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Rank, Vermeersch Lead Rivermen to Victory in Game 1

March 27, 2014 - Southern Professional Hockey League (SPHL) - Peoria Rivermen News Release

The Peoria Rivermen opened the 2014 President's Cup Playoffs with a 2-0 victory over the Columbus Cottonmouths on Wednesday behind two goals from Garrett Vermeersch at Carver Arena. Between the pipes, Kyle Ranks stopped all 35 shots he faced en route to his first career playoff shutout.

With the win, Peoria took a 1-0 advantage in the best-of-three, first-round series and is now just one victory away from the second round. It was the first playoff win for the Rivermen franchise since April 25, 2009, when the American Hockey League team defeated Houston in Game 6 of the Calder Cup Playoffs.

Peoria opened the scoring just 48 seconds before of the end of the first period when Vermeersch netted a power play goal at 19:12. With Tom Maldonado in the box for high sticking, Stanfield fed a pass to Vermeersch at the left point, who collected the puck and hit a wrist shot past Columbus' goaltender Andrew Loewen's glove. Stanfield and Joe Schiller earned assists on the goal.

Just 63 seconds into the second period, Peoria extended the lead to 2-0 courtesy of Vermeersch's second goal of the game. With a loose puck in front of the Cottonmouth's goal, Stanfield gained possession and ripped a shot into Loewen's pads that deflected to the side. There, Vermeersch threw a shot back in front that hit Loewen's back and redirected into the net. Stanfield and Nick Prockow notched the assists.

Columbus attempted a comeback late in the third period with a clear-cut chance to bring the contest to a one-goal game. With Charlie Carkin in the box for holding an opponent's stick, Columbus' Jordan Draper forced the puck past Rank with four minutes left in the contest. However, Draper was judged to have scored via his hand, and thus the goal was disallowed.

With 1:12 left in the third, Loewen was pulled from the Cottonmouth's goal to give Columbus a 6-on-5 advantage. However, the visitors only managed one shot on goal in the final moments.

Peoria finished the game 1-for-3 on the power play and a perfect 4-for-4 on the penalty kill. Columbus won the shots-on-goal battle 35-26.

Combined with the regular season, Rank's shutout was his ninth of the season. Loewen, on the other hand, made 24 saves and suffered the loss.

The Rivermen will continue the best-of-three playoff series with Game 2 against the Columbus Cottonmouths on Friday at 6:30 p.m. CST in Columbus, Georgia. The game can be heard locally on CD Country 107.9 FM or online here. Fans can also follow along via the live video and audio stream at .

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