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Rail Yard Dawgs’ Season Ends In Playoff Sweep By Rivermen

Peoria’s Alec Hagaman looks to score from close range against Roanoke goalie Brad Barone during the first-round playoff series won by the Rivermen, 2-0.

The Roanoke Rail Yard Dawgs ice hockey team saw its season come to an end Friday night in the opening 8-team “Challenge Round” against the Peoria Rivermen.

You could make a good argument that the Dawgs had more than their fill of Peoria.
Playing its sixth straight matchup against the regular season first place team in the Southern Professional Hockey League, four in a row to end the regular season, and two more after Peoria picked eighth-place Roanoke in the new playoff format, all proved to be a major hurdle for the Dawgs. The two teams even went through four different game sites during the 6-game run.
Peoria won five of those six games, including the sweep of the best-of-three playoff series that began Wednesday night on the substitute “home ice” for Roanoke when the Dawgs were forced to move their playoff opener to the LaHaye Ice Center at Liberty University in Lynchburg due to a scheduling conflict at the Berglund Center.
Playing in front of an estimated crowd of nearly 1,400 in Lynchburg, where a low ceiling amplified the noise generated by a rowdy Roanoke faithful, the Dawgs came up just short.
Roanoke scored first on a power play in the opening period when Colin Murray stuffed home a rebound against Rivermen goalie Tyler Parks. Peoria answered late in the first on a rebounder of its own by Mike Gurtler that had things tied at one after the opening twenty minutes.
Peoria went up 2-1 in the second on another goal by Gurtler, but Roanoke scored late in the period by a scrum shot by Steve Mele that sent the teams to the final period tied at 2.
The deciding goal came with under five minutes left when Peoria’s Justin Greenberg scored on a two-on-one break past Dawgs goalie Brad Barone to seal the deal and send the teams back to Peoria for game two Friday night at the Rivermen’s backup practice facility.
It was all Peoria in game two as the Rivermen jumped out to a 2-0 lead on goals by Greenberg and Keegan Bruce in the first period. After a scoreless second, Roanoke got to within 2-1 with just over 12 minutes left on a score by Joe Sova, but the Rivermen got the crusher with 3:59 to go on a power play goal by Cody Dion. After Roanoke pulled Barone for an extra skater, Alec Hagamann capped off the series winner with an empty-netter with 42 seconds left.
Roanoke got the last say in the final minute when Phil Bronner, Mele and Maxime Guyon each got a 10-minute misconduct for verbal abuse of the officials.
The 2017-18 campaign for the Dawgs saw Roanoke rebound from a slow start early in the season, replacing head coach Sam Ftorek with Dan Bremner that led to a 9-game winning streak which was the catalyst for Roanoke making the SPHL playoffs for the first time since its inaugural season last year. Attendance at the Berglund Center also rose in year-2.
In other SPHL news on Friday, Barone was named to the league’s All-League First Team, with Mele being named to the All-League Second Team.
Bill Turner

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