PEORIA, IL – Garret Vermeersch had a two-goal night and Kyle Rank shut out the Columbus Cottonmouths as the Peoria Rivermen took a 1-0 lead in the best-of-3 SPHL playoff series. The Rivermen overcame an uninspired first period and Vermeersch thrilled the 1369 fans in attendance.
Columbus dominated the first period, fore-checking and pressuring Rank with 16 shots on goal. They also committed a pair of penalties and during the second power play, Peoria took a 1-0 lead. Parker Stanfield brought the puck into the zone with less than a minute left in the period and fed Garrett Vermeersch along the goal line, whose snap shot surprised Columbus goalie Andrew Loewen over the glove for the lead.
Stanfield and Vermeersch combined again just a minute into the first period for the second goal of the game. Vermeersch hammered home a Stanfield rebound for the 2-0 lead.
The Cottonmouths held Peoria to just two shots on goal during the third period but could not overcome Rank. Both teams had a goal waived off and the game ended with the score 2-0.
“We didn’t start playing ‘Rivermen Hockey’ until the second period,” Peoria coach Jean-Guy Trudel said after the game. “I felt we only played 30 minutes there.”
“Friday will be a different game and different match-ups,” Trudel said, speaking of the Game Two matchup in Georgia. “It’s a bigger challenge. We will need 60 minutes of hockey.”
The Rivermen got a full 60 minutes from Rank on Wednesday night, though, as he stopped all 35 shots on goal. Loewen stopped 24 of 26.
A heavily penalized team during the regular season, the Cottonmouths were much more disciplined, giving Peoria only three power play opportunities. The Rivermen scored on one of those, though. Columbus had four power plays were held scoreless by Rank and company.http://
The two teams meet up for the second game of the series on Friday night in Columbus with the Cottonmouths facing elimination. If the Snakes are victorious, the series returns to Peoria on Sunday. If the Rivermen win, they will move on to the SPHL semi-final round.
Contact the author at Shaun.Bill@ProHockeyNews.com or follow him on Twitter @SLBatPHN.