BLOOMINGTON, Ill – It was all Peoria when the Rivermen visited the Bloomington Thunder as both teams began a new life in the SPHL on Friday night. The Rivermen dominated almost every scoring category except for one, pasting the home team 5-1. With 4,306 excited fans of both teams watching, Peoria allowed the first goal but then scored five in response.
Bloomington drew first blood when Daniel Barczuk won a battle in front of the penalty boxes and skated in on Rivermen goaltender Phil Cook. Barczuk unleashed a wicked slapshot from above the near faceoff circle that hit the crossbar and ricocheted in to light the lamp for the unassisted goal at 7:45 of the first period.
The Rivermen returned the favor when Garrett Vermeersch stripped the puck away in the offensive zone and snaked a low shot past Bloomington goalie BJ O’Brien on the netminder’s stickside for an unassisted goal at 8:55 of the opening period.
Great pressure late in the first period generated a prolonged chance for the Rivermen. A rebound trickled out to Tyler Amburgey at the blueline, whose shot from the top of the slot beat O’Brien to give the visitors a 2-1 lead. Parker Stanfield and Taylor Larsen were each credited with assists on the goal at 17:56 of the opening stanza.
Peoria’s special teams put on a nice show early in the second period. With Curtis Megginson boxed for hooking, Charlie Carkin put a pass across the crease to a waiting Tyler Fernandez, whose one-timer filled the open net just 1:19 into the period. Nick Prockow also had an assist on the tally that ran the Rivermen lead to 3-1.
The Rivermen opened the game up when Matt Graham roofed a nifty shot at 5:29 of the third period. Joe Schiller and Steve Morra had assists on the play that stretched the Peoria lead to 4-1. Larsen would score the final goal of the game on a scrum in front of O’Brien during a 5-on-3 power play at the 17:13 mark of the final frame. Amburgey and Schiller pocketed assists on the game’s final goal.
O’Brien did not play poorly but took the loss for Bloomington, stopping 40 of 45 shots. Cook was the winner, blocking 18 of 19. The Rivermen capilatized on two of nine power play chances and stopped Bloomington on both of their man-advantages.
The one category Bloomington did dominate was penalty minutes. A dozen entries in the penalty log for the Thunder, including a major for checking from behind and two misconduct penalties totaled 43 minutes in all while the Rivermen tallied just six PIM.
This should make for an interesting rematch as the two teams face each other again in Peoria tomorrow night, with a 7:15 PM puck drop at Carver Arena.