'Just amazing': Peoria native scores first pro goal with hometown Rivermen

·5 min read
Peoria Rivermen captain Alec Hagaman (left), Nathan Chasteen (middle) and Mitch McPherson (right) are all Peoria natives and played together on a line the last two games.
Peoria Rivermen captain Alec Hagaman (left), Nathan Chasteen (middle) and Mitch McPherson (right) are all Peoria natives and played together on a line the last two games.

PEORIA — It was the sixth goal of the game for the Peoria Rivermen, easily overlooked in their 8-2 thrashing of Vermilion County on Friday.

But it was everything to Nate Chasteen, who waited a lifetime for that goal at 8:19 of the second period.

The Peoria native signed a tryout contract with the Rivermen, and scored his first pro goal Friday at age 27. He did it while his mother, Angy, and father, Bryan, watched from the grandstand. What a moment for a kid who grew up watching the Rivermen and played for the junior hockey Peoria Mustangs.

"It's just unbelievable, it finally happened," said Chasteen, whose teammates gave him the puck as a memento. "To do it here, in this arena, to do it with this team that I watched when I was young, just amazing."

With the Rivermen: How Peoria and SPHL have handled the COVID pandemic

Chasteen is an executive sales rep for Stratus Networks in Peoria Heights.

He's helped the Rivermen by stepping in as a local addition to their roster for 12 games this season, from which he's generated three points and a +2 rating.

"I heard my mother was close to tears," Chasteen said. "They've been coming to games for decades. In fact, my first hockey game was a Rivermen game they brought me to when I was two weeks old."

More Rivermen feel-good moments

Chasteen's first pro goal was one of many feel-good moments for the Rivermen.

They swept three games in three nights at Carver Arena to surge up into fourth in the SPHL race.

Peoria pummeled Vermilion County 8-2 on Friday and netted two hat tricks, from captain Alec Hagaman and center Mike Laidley. Laidley's hat trick was his first as a pro.

The Rivermen beat Vermilion County again, 3-1, in Saturday's rematch. They fell behind, 2-0, on Sunday against rival Quad City, then blew them out with four third-period goals for a 7-4 win.

With the Rivermen: The top goaltending tandem in pro hockey, takeaways and moves

Veteran Rivermen goaltender Eric Levine played all three games. Warrior stuff.

The Rivermen have won eight of their last 10, and have another key battle coming against Quad City at Carver Arena on Friday. They play a re-scheduled game against Evansville on Tuesday at Carver Arena, then go away until late February.

These Rivermen embrace the grind

Rivermen players have formed a coffee club called The Grinders, and they are collecting beans from area vendors.
Rivermen players have formed a coffee club called The Grinders, and they are collecting beans from area vendors.

The Grinders, a coffee club launched earlier this month by Rivermen players Cody Dion and JM Piotrowski, is picking up steam as area vendors send them beans to try.

They are getting invites from organizations to join them for coffee, too.

The VFW in Washington, for example, has reached out to invite the players to sit down for coffee.

"We'd love to do that," Rivermen winger JM Piotrowski said.

They have bags of coffee beans they've collected sitting on a table in the locker room.

Sign of the times

Rivermen coach Jean-Guy Trudel wrote this message on a board and parked it in the locker room for his players to see over the weekend:

"Pressure is a gift, not a curse. Players tend to run from it, rather than embrace it. When you change your perspective on it you'll find a whole new version of yourself.

"Most importantly, you'll find yourself doing things you never thought you could do before."

Rivermen head coach Jean-Guy Trudel talks with his players during a game against the Vermilion County Bobcats on Saturday, Jan. 15, 2022 at Carver Arena. The Rivermen defeated the Bobcats 3-1.
Rivermen head coach Jean-Guy Trudel talks with his players during a game against the Vermilion County Bobcats on Saturday, Jan. 15, 2022 at Carver Arena. The Rivermen defeated the Bobcats 3-1.

Former Rivermen honored by ECHL

The ECHL on Monday dedicated its Goaltender of the Year Award as the "Nick Vitucci Goaltender of the Year Award."

Vitucci played for the Rivermen in the old IHL in 1992-93 and 1993-94, a terrific guy who was popular with the fans here. He won five championships in the ECHL and is the ECHL all-time leader in goaltender appearances (479), wins (265) and minutes played (27,291).

With the Rivermen: The top goaltending tandem in pro hockey, takeaways and moves

He is tied for the most 20-plus win seasons all-time with seven and is one of just three goaltenders to post back-to-back 30-plus win seasons. He is also just one of 13 goaltenders in league history to score a goal, doing so for Charlotte on March 6, 1996 against Louisville.

"Nick Vitucci has been a major part of the ECHL during the past 34 years," said ECHL commissioner emeritus Patrick Kelly, the former Rivermen coach and GM. "He won five championships as a player and coach, and continues to be an advocate for the ECHL to this day. It is a great privilege to rename the league’s Goaltender of the Year Award in his honor."

River Readings

The Rivermen wore special tuxedo-themed jerseys Saturday celebrating the new year, and they were auctioned after the game. Backup goaltender Joe Noonan's jersey sold for $1,600. ... Rivermen defenseman Austin Wisley was suspended one game by the SPHL on Tuesday as additional discipline for a roughing penalty he took on Sunday against Quad City. ... Vermilion County's 6-foot-5, 230-pound Ryan Devine was ejected from the game against the Rivermen on Friday in Carver Arena, and assessed a major penalty for slew-footing Peoria winger Paul-Antoine Deslauriers. On Tuesday, Devine paid the price, as the SPHL hammered him with a five-game suspension. ... The Rivermen host Quad City on Friday at 7:15 p.m. The first 1,000 spectators get a Rivermen T-shirt.

Dave Eminian is the Journal Star sports columnist, and covers Bradley men's basketball, the Rivermen and Chiefs. He writes the Cleve In The Eve sports column for pjstar.com. Reach him at 686-3206 or deminian@pjstar.com. Follow him on Twitter @icetimecleve.

This article originally appeared on Journal Star: Peorian's first pro goal with Rivermen, plus SPHL news, analysis

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting