PEORIA, Ill. (WMBD/WYZZ) — The Rivermen playoff-opening win in Pensacola Thursday night was worth celebrating.
But that celebration only last a few hours. The team bus broke down twice on the drive back from Florida back to Peoria.
It broke down once in Alabama and another time in Tennessee. In all, it took over 40 hours to get the Rivermen back home in time to play the second game of the playoff series.
Even the rescue buses sent to get the team were an adventure. They didn’t have air conditioning.
“I think we were broke down 24 hours and it took 17 (hours) the rest of the (drive),” said Rivermen coach Jean-Guy Trudel. “We build all year with leaders, guys with character. It showed. Those buses had no air conditioning. It was 95 in there. I can’t say enough about our boys.”
The Rivermen arrived in Peoria about 1 p.m. and had to play a playoff game seven hours later. They beat Pensacola in that game 2-1 and clinched the series.
“Looking back, it was a good experience because we won,” said center Joe Widmar with a chuckle. “It was tough at the time. Looking back it will only make out team stronger.”
Now the team faces another long bus trip to Roanoke, Virginia for the second round playoff series. The Rivermen beat Roanoke for the President’s Cup last year and clinched the title in Virginia.
Center JM Piotrowski scored the game overtime goal in game four of the series toclinch the title. Not that he’s thinking about that this week.
“This is a new story, a new chapter,” said Piotrowski. “The past is the past. We’re looking forward to this round. Taking it day by day.”
Game one of the series is Wednesday night. The team is leaving by bus late Monday to get to Virginia.
“We have a different journey we’re focused on now,” said forward Jordan Ernst.” “We know they are a good team. It’s going to be a battle.”
Different journey to Roanoke this time, for sure. But the Rivermen are hoping for the same winning result like they experienced last year.
They’re also hoping for a bus trip without as many stories.