MOLINE, Ill. — The Cold War on 74 is about to get hotter as the Quad City Storm and Peoria Rivermen are set to face off in the 2022 Presidents Cup Semi-Finals. This will be the first post-season match-up between the two teams, as the Storm had previously not appeared in the post-season. The two teams are very familiar with each other, as they battled 16 times this season and are each other’s closest rivals. The Rivermen took the Cold War on 74 trophy on March 27 in Peoria in a 9-4 victory, but the Storm answered back with back-to-back wins on Peoria’s ice to end the regular season.
“I think a lot of people play into [the last two regular-season victories], maybe sports betting plays a big factor when that happens,” said Coach Dave Pszenyczny on Monday. “But for me, it’s just every game’s different, every game’s got its own story, there’s ups and downs throughout the game. But more importantly, having played them so much helps out, but I think at the end of the day, it’s just going to come down to the first 20 minutes, and then the next 20, and then the next 20. We’re just excited to be playing at home again.”
Final Regular Season Records:
Peoria Rivermen: 38-11-3-4 (3rd in League)
Quad City Storm: 32-15-5-4 (5th in League)
How They Got Here:
The Peoria Rivermen defeated the Pensacola Ice Flyers in three games, winning the first game on the road in Birmingham due to Pensacola’s ice being unavailable and then the final game at home. The Quad City Storm also went to three games in their series against the Fayetteville Marksmen, having lost their first playoff game in franchise history at home before winning both of their games on the road in Fayetteville.
Game 1 – Wednesday, April 20 – Peoria at QUAD CITY – 7:10 pm CT
Game 2 – Friday, April 22 – Quad City at PEORIA – 7:15 pm CT
Game 3 – Saturday, April 23 – Quad City at PEORIA – 7:15 pm CT
Season Series Recap:
Peoria won the season series with a record of 8-4-3-1, though the Storm won the first four out of five contests and the last two of the season. It was a season full of physicality and penalties, the teams not afraid to drop the gloves. Most games were very close, ten of them ending in either extra hockey or within a goal.
“They’re a familiar foe, played them a ton,” said Storm defenseman Joe Sova on Monday.” So they know what we bring, we know what they bring. I think it’s gonna be pretty hard-nosed hockey, just like every regular-season game was against them. I think we played them 16 times, so very familiar. I think it’s gonna be a very fun, energetic series from both sides. We’re looking forward to it. It’s gonna be a good battle either way.”
How Peoria Wins:
Alec Baer was the leading scorer for Peoria throughout the regular season, winning the Kevin Swider Leading Scoring Award on April 11. He had 80 points (26G, 54A) in 53 games, having also led the league in assists, points on a man advantage (33 points), and assists on powerplay goals (26). Baer has continued the scoring streak in the 2022 playoffs, scoring four goals and adding one assist in three games. Lordanthony Grissom and Baer are tied for second in playoff points for the Rivermen, each having scored once but added four assists in the three-game long series against the Ice Flyers.
Rivermen head coach Jean-Guy Trudel began the playoffs with Eric Levine in net, who allowed three goals in game one. After allowing four goals on 18 shots in game two at home in the Peoria Civic Center, Trudel pulled Levine in favor of Jack Berry, who allowed one goal in just under 14 minutes. Berry then got the nod to start game three of the series, allowing two goals on 27 shots.
How Quad City Wins:
The Storm need to just play their game, according to coach Dave Pszenyczny. “We’re a very confident group when we play our game; when we get away from it, it’s very difficult. It’s gonna be an interesting one; I think it’s going to be really good for the fans. It’s good for the league. I think this has been a long time coming, and we’re just, like I keep saying, we’re excited to be playing again.”
The Storm need to continue to stay out of the penalty box in the semi-finals, which might be easier said than done considering the rivalry between the two teams. The Rivermen had the best power play conversion rate during the regular season at 27.9%, having 204 opportunities on the power play and scoring on 57 of those chances. The Storm ranked fourth in the league for man-advantage scoring at a 21.3% success rate. Peoria also ranked number one in the league for penalty kill at 88.3%, with the Storm taking a small drop to fifth place in the league at 82.8% PK.
Ben Duperreault was the top scorer for the Storm in their series against the Marksmen, scoring three goals and adding one assist. Logan Nelson scored twice with one assist in three games, putting him in second for the Storm in playoff scoring. Regular season Storm scoring leader Shane Bennett scored only once with one assist. Duperreault nearly had a hat trick on Saturday night against the Marksmen, scoring the game’s final two goals and nearly scoring a third several times.
Coach Pszenyczny decided to play Bailey Brkin in net for all three games against the Marksmen in the quarter-finals, which worked out well for him as the rookie goaltender had a 2.01 GAA and 93.0% save percentage through three games. It’s difficult to say whether Coach Pszenyczny should continue to use Brkin in net or switch him out for fellow rookie Kevin Resop, as a coach doesn’t want to burn out the goalie or allow him to get injured. Coach Pszenyczny had the two goaltenders split the final two games of the regular season, with Brkin in net for the penultimate game that was 3-2, while Resop closed out the season with the 5-1 win.
When asked if the last two victories against the Rivermen factored in confidence heading into the semi-finals, Duperreault said, “You know what, a little bit. But I mean, we’ve still got to show up and play. Those games are over; those were regular-season games. This is the playoffs now; it’s a totally different animal. We’ve just got to be ready to go. All that’s behind us, and just take one game at a time.”
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