The final 40 minutes of Saturday night’s SPHL game between the Peoria Rivermen and Columbus Cottonmouths was a penalty-filled mess that ended with serious allegations against one of the two head coaches.
Peoria won the game 7-1, but the two sides combined for 136 penalty minutes in the second and third periods.
It all began when Columbus forward Craig Simchuk ran Peoria netminder Kyle Rank, knocking him unconscious.
(Note: The video quality isn’t that great.)
Simchuk was given a match penalty and ejected from the game. Rank was taken off on a stretcher and, according to the Peoria Journal Star’s Dave Eminian, was given an early diagnosis of a “significant concussion.” He’ll be re-examined when the team returns home.
Once play resumed, emotions remained high.
Late in the period, Columbus forward Al Graves was handed a five-minute major for slashing, and Cottonmouths head coach Jerome Bechard was promptly kicked out after protesting the call by waving a white towel and stepping onto the ice.
More penalty minutes were earned in the third period, and following the game, Peoria head coach Jean-Guy Trudel unloaded on Bechard, accusing him of ordering Simchuk to take Rank out.
"Bechard ordered his team to hurt Kyle Rank. He will deny it, but he was yelling from the bench (in the first period) he was gonna do it, everyone heard it," Trudel said. "Jerome Bechard should never coach in this league again. What happened tonight was despicable, an embarrassment to the SPHL.
"You start yelling you are going to hurt the goaltender, and then the first shift of the second period your guy goes out and does it. No player in his right mind is going to do that unless he is ordered to do it.
"The puck was nowhere around, Rank wasn't even looking, he wasn't involved in a play. It was a gross, disgusting play and the league better investigate Bechard and talk to some people about what happened. A line needs to be drawn here with him.”
Trudel claimed that Bechard issued the order following Columbus goaltender Shannon Szabados getting run over in the first period and no penalties being issued. Szabados remained in the game.
"Jean-Guy's comments couldn't be more further from the truth, and for him to say that is unprofessional on his part," Bechard told the Columbus Ledger-Enquirer, while Simchuk said he did not intentionally injure Rank.
"By no means did I want to injure Kyle Rank. He's a great goalie and I wish him the best. Can't say what I did was smart and I 100 percent take back what I did. I feel awful, but sometimes players have to takes things on for themselves and protect our own."
The SPHL announced on Sunday that both Bechard and Simchuk have been suspended pending a review, and that further discipline could be coming to players on both teams.
Also per Eminian, due to Rank’s injury, Peoria was forced to use their volunteer assistant coach/PA announcer as an emergency backup for Sunday’s game in Huntsville.
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