Columbus Cottonmouths

Columbus Cottonmouths ready to face Peoria Rivermen for first time since game that led to multiple suspensions

Columbus Cottonmouths’ head coach Jerome Bechard watches the Snakes Jan. 9 against the Huntsville Havoc at the Columbus Civic Center.
Columbus Cottonmouths’ head coach Jerome Bechard watches the Snakes Jan. 9 against the Huntsville Havoc at the Columbus Civic Center.

The Columbus Cottonmouths host first-place Peoria Rivermen in back-to-back meetings on Friday and Saturday for the first meetings since Dec. 19.

That night, Columbus forward Craig Simchuk skated into Peoria goalie Kyle Rank, knocking him into the goalpost. Rank was carried off the ice on a stretcher with a concussion. Simchuk was suspended 28 games by the SPHL, coach Jerome Bechard got six games and Garrett Lockridge got three. Bechard returned earlier this month, Lockridge was waived shortly after being suspended. Simchuk will be eligible to return on March 19,

Peoria outscored Columbus 11-2 in the games at the Columbus Civic Center on Dec, 18 and 19. In the Dec. 19 game, the two clubs combined for 134 penalty minutes and seven game misconducts

"They embarrassed us in front of our home crowd," Bechard said. "It's a rivalry, and there's a lot at stake. We have to do our best to channel those emotions from the past into positive energy on the ice this weekend."

Channeling that energy will not only mean becoming more physical, but finding ways of ending a current scoring drought. Losers of four of their last five, the Snakes' last outing was on Jan. 16, a 3-1 win over Knoxville, was the first time they scored three or more goals in five games.

Having a full and healthy squad could alleviate the scoring woes. Defenseman Kyle Johnson and Martin Tuma are expected to return for Columbus, allowing Louis Belisle and Chris Rial to return to their natural forward positions.

In the midst of a 10-game winning streak, third longest in SPHL history, Peoria has rattled off five straight road wins, outscoring their opponents 44-15 in that span. Comfortably in first-place, eight points ahead of second-place Mississippi, the Rivermen have earned points in 12 straight contests and have not lost a game in regulation since Dec. 5 at Mississippi.

"They're a good physical hockey team with a lot of offensive minded guys, no disputing that," Bechard said. "Intimidation is part of the game. We need to take some pages out of their book and be just as physical and intimidating."

As far as the relationship between Bechard and his counterpart, Peoria's Jean-Guy Trudel, the two sides still have not spoken since the fallout from Dec. 19, when Trudel made accusations against Bechard for which he was fined by the league.

"It's an emotional game," Bechard said. "I'm glad Kyle (Rank) is doing OK, and I don't want anybody to get hurt, but we can't let anybody come into our house and dominate us the way they did last time."

With 28 points, Columbus is currently in sixth place in the nine-team league, just one point ahead of Knoxville and three in front of Louisiana and Macon.

Notes: The Legends game will be held Saturday at 5:45 p.m. Gates will open at 5 p.m. The first 1,000 people through the door will receive a double bobblehead of legends Tom Wilson and Doug Mann. The gates will open at 6:30 p.m. Friday, and the first 3,000 will receive a white rally towel.


40 Ian Vigier

17 Doug Mann

11 Orrin Hergott

24 Carlysle Lewis

22 Derek Marchand

19 Levi Lind

10 Jordan Braid

55 Brad Prefontaine

7 Mick Kempffer

15 Darren McAusland

33 Jimmy Kerestes

2 Tom Maldonado

6 Roman Marakhovski


1 Andrew Loewen

16 Jerome Bechard

32 Craig Stahl

10 Derek Crimin

24 Sam Bowles

21 Ryan Rutz

17 Brett Hammond

2 Tom Wilson

11 J.A. Schneider

4 Kevin Kessler

42 Will Barlow

14 Tom McMonagle