The Roanoke Rail Yard Dawgs’ magic run to capture the SPHL President’s Cup ended Tuesday night as the Peoria Rivermen defeated the Dawgs 3-2 in OT in Game-4 of the best-of-five series at the Berglund Center.
Roanoke was looking to force a decisive Game-5 in Peoria, but in similar fashion to Game-1 in Peoria, the Dawgs couldn’t hold on to an early two-goal lead as the Rivermen scored on a tip-in goal 6:10 into the second period to close to 2-1, and tied the game at 2 on a power play goal by SPHL Rookie of the Year Marcel Godbout who beat Roanoke goalie Sammy Bernard on the doorstep at the 12:23 mark of the third period. Both teams had chances later in the third but the tie held to force overtime.
On Peoria’s first shot of the overtime J.M. Piotrowski tipped in a long-range blast 1:06 into the extra session as The Rivermen hurled sticks and gloves to celebrate their first SPHL title in four tries and first championship in 22 years since the 1999-2000 team took the Kelly Cup in the ECHL. Peoria’s historic Turner Cup champions in 1990-91 won a professional hockey record 18 straight games in the International Hockey League.
Roanoke, which put itself in a deep hole by losing the first two games in Peoria, including a 3-2 loss in Game-1 where the Dawgs led 2-0 midway through the second period, had responded well in a 4-3 win Monday night that saw Nick Ford register a natural hat trick. On Tuesday, Roanoke took an early lead when Mac Jansen scored at 2:19 of the opening period that stood until the first intermission. The Dawgs had Peoria in a tailspin as the Rivermen couldn’t muster a shot on goal for nearly the first 12 minutes of the game. Roanoke dictated with physical play while Peoria struggled continuously but escaped being down just one goal.
Roanoke kept the pressure on and when Travis Broughman scored on a power play tip-in just 1:56 into the second period the Dawgs led 2-0. The partisan announced crowd of 3,532 was sensing another storybook finish to add on to the Dawgs defeat of both Knoxville and Huntsville in the opening two rounds. But Peoria had other designs.
Bernard stopped 22-of-25 shots for Roanoke, while Peoria goalie Jack Berry stopped 31-of-33 shots and was named the Most Valuable Player of the President’s Cup Final.