PEORIA — The Peoria Rivermen made a move to extend their powerhouse reign in the Southern Professional Hockey League on Wednesday.
The 35-5-6 first-place team reached agreement on a two-year contract extension with head coach Jean-Guy Trudel.
The three-time SPHL Coach of the Year — no other coach has repeated in that honor in league history — will be at Peoria's helm through the 2020-21 season.
"I love it," said Trudel, who was preparing his team for a road trip to a two-game weekend rematch against Knoxville. "It's security for me and my family. It shows the bosses are happy with what I'm doing.
"I love the way this team has grown as a family on and off the ice, it's great to be part of. I just want to get us to that last step — winning a championship.
"It's all I think about. It's what drives us here."
Trudel and the Rivermen have won pretty much everything else but that. The Rivermen are 19-1-3 at home and were the last team in pro hockey this season to lose in regulation on home ice (last weekend, to Knoxville).
Trudel has an all-time regular-season record in the SPHL of 210-78-38 for a .703 pointsmaking percentage.
Those 210 wins are second-most by any coach in league history. And that winning percentage is No. 1 among all coaches in league history.
Under Trudel's guidance, the Rivermen have won regular-season points championships in 2014-15, 2015-16 and 2017-18, and are closing in on another this season.
They have gone to the SPHL Finals the last three straight years. They have led the SPHL in players called-up to the ECHL.
Little wonder, their coach is in demand every offseason.
"The ECHL has come calling, Europe has come calling, those opportunities are there," Trudel said. "But I own a home here. I'm raising a family here. I have a hockey school I operate here. I am (30 percent) part owner of the (NA3HL junior hockey) Peoria Mustangs. And I love coaching kids in youth hockey programs.
"The Rivermen ownership allows me to do all those things. This is where I want to be."
Trudel, 43, played for the Rivermen in the ECHL and AHL eras, and is a member of the Rivermen Hall of Fame. Including playoffs, Trudel has 224 wins as Peoria's coach, second-most in the 37-year history of the franchise.
"I sat down with him in January to see what his feelings about staying were," Rivermen co-owner Bart Rogers said. "He was 100 percent about staying. We wanted to get this done now, to help his recruiting, so players who are here now or might arrive later know he'll be here for a long time into the future.
"What Jean-Guy has done over six years here is unbelievable. He's won multiple points titles, won multiple Coach of the Year honors, built an organization that leads the league in player development.
"Our previous (AHL) ownership left the franchise and the fanbase in bad shape. With Jean-Guy's help, we've been able to rebuild the history and tradition of this team.
"The credit goes all to him."
RIVER READINGS: Top Rivermen winger Joe Kalisz, who has been shelved the last 40 days with an arm injury, has been cleared for full contact and a return to practice. He could rejoin Peoria's lineup next weekend. ... The Rivermen have already clinched a top-four, home-ice first-round playoff spot. Their magic number to win their fourth regular-season points championship is six points over Huntsville and 11 over Birmingham. ... Quad City head coach and former Rivermen captain Dave Pszenyczny has signed his brother, Dan, to a contract. Dan Pszenyczny, 37, last played pro hockey in the low-A Federal Hockey League in 2014-15. ... Quad City has placed veteran winger Vladimir Nikiforov on team suspension. ... The SPHL has suspended Evansville enforcer Nick Wright three games, Macon's Dakota Klecha one game, and Macon's Alex Taulien three games.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @icetimecleve.