PEORIA, ILL – The Columbus Cottonmouths used a vicious fore-check to shut down the Peoria Rivermen and advance to the SPHL semi-finals with a 4-1 victory in Peoria on Sunday evening. Preston Shupe had a power play goal in the first period and finished the scoring with an empty-net goal at the end to bookend a tireless attack. The Rivermen disappointed 1,211 fans and extend their playoff drought, dating back to the teams ECHL days.
Kyle Rank, the top goalie in the SPHL during the regular season, took a cross check to the throat 34 seconds after the opening face-off. Rank gutted out the rest of the first period, but did not return to bench after the first intermission. The unofficial diagnosis on Rank’s injury was a bruised larynx. Lind was assessed only a minor penalty. The injury to Rank added to Peoria’s problems as the Rivermen were playing with top scorer Garrett Vermeersch hampered by a shoulder injury suffered in game two.
Matt Gingera and Sam Bowles each had tallies for the Snakes, while Adam Feniak had the lone Rivermen score. Bowles’ score came at a crucial time 46 seconds after Feniak had cut Columbus’ lead to 2-1 midway thru the second period.
Statistically, Columbus scored once on eight power play chances while Peoria was held scoreless in eight opportunities with a man advantage.
Loewen was nearly perfect, stopping 27 of 28 shots. Rank officially took the loss, stopping 16 of 18 shots in the first period. Kevin Carr finished out the game, stopping 19 of 20.
Columbus will visit Huntsville as they continue to the semi-final round.
Contact the author at Shaun.Bill@ProHockeyNews.com or follow him on Twitter @SLBatPHN.