PEORIA, Ill. — The Peoria Rivermen hoisted the Presidents Cup to end the 2021-22 season and look to defend their championship this coming season. Many veterans have returned to the team looking for another victory, while several new faces have joined the team as well. With the season about to start, only time will tell whether the Rivermen can win their second championship in as many years.
LAST SEASON IN REVIEW
Record & Playoff Appearance: 38-11-3-4, Finished third in the regular season and defeated the Roanoke Rail Yard Dawgs in Game Three to be named 2022 SPHL Champions.
Season Summary: The Rivermen started the season out strong and continued that way throughout 56 games. The five-game homestand that spanned the latter half of January led to 10 points in the standings and was part of a ten-game win streak that ended against the Quad City Storm on February 6 in overtime. The Rivermen’s point streak continued for seven more games until losing 5-2 against the Evansville Thunderbolts on February 25.
- Leading Scorer: Alec Baer led the Rivermen in points during the 2021-22 season, racking up 26 goals and 54 assists for 80 points in 53 games.
- Goals For/Against & League Rank: 219 goals for, second in the league, 126 goals against, second in the league.
- PP Conv. Percent & League Rank: 27.9 percent conversion, first in the league.
- PK Conv. Percent & League Rank: 88.3 percent kill, first in the league.
- Joseph Drapluk was acquired in a trade with the Macon Mayhem on October 14. The fourth-year pro served as captain of the Mayhem last season, and that leadership experience can only help the Rivermen. With long-time Rivermen captain Alec Hagaman recovering from offseason elbow surgery, according to the Peoria Journal Star’s Dave Eminian, Drapluk may also be in a position to assume more leadership on this team. He also had his best season last year, scoring six goals and adding 11 assists in 52 games.
- Ben Churchfield was signed on October 14 as well; the third goaltender signed after Eric Levine and Josh Boyko. Churchfield appeared in 23 games for the Vermilion County Bobcats last season, ending the campaign with an 88.4 save percentage. With Levine having played 43 games last season and two more times during the playoffs, the Rivermen need a young goaltender to share the burden of backstopping the defending champions. He may be the starting goaltender next season if this proves to be Levine’s last.
- Marcel Godbout signed with the ECHL Allen Americans on August 2. While appearing in 50 regular-season games, the rookie scored 33 goals and added 28 assists. In the Rivermen’s playoff campaign, he added six goals and as many assists in ten games. He was also named the SPHL Rookie of the Year, as well as named to the SPHL All-Rookie team and the SPHL Second All-Star Game. He led the entire SPHL in goals scored during the regular season. With him in the ECHL and Hagaman, who was second on the team for goals scored, perhaps slowed down by his elbow surgery, the Rivermen may have a bit more difficulty lighting the red light.
- Cody Dion announced his retirement on October 7. The forward from Colorado Springs had been in the SPHL for eight years, first beginning play in 2013-14. He was a big body who wasn’t afraid to drop the gloves or take penalties when needed.
2022-23 SCHEDULE BREAKDOWNS
As with seasons past, the Rivermen will begin the season facing off against the Quad City Storm in a home-and-home series. The week before Thanksgiving, the Rivermen will make their lone trip to Huntsville to face off against the Huntsville Havoc. However, that won’t be the only time the Rivermen will face the Havoc, as the Alabama-based team will travel to Peoria for back-to-back nights in mid-December.
The Rivermen will have several four-game homestands, the first being from December 9 against the Havoc to December 16 against the Storm. The last of the long homestands will be from March 4 against the Evansville Thunderbolts to March 12 against the Vermilion County Bobcats. The Rivermen will face the Bobcats a total of 14 times and the Thunderbolts a total of nine times.
TOP STORYLINES FOR 2022-23
The Rivermen will have to find a new high-scoring rookie to capitalize on this season, as Godbout is rightfully in the ECHL. Though there are several potential options for the Rivermen, their best option might be to focus on improving the back-end over scoring. As mentioned before, Levine was a workhorse for the Rivermen last season and is sure to feel the consequences this season. The Rivermen should focus on raising their second goaltender to a more equal footing with Levine.
PREDICTION SURE TO GO RIGHT
The Rivermen are sure to make the playoffs again this coming season and will probably finish within the top four spots in the standings.
PREDICTION SURE TO GO WRONG
The Rivermen could coast on the coattails of their championship and watch themselves drop in the standings to be nearly out of the playoffs.
- Checkers Lose in Overtime on Teddy Bear Toss Night
- Bears Break Through in Shootout Win
- PHOTOS: Adirondack Thunder vs. Reading Royals – 11/20/2022
- PHOTOS: Florida Everblades vs. Jacksonville Icemen -11/25/2022
- Thunder Complete Sweep of Growlers in Rivera’s Return
- IceHogs Best Milwaukee In A Clash Of Offensive Titans
- Penguins Rally For Shootout Win Over Phantoms
- Bears Collar Wolf Pack
- PHOTOS: Iowa Wild vs. Chicago Wolves 11/20/2022
- Special Teams Propel Nailers