PEORIA — Ben Blasko is tearing up the Southern Professional Hockey League in his rookie season.

The Peoria Rivermen center has 16 goals and 39 assists in 43 games, with a +34 rating.

His 55 points lead all players in the SPHL. His plus-minus rating is No. 1. His assist total is No. 1. He has six game-winners, second-most.

Not bad for a kid who once was cut by his Midget AAA team growing up in Kingston, Ontario.

"I started playing hockey when I was 6, but I was a late bloomer, got cut (at age 15)," Blasko, 26. "I kept playing and set my goal at playing college hockey."

He did. And that path took him to the Rivermen, who he has helped roar through the SPHL schedule at an historic winning pace.

Blasko notched an assist Sunday to help the Rivermen finish a weekend three-game sweep of the Roanoke Rail Yard Dawgs, 4-2, before 2,969 at Carver Arena.

The Rivermen are 34-4-5 and hold an 11-point lead in first place. They are 18-0-2 on home ice. Blasko's numbers are just as impressive.

He had the longest pointscoring streak -- 18 games -- in the SPHL in five years snapped Saturday, then bounced right back on track Sunday. League MVP, Rookie of the Year, scoring champion, All-Rookie Team -- it's all on the table for Blasko right now.

"We got him from ECHL Tulsa's training camp, and he came in so shy," Rivermen head coach Jean-Guy Trudel said. "I was concerned about whether he could develop enough in his defensive game.

"Well, I guess you could say he developed just fine. He did the work. We were able to move him to center -- in our system you have to be good in all three zones to play that position -- and he's kind of got a Patrick Kane attitude in a way.

"He wants to be the hero in the big situations. He wants to have the puck in that big moment. It's kind of in his DNA.

"I see him make plays that a lot of guys don't see at this level. He's lit things up."

Blasko spent two seasons at Nazareth College in the ECAC before transferring to play within the U Sports collegiate network at University of Ontario Institute of Technology. He earned a degree in criminal justice there.

"Birmingham and Peoria were talking to me over the summer," Blasko said. "I think I made the right choice for me. Peoria was a better fit, and this is a special team here. Jean-Guy Trudel has turned me into a two-way player. It's a very offensive system, and it's fun to play in."

Peoria, meanwhile, took a 1-0 lead at 9:33 of the first period when defenseman Guillaume Naud moved in from the left circle and cranked a big blast over the stick shoulder of goaltender Jacob Caffrey.

Justin Greenberg skated from the top of the right circle to the middle of the zone and sent a drive down the slot that deflected in off Pijus Rulevicius for 2-0 at 14:15 of the second period.

The Rivermen put it out of reach in the third period with goals from veteran Mike Gurtler and rookie Mitchell McPherson in the final seven minutes.

"I want the puck, want to deliver in key situations," Blasko said. "But we have a team here, where you can play with a lot of guys who can really do some things. We're all better because of each other."

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RIVER READINGS: Rivermen rookie Mitchell McPherson scored his first pro goal in the third period. That's a Peoria-born player scoring a goal on an assist from a Peoria-born captain (Alec Hagaman). ... The Rivermen mathematically locked out Roanoke, and lowered their magic number to one point on Fayetteville and four on Knoxville and Macon.

Dave Eminian covers the Rivermen for the Journal Star, and 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.