After one of the worst starts in franchise history, the Peoria Rivermen have put together a three-game winning streak and the team full of St. Louis Blues prospects continues to improve.
Through their first 12 games this season, the Rivermen only had two wins, and suffered through one particularly bad stretch Nov. 8-10 which saw them lose back-to-back games to the Charlotte Checkers and then blow a 2-0 lead in an eventual 5-3 loss to the Grand Rapids Griffins. Whatever head coach Dave Allison had to say after those games must have got through, as the Rivermen have peeled off three consecutive wins since then, all by one-goal margins.
While goals weren’t easy to come by early in the season, veterans T.J. Hensick and Derek Nesbitt managed to find the back of the net a few times, and are tied for the team lead with five goals each. Hensick’s 17 points lead the team. Blues prospects Anthony Peluso, Mark Cundari and Phil McRae have started contributing offensively during the current streak, McRae had two goals (including the game winner) against the Chicago Wolves on Friday. 2010 first round draft pick Jaden Schwartz (pictured above) has three goals and six points in his first taste of AHL action and 2011 trade acquisition Evgeny Grachev has two goals and will be looked to for more scoring the rest of the season.
Going in to the season, there was some hope in the Blues organization that 2010 first round pick Vladimir Tarasenko might consider coming to North America, but he instead chose to remain in Russia, and has scored 10 goals and has 21 points in 16 games. Sergei Andronov, a 2009 draft pick, did elect to come to the AHL, but seems to be making a very slow transition to North American hockey, and has just two goals and three points in 11 games.
In his third season in Peoria, goaltender Jake Allen has seen the bulk of work between the pipes, appearing in 13 of the 15 games so far this season. All five wins have come with him in net, as backup Mike McKenna, a former New Jersey Devils prospect, has struggled in limited action.
AHL veteran Scott Ford, most recently a member of the Milwaukee Admirals, joined the Rivermen in the offseason and is team captain this season. His leadership and toughness have helped balance a team of veterans and young prospects that certainly looks to have things back on track after a rocky start. The next game for the Rivermen is Wednesday Nov. 21 at the Rockford Ice Hogs.