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SPHL PLAYOFFS | QUAD CITY 4, PEORIA 1

Quad City Storm one win from SPHL finals after dominant Game 1 win over Peoria

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Since the Quad City Storm joined the SPHL, their battles with the Peoria Rivermen have been slugfests, but with Quad City only mustering the occasional body blow against one of the league's top teams.

The Storm landed a haymaker Wednesday night.

Quad City dominated its first SPHL playoff meeting with its I-74 rivals, beating Peoria 4-1 in Game 1 of the semifinals. It's the first home playoff win for the Storm in franchise history and the first home playoff win by a Quad City hockey team since April 21, 2017.

"I think it comes from the room, we all feel like when we're all going on the same page, we can't be stopped by any team," captain Taylor Pryce said. "It comes from our depth, we've got a great mix of veterans and rookies that have meshed over the year and now it's all coming to fruition."

The Storm look to close out the series and advance to their first SPHL President's Cup final at 7:15 p.m. Friday at the Peoria Civic Center.

It was the captain and the kid leading the way, with Pryce scoring two goals and 22-year-old Bailey Brkin continuing his strong postseason performance, making 35 saves in net for his third win of the playoffs.

Brkin spent much of the year up in the ECHL, but has been a rock for the Storm since returning for the postseason.

"I know my skill, I know I've been kind of branded as a playoff goalie in juniors so I'm going to keep doing what I do," Brkin said. "Honestly, I just kind of live my life with an I don't care kind of attitude. A playoff game is just a regular game, there's nothing special, you don't make a different type of blocker save, it's the same blocker save you make in the regular season.

"If you don't let that get to you, then it's not really going to affect how you play."

Marcus Ortiz also added two goals, bookending the game with the first and final tallies, his last an empty-netter to ice the game at the 18-minute, 7-second mark of the third period.

The first goal from Ortiz came after the Storm forward hit Shane Bennett with a cross-ice breakout pass. Bennett skated unimpeded around the back of the net, then found Ortiz crashing the slot for the goal just 2:01 into the game.

"We know both teams, and any great team in this league tries to get out to the jump right off the hop. We're a more comfortable team when we play with the lead so getting that first goal was tremendous," head coach Dave Pszenyczny said. "We have a lot of depth, players getting the job done and stepping up when they're called on."

The Storm added to their lead late in the period.

Moments after a shot from Ortiz rang off the corner of the crossbar, Alec Baer turned the puck over to Darick Louis-Jean in the Storm's offensive zone. Louis-Jean passed over to Pryce, who deked around Baer and fired the puck over the right shoulder of Peoria goaltender Jack Berry and into the net to put the Storm up 2-0 at the 15:25 mark of the period.

"Once a play is developing, you kind of let it find itself," Pryce said. "Once I found myself close to the goalie, looking at an open cage, I ripped it."

The Storm upped their lead to 3-0 lead on Pryce's second goal of the game. After Ben Duperreault won a battle along the side boards, Pryce grabbed the puck and fired a wrister past Berry at the 5:05 mark of the period.

After a back and forth period, Peoria finally got past Brkin in the final minute of the period. Playing 4-on-4 hockey, rookie of the year Marcel Godbout skated around the point and down below the right face-off circle, roofing a shot past Brkin at the 19:34 mark of the frame.

The Storm controlled much of the third period, helped by four Peoria penalties, and iced the game on Ortiz' empty net goal.

Despite landing the opening shot in the series, the Storm know from experience not to take Peoria lightly in Game 2. Just last week Quad City trailed Fayetteville 1-0 in its series before winning two games on the road to advance.

"We have to keep control of our emotions," Pszenyczny said. "That's the one thing we're preaching right now is to keep an even keel.

"We know they're going to be hungry, their backs are against the wall. We were in that position but any time you have an opportunity to knock a team out and end their season, you have to do it right away."

Notes: Storm forward Filip Virgili returned to the lineup Wednesday, his first action since Feb. 6. ... The Storm will continue to hold watch parties for away games at Zeke's Island Cafe, 131 W. 2nd St., Davenport.

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