When he was needed most, Peter Di Salvo turned into a brick wall for the Quad-City Storm.
The Storm goaltender made 42 saves for the Storm, coming up big in overtime and during the shootout to lead the Storm to a 3-2 shootout win over the Knoxville Ice Bears Saturday night at the TaxSlayer Center.
The win meant a little extra to Di Salvo, whose father, Pete Sr., was in the stands. It's the first time Di Salvo's father, who lives in Oakville, Ontario, had been at a game since Di Salvo played for the Mississippi RiverKings three years ago.
"He watches all my games back home, he's my biggest fan and it's always great to get a win for him when he comes to visit me," Di Salvo said. "To get that win with him here tonight meant a lot to me."
Shane Bennett and Phil Bronner both scored in the shootout for the Storm, who are now four points clear of Pensacola for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Southern Professional Hockey League.
The Ice Bears had the best looks in the overtime, including a wide-open look from Liam Kerins that sailed wide as Knoxville out-shot Quad-City 9-0 in the extra five minutes.
Kerins also had a chance with a penalty shot after being taken down on a breakaway, but Di Salvo turned him away to keep the game going.
"He works his butt off every day, and we're confident in him," Bronner said of Di Salvo. "We were already saying 'Who's going out next?' when they were taking that penalty shot because we knew he was going to stop it."
After dominating the third period of Friday’s game, the Storm came out with the same intensity in the first period of Saturday’s rematch.
The Storm outshot the Ice Bears 23-5 in the final period Friday night and outshot Knoxville 11-7 in the first period Saturday.
Mitch Mueller put the Storm up in the first period, capitalizing on a second-chance opportunity at the 6-minute, 3-second mark.
"You have to take what you can from the night before and implement it now," head coach Dave Pszenyczny said. "That was one thing (Dalton Mills) wrote on the board is we have to start strong right off the drop.
"I think they're starting to understand what it's going to take and we're building for this playoff push."
However, the Storm didn't carry the momentum into the second period.
Eric Ylitalo tied the game just 20 seconds into the frame, then Danny Cesarz gave Knoxville the lead 33 seconds later, roofing a shot past Di Salvo as the Ice Bears jumped out of the gates in the second period.
"I think we've just got to be even keel, as cliched as that is," Bronner said. "I think maybe we got a little too high because we really dominated the first period. We can't just play one good period and think a team's going to roll over."
Di Salvo shut down the Ice Bears the rest of the way.
"Those two quick goals, good chances and good shots by them but I thought I should have stopped them," he said. "I wanted those back and I just felt like it was a character game for me, to make sure I didn't give them anything else after."
The Storm capitalized on an extended 5-on-3 opportunity to tie the game back up. A shot from Sean Kacerosky rebounded off Santaguida to Bronner, who made a heads-up play to find Vincent Beaudry in the slot for the equalizer at 17:29 in the second period.
The two teams finish up their three-game weekend series today at 2 p.m. With three games in three days, Pszenyczny said he'll start Cory Simons in net, his first SPHL action of the year.
"He's looked good in practice, he's definitely a capable goalie," Bronner said. "Guys have to buy in and play for him. I'm sure he's pumped for this opportunity."