On November 10, of the 2012-2013 AHL regular season, the Peoria Rivermen lost their seventh consecutive game, dropping their overall record to 2-7-2-1. It was a tough way to start an already frustrating campaign. Injuries had already riddled the club, with normally regular starters Cade Fairchild, Stefan Della Rovere, Jay Barriball, Andrew Murray, and former captain Adam Cracknell out of the lineup. Other teams, like the division rival Rockford IceHogs (who Peoria will play 12 times this year), had the luxury of getting Nick Leddy, Marcus Kruger, Andrew Shaw, and Jimmy Hayes from the Blackhawks’ roster, because of the NHL lockout. The Rivermen only got Ian Cole and Jaden Schwartz. Over the summer, the team’s coaching staff was modified, and the Ken Hitchcock system was put in place. From a player’s standpoint, a coaching/system change is something that takes time to adjust to. Nothing seemed to be going Peoria’s way.
Since that losing streak, the Rivermen have obtained a record of 7-4-0-1. Peoria’s most recent victory came Tuesday night in Oklahoma City. The Barons are a team that have the Edmonton Oilers’ top three scorers of the 2011-2012 NHL season: Jordan Eberle (34G-42A-76PTS), Taylor Hall (27G-26A-53PTS), and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (18G-34A-52PTS). They also possess the AHL’s leading point scorer, Justin Schultz. Peoria pulled the upset though, beating Oklahoma City 4-2, while holding Eberle, Hall, and Schultz (Nugent-Hopkins wasn’t playing due to the World Junior Championships) to a +/- rating of -3. It was a win that showed team character.
After that big win, the Rivermen are now 3-1 on their current road-trip. They are starting to get momentum, something they haven’t had much of this year. They are also getting key players back. Murray, Cracknell, and Fairchild are back in the lineup, while Della Rovere is close to returning from injury. A healthy roster will help the Rivermen tremendously.
The team has been getting good performances lately by Mark Cundari, Derek Nesbitt, Schwartz, Murray, and Cole. Cundari and Cole have led the way, offensively, at the back end. Schwartz has been a point-per-game player for the last 10 games. Nesbitt is tied for the team lead in goals, with eight, despite missing games due to injury. Murray has scored three goals in his first two games back in the lineup. Also, Jake Allen has to feel good about himself, after yielding just two goals to Oklahoma City on Tuesday night.
With a record at 9-11-2-2, Peoria sits just six points from the top spot in the Midwest division. They wrap up a five-game road trip Friday night against the Grand Rapids Griffins before returning home Saturday for a contest against Milwaukee. If the team can string a couple more wins together, they will be back on course. If the lockout ends, the Rivermen will be one of the least affected teams in the league, which could help the club even more than a winning streak.
Overall, things are looking up for Peoria. If the good trends continue, the Rivermen could see themselves battling for a playoff spot in a few months.
If you’re interested in following the Peoria Rivermen, you can listen to broadcasts on CD Country 107.9 FM by following the link here: http://tunein.com/station/?stationId=27698