MOLINE, Ill. – The Peoria Rivermen took the season series with their 6-1 win over the Quad City Storm on Saturday night at Vibrant Arena.
What was supposed to be a celebration of the history of hockey in the Quad Cities quickly turned into another classic example of how not to play hockey. With Quad City Mallards greats like Kerry Toporowski, Steve Gibson, and Mark McFarlane all in attendance and part of a pre-game meet and greet with fans, the Storm on the ice looked like their nerves got the better of them in front of the legends, and the large crowd.
The Storm sported classic Mallards-era jerseys with a Storm logo on the front, which were auctioned off post-game. The Storm had defeated the Rivermen 1-0 in Peoria on Friday night, the second straight shutout win for Kevin Resop. For as good as the Storm played on Friday, they played just as badly on Saturday.
“It’s hard, you know, it’s hard to win that game. I mean any league, it doesn’t matter; our league, higher up, lower. If you’re behind the eight ball right off the start, then it’s gonna be a long night for you,” said Storm head coach Dave Pszenyczny, “and we obviously proved it. Seemed like we were just not playing like we did last night, you know. I thought last night we did a tremendous job by pressuring and jumping on loose pucks, and then tonight it just seemed like we were hesitant for whatever reason. It’s hard when you’re chasing the game.”
The Rivermen dominated play from the start on Saturday, striking early at 1:58 of the first period. Vadim Vasjonkin scored his first Rivermen goal in his first game with the Rivermen with help from Mike Gelatt and Jake Hamilton. The Rivermen scored twice more in the first period, holding the Storm to only five shots on goal in the first frame. The last goal of the first period, scored by Joseph Drapluk, was unassisted. The Storm seemed eager to beat the Rivermen if they couldn’t pull off a win, with two fights occurring in the first period roughly two minutes before the second goal and two minutes after the third goal.
The second period saw Resop’s night come to a close after allowing his fourth goal in the first 25 minutes of the game.
“You know [Resop], tonight I can’t really blame him on any of those goals. Most of them were screens or just hanging him out to dry. And he’s bailed us out quite a bit; last night he saw some rubber but I mean it wasn’t as much as it says,” said Pszenyczny. “But that’s not the reason why we lost the game tonight, you know, there’s a team in front of him, in front of him and [Sean Kuhn]. You know I thought [Kuhn] coming in he made some big saves when we needed it. But once again, you know, it’s difficult when you’re five-on-three, five-on-three, five-on-three, but it is what it is.”
After a goal by Ben Assad that trickled in between Kuhn’s stick and the post, Kuhn stood strong until the waning seconds of the game. Eric Levine was working on his own shut-out, but it was ruined by Leif Mattson just over halfway through the game. This was Mattson’s second game back with the Storm after being in the ECHL since November 23.
The final goal of the night was scored with 47 seconds remaining in the game, as the Storm were on the penalty kill after a cross-checking call against Eliott St-Pierre. After five other opportunities on the man advantage, the Rivermen finally converted.
The Storm looked like a beer league team often throughout Saturday’s match-up, only able to register a total of 14 shots on goal by the time the final horn sounded. Passes wouldn’t connect, and at times, the Storm couldn’t even touch the puck as there were two delayed penalties in which Levine was on the bench for a minute or more for each penalty before the whistle finally sounded when the Storm were able to intercept a pass.
The team looked “lackluster, collectively,” as Pszenyczny put it.
“It’s difficult for me to understand how they can’t get up for a game, especially when you know it’s a big crowd, and we haven’t been at home for two weeks now. But we’ve still got seven more games left. So, you know, we control our own fates when it comes to playoffs.”
The Storm will travel to Peoria for the last Sunday game in Peoria, completing the three-in-three at 3:15 PM today. They return home on April 4 for Decades Night, a game that was rescheduled from the end of the calendar year due to weather. The puck drop for that Tuesday game will be at the weekday time of 6:10 PM.
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