Thunder seek to take back points from Rivermen

Thunder seek to take back points from Rivermen

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BLOOMINGTON – Seventeen scheduled meetings between the Bloomington Thunder and the Peoria Rivermen present 34 potential points in the Southern Professional Hockey League standings.

“We’ve already lost four of those points, so there’s a huge incentive to win,” said Thunder coach Brian Gratz, whose team dropped both games of the season-opening series between the squads last month.

Bloomington’s chance to avenge those losses arrives today with a 7:15 p.m. meeting at the Peoria Civic Center. The Rivermen then visit U.S. Cellular Coliseum for Saturday’s 7:05 p.m. rematch.

“After that first weekend, we had a sour taste,” said Thunder captain Travis Granbois. “We have something to show those guys. They think they’re going to walk all over us and we’re going to turn around on them.”

Peoria has just one win and three overtime losses in 10 games since opening weekend, dropping three straight at home to Pensacola last weekend. Yet the ninth-place Rivermen hold a three-point lead on Bloomington.

“We need to win these games and we know the desperation of it, especially starting out the year 3-7,” said Gratz. “There’s time to turn it around, but you can’t sit here and wait to turn it around. You have to go out there and do it.”

The Thunder scored four total goals in losing a pair of games at Louisiana, with newcomer Patrick Schafer notching a goal and two assists. But Bloomington’s penalty killing continued to struggle as the IceGators scored three power-play goals on Saturday.

“We’ve got to stay out of the box, do the small things that we got away from,” said Granbois. “We had two winnable games and we just could not find the back of the net. We’ve got to start scoring more.”

Peoria’s speedy offense is paced by centers Nick Prockow (five goals, seven assists) and Garrett Vermeersch (six goals, four assists).

“Both teams are desperate to get things on the right track here. Peoria is still a team that plays fast and very opportunistic,” said Gratz. “We’ve got to make sure that we force them to make mistakes and alleviate the pres-sure from our zone.”

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