victories in the off-season to win the President’s Cup.
The numbers were breathtaking
Where to start?
Rivermen had more goals (two) than Vermilion County had shots (zero) 14 minutes inside the game. They opened the match with a shot of 19-0.
Peoria each got two goals from Gurtler, Godbout and newly acquired Kasey Kulczycki, where the latter also steamed into a skirmish to defend his new teammates in his Peoria debut.
The Rivermen opened the third period with goals at eight-second intervals by Godbout and captain Alec Hagaman.
Then they got goals from Godbout, Kulczycki and Ben Assad all in 49 seconds.
Here’s a look at the historical moments produced by this game:
- Peoria’s three goals in 49 seconds were just below the league record of 33 seconds.
- The 10 Rivermen goals were the third-highest overall number of one team in SPHL history, and the third-highest overall number in Peoria Series 40-year history.
- The Rivermen earned their 23rd home win, setting the SPHL record for most home wins in a single season, which Peoria set in 2018-19.
- The Rivermen won their 15th home game in a row, the longest streak in the league this season, approaching the SPHL record of 17 (Columbus Cottonmouths, 2005-06 season) with two more games left in the Carver Arena.
- Levine’s 28th season victory is a single season record for goalkeepers in the Rivermen SPHL era.
- Rivermen center and SPHL scoring manager Alec Baer had an assist, giving him 51 assists and 77 points – both Peoria records in a single season of his SPHL era.
- Rivermen rookie Marcel Godbout had two more goals to raise his season total to 32, making Joe Rybar’s 1998-99 ECHL effort in sixth place of a rookie in Peoria’s 40-year franchise history.
- Vermilion County’s 44th regulatory loss is a sustained league record that surpassed Winston-Salem’s 42 in 2004-05.
- The Bobcats’ 24th road loss set a league record for most regulated road losses in a single season.
- Vermilion County, at 0.139, has a league record for lowest win percentage locked.
- Vermilion County, is sure to set a league record for the fewest points in a single season (currently 28, Winston-Salem, 2004-05.
- Vermilion County is 5-44-5 and has used 68 players this season, including eight goalkeepers. The Bobcats have had three head coaches, including one (Brent Hughes), who was hired in June but could not cross the line, then another (Mike Watt) who stopped after the third week of the season, and finally a third (Nick Niedert) .
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“It’s hard not to let go when you play against a team like that,” Gurtler said. “But when they kicked us in the butt for a couple of goals, we just got back to what we were supposed to.
“This is such a skilled team, everywhere in the line is skill. And it’s a mature, close-knit group.”
The Rivermen Row and the Road Ahead
Rivermen’s magic numbers for winning a top three seed are two points above Fayetteville. Their magic numbers for winning second place over Huntsville are four.
Veteran winger Jordan Ernst, who came down from the ECHL last week to join his old team for the first time this season, made his home ice debut in line with center Baer and right wing Hagaman.
The Rivermen put together what was essentially another No. 1 caliber line with JM Piotrowski centering Mitch McPherson and SPHL goal-scoring leader, Godbout.
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Peoria’s third line was a novice trio consisting of Austin Wisely, Ryan Patrick and Assad.
Gurtler and Kulczycki started the night as two extra strikers and they only teamed up for four goals.
Rivermen defends Brendan St-Louis left the team on Friday for personal reasons. The Rivermen placed him on team suspension. … Peoria activated defender Chris Allemon from IR. … The Rivermen released the right wing Cayden Cahill. … Rivermen winger Mike Gurtler’s two goals marked his first multi-goal game since conceding two in a 4-3 win over Roanoke on February 23, 2019 at Carver Arena. … Ten members of the Dream Center’s drum line performed between the periods and received a great ovation from the crowd. … Rivermen have scored 19 goals in their last two games at Carver Arena. … Rivermen defends Lordanthony Grissom sat out the first of his two-game SPHL suspension. … Rivermen scored six goals in the third period. … Thirteen of the 16 Peoria skaters came on the results list with points.
Dave Eminian is the Journal Star sports columnist and covers Bradley men’s basketball, Rivermen and Chiefs. He writes the Cleve In The Eve sports column for pjstar.com. Contact him at 686-3206 or email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @icetimecleve.