The Mississippi RiverKings will look to salvage one game of the most-recent set of three consecutive contests against the top team in the Southern Professional Hockey League (SPHL) Friday night, when the Pensacola Ice Flyers return to the Landers Center in Southaven for a 7 p.m. face-off. It will be final meeting of the season between the Ice Flyers and RiverKings.
The Ice Flyers, which lead the SPHL standings by six points over second-place Peoria, this past week took a pair of games from the RiverKings. Pensacola defeated Mississippi 6-4 on Saturday, Dec. 23 at the Landers Center, followed by a 2-0 shutout victory this past Tuesday night in Florida.
In Tuesday’s loss, goaltender Tyler Green faced 30 shots and made 28 saves, but Josh Cousineau and Garret Milan found the back of the net for Pensacola. Cousineau’s goal nearly 15 minutes into the second period became the eventual game winner.
Milan’s goal to seal the win came nearly 13 minutes into the third period of the contest.
With the victory, Pensacola claimed the overall season series with Mississippi, winning its third of four meetings between the teams this season with only Friday’s game remaining.
In the loss on Saturday, Dec. 23, the RiverKings did get offensive production from Devin Mantha, Pijus Rulevicius, Shane Bennett and Dillan Fox. Bennett added an assist and Kristaps Bazevics assisted on two goals to lead the offense.
Green faced 40 Pensacola shots and stopped 35 in taking the loss for Mississippi in goal.
The losses have dropped the RiverKings nine points behind Pensacola in the SPHL standings, but Mississippi remains tied in fourth place with a 12-9-0 record and 24 points.
Mississippi is seventh in the league in goals scored at 3.24 goals a game, but is fourth in goals allowed at 3.14 goals-per-game. The RiverKings have been aided by having the league’s top penalty kill, averaging 88.35 percent. Meanwhile, Mississippi’s power play is fourth in the SPHL at 17.21 percent.
Fox, Mantha and Bennett remain the team’s top offensive threats. Fox has scored 13 goals for 19 points and Mantha has seven goals and a team-leading 12 assists, also for 19 points. Bennett has scored five goals for eight points in eight games with the RiverKings this year, but his SPHL season stats include eight goals for 19 points.
Bennett started the season and played 16 games in Fayetteville, N.C., where he scored three times and assisted on eight other goals for 11 points with the Marksmen.
Between the pipes, Green’s season record fell to 10-7-0 with the most recent losses to the Ice Flyers. His save percentage is .907 and Green has a goals-against-average of 2.87.
Following Friday’s contest, the RiverKings will travel to Birmingham, Ala. to play the expansion Bulls on Saturday, Dec. 30. A three-game home stand will follow at the Landers Center, starting Jan. 5 against Peoria.
Bob Bakken is Sports Editor and may be reached at 662-429-6397 ext. 240.