December 5, 2017 - Southern Professional Hockey League (SPHL) - Mississippi RiverKings
PELHAM, Ala - The RiverKings return home to Planters Bank Ice at Landers Center after taking down the Birmingham Bulls, 5-3. The RiverKings rode multiple-point nights from Ralfs Grinbergs, Devin Mantha, and Derek Sutliffe, to secure their fourth straight victory.
In their first visit to Pelham Civic Complex in team history, the RiverKings night began in the same way as the last three, with the black and gold getting on the scoreboard first. Though both teams were evenly matched through the first two-thirds of the opening frame, Derek Sutliffe broke the tie thanks to Ralfs Grinbergs and Daniel Tedesco. Grinbergs began the break out finding Tedesco who streaked into the high slot drawing the attention of multiple Bulls defenders. Tedesco waited as long as he could before making a pass cross-ice to Sutliffe who had a wide open net to shoot at, with Birmingham goalie Maveric Parks pulled out of position and Mississippi jumped on top 1-0.
The RiverKings would hang onto the lead for about four minutes before the Bulls rallied back to tie the game. Three forwards crashed the RiverKings zone with speed and settled up parallel to the goal line. A Connor Reilly feed to the slot took an unlucky bounce off Josh Harris and slid past RiverKings goalie Jared Rutledge to tie the game at one.
The first period would end with the score 1-1, but it wouldn't be long before Birmingham scored their second unanswered. Only 28 seconds into the middle period, Josh Harris scored his second goal of the game, assisted by Keegan Bruce and John Rey. Much like Mississippi has done this season, they didn't let the lead change effect their game plan as they came roaring back only 40 seconds later. Pijus Rulevicius found Brantley Sherwood streaking in the neutral zone and hit him on the tape. Moving with speed, Sherwood had one man to beat. His crossover move tied up the defender who lost an edge and fell face down, allowing Sherwood to move around him and take on the goalie in a mini-breakaway. Sherwood ripped a wrist shot that beat Maveric Parks and this time it was the RiverKings that tied things up.
The remaining portion of the second period would go by scoreless until the RiverKings got the advantage of a 4-on-3 power play under two minutes to go. For the second straight game, Don Oliveri added a goal on the power play and in a similar fashion. Settling in the center point position, Don Oliveri received a pass from fellow defenseman Ralfs Grinbergs, and his one-time shot flew past the traffic in front of Maveric Parks and beat the goaltender to give the RiverKings the 3-2 lead with only 23 seconds left in the second period.
In the third period, Devin Mantha would score in his second straight game and extend the RiverKings lead. This time it was the RiverKings who crashed hard toward the net, with Derek Sutliffe ripping a shot off the shoulder of Parks. The puck hopped in the air off the save and landed in front of a waiting Devin Mantha who stuffed home the rebound for his fourth goal of the season.
With the lead firmly at 4-2, the RiverKings never took their foot off the gas. Ryan Marcuz showed some strength and balance as he came along the wall in front of the benches shaking off hits by multiple Bulls. Once he gained the zone, he dropped a pass to Bryan Arneson who trailed the play and Arneson's ensuing snap shot beat Parks to extend the RiverKings lead, 5-2.
The game wouldn't end without a little drama, however. The Bulls made it apparent they weren't going home just yet, and with 1:25 left to go in the third period Graham Yeo tipped in a shot from Sean Gammage that fooled Rutledge and inched the Bulls closer to 5-3. The remaining seconds would play out with Maveric Parks on the bench in favor of the extra attacker, but the RiverKings outlasted the pressure and sealed up their fourth straight victory.