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2023 peoria pensacola team matchup Field Pass Hockey

2023 President's Cup Playoffs

SPHL President’s Cup First Round Preview: #1 Peoria Rivermen vs. #8 Pensacola Ice Flyers

SPHL President’s Cup First Round Preview: #1 Peoria Rivermen vs. #8 Pensacola Ice Flyers

The Peoria Rivermen enter the 2023 SPHL President’s Cup playoffs playing for history. Not only are they seeking to be the first team to successfully defend their title since Huntsville did it in 2018 & 2019, but they are trying to become the first team since the 2016-17 Macon Mayhem to win the SPHL Regular Season championship and playoff championship in the same year. A second SPHL President’s Cup would edge them closer to the “upper room” of most successful teams in league history, especially when you pair the league titles with the five regular season championships they’ve earned.

The first obstacle on the way to history is the four-time league champion, Pensacola Ice Flyers, who have won it all coming from the eight-seed before. The Ice Flyers limped into the playoffs, going 3-5-1-1 in their final ten games, including two straight losses to the Rivermen in the final weekend of the regular season.

Normally a tight defensive team under head coach Rod Aldoff, the Ice Flyers allowed 190 goals during the regular season (3.33 goals allowed per game,) the third most in the league. The offense has been paltry, too, with only team captain Garrett Milan registering more than 50 points this season and just four players with more than 30.

Of course, the Ice Flyers have seen their share of callups to the ECHL this season, with forward Weiland Parrish and Steven Leonard still up in the ECHL. Should the Ice Flyers get both players back prior to the end of the ECHL season this weekend, they will provide an immediate boost to the lineup.

Final Regular Season Records:

Peoria: 39-14-3-1, 82 points, SPHL Regular Season Champions

Pensacola: 26-25-3-3, 58 points

Series Schedule (Home team in CAPS and all times local):

Thursday, April 13 – Peoria at PENSACOLA – 7:05 pm CT

Saturday, April 15 – Pensacola at PEORIA – 7:15 pm CT

*Sunday, April 16 – Pensacola at PEORIA – 4:15 pm CT

* => If Necessary

Season Series Recap:

The Rivermen won the season series with the Ice Flyers, with a 3-1-0-0 mark. In each of their three wins, the Rivermen scored first. Goaltender Jack Berry was sensational, allowing just seven goals on 92 shots faced during the season series (.924 save percentage). However, the difference in the series was the power play for Pensacola. At home, the Ice Flyers went 3-for-6 on the man advantage against Peoria. But in the final two games in Peoria, the Ice Flyers went 0-for-8 on the power play.

How Peoria Wins:

The Rivermen have shown they can come from behind, but their overwhelming strength is playing with the lead. During the regular season, they lit the lamp first 29 times and finished with a record of 27-0-1-1. The offense is deep, with ten players collecting more than 30 points. Combined with the very solid goaltending that Berry & Eric Levine bring to the club, it will make getting back into the game very tough for Pensacola.

How Pensacola Wins:

It seems cliche to say. but the series for Pensacola really will come down to how they perform on special teams. The Ice Flyers power play on home ice has been unconscious this season, sporting a league-best 38.1 percent efficiency and scoring 40 goals. On the road, however, the power play has been pedestrian, scoring just 18 times during the regular season. With the Ice Flyers having game one on their ice, this is almost like a must-win, and for them to take the series lead, the power play must be as lethal as it was when the two teams played in Northwest Florida in February.

Conversely, the penalty kill will need to be dominant throughout the series, something that has been an Achilles heel for the team throughout the season.

Download the Field Pass Hockey app from the iTunes or Google Play stores or follow @FieldPassHockey on Twitter for the latest news on the AHL, ECHL, and SPHL throughout the 2023 season!

    Matthew Harding is the Managing Editor for Field Pass Hockey, covers the ECHL and the Wichita Thunder. Follow and interact with him on Twitter @FPHThunder.

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