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2023 President's Cup Playoffs

SPHL President’s Cup Semifinals Preview: #1 Peoria Rivermen vs. #4 Roanoke Rail Yard Dawgs

SPHL President’s Cup Semifinals Preview: #1 Peoria Rivermen vs. #4 Roanoke Rail Yard Dawgs

PEORIA, Ill. – It’s safe to say the Peoria Rivermen and Roanoke Rail Yard Dawgs have developed quite a rivalry in the time head coach Dan Bremner has been on the Dawgs’ bench.

Since 2018, Bremner’s first year behind the Roanoke bench, the teams have met in the President’s Cup Playoffs three times, with Peoria holding a 2-1 series advantage. In 2019, the Dawgs’ shocked the top-seed Rivermen in the first round, two games to none. Since then, the Rivermen have gone 3-1 against the Rail Yard Dawgs in playoff games, including skating the President’s Cup on Roanoke ice last season.

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see how Roanoke could use that painful defeat last spring to drive them into this spring’s semifinal matchup.

Final Regular Season Records:

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

Roanoke: 32-19-3-2, 69 points

How They Got Here:

As we projected in our Peoria/Pensacola preview, the Rivermen offense forced the not-as-deep Pensacola offense to play catchup, while holding the Ice Flyers to 1-for-7 on the man advantage. Combined with the rock-solid goaltending of Jack Berry, it was a two-game sweep for the defending champions, in spite of some nasty bus issues.

The Rail Yard Dawgs got the benefit of having the league’s goaltender of the yearTrevor Gorsuch, in Wichita, helping the Thunder try to make the Kelly Cup Playoffs. Still, the Dawgs’ offense was timely and they played very solid defense, allowing the Thunderbolts just two goals on 55 shots faced en route to their two-game sweep. Gehritt Sargis and Stephen Alvo enter the semifinal series in the top ten of league playoff scorers.

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

Wednesday, April 19 – Peoria at ROANOKE – 7:05 pm ET

Friday, April 15 – Roanoke at PEORIA – 7:15 pm CT

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

* => If Necessary

Season Series Recap:

The two teams met just twice in the regular season, with each side winning one game. In the first game, played on March 31, Jason Lavallee scored the game-winning goal with 15 seconds left in the second period, to give Roanoke the win in an otherwise tight-checking contest.

One night later, the power play units for each side were on display, as the teams combined for four goals on the man advantage. Peoria used a well-rounded offensive attack to leave Berglund Center with a 6-4 win. In the contest, six different Rivermen players registered multi-point nights.

How Peoria Wins:

For Peoria to win what should be an entertaining series, the recipe remains the same from the Pensacola set: play from ahead and get good goaltending. The Rivermen have had success on the power play in these playoffs and if that continues, it will add another layer to this already potent offense.

How Roanoke Wins:

Mac Jansen had just one point (an assist) in the two games played against Peoria in the regular season. For Roanoke to have a chance to advance to the Finals for a second straight season, they’ll need Jansen, Nick Ford, and Jordan Xavier to chip in offensively and join Sargis and Alvo at the top of the league scoring table. Scoring first will be crucial for Roanoke, and if they do, Austyn Roudebush can lock it down.

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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