PEORIA — Austin Hervey is gone. Mitch McPherson is back.
And is center Will Smith at last on his way?
The Peoria Rivermen moved to within one point of clinching the SPHL points championship over the weekend, then made more moves to adjust their first-place roster on Monday.
Peoria released center-winger Hervey, who they acquired from Quad City in a Feb. 4 trade that sent Dean Yakura, Stephen Gaul and the rights to center Joe Widmar to the Storm.
Widmar never came back from an ECHL call-up. Hervey played 15 games with the Rivermen, notched a goal, and had a -4 rating.
The Peoria-born rookie, McPherson, meanwhile, played under a trio of three-game tryout contracts and was released Saturday. But on Monday, he returned with a full SPHL contract.
Smith was a key center for the Rivermen, who rehabbed him after a horrific leg injury suffered late last season. He left Peoria on Jan. 4 to take a call-up to ECHL Adirondack, was seldom used there, and moved on to ECHL Utah.
He played 22 games and notched three goals, one assist and had a -9 rating during his 80-day call-up. Utah released him Monday, but it's unclear at this point if he'll return to the Rivermen for the SPHL playoffs.
THE HAMMER: The Rivermen and Quad City season series came with a Cold War on I-74 Trophy attached.
Peoria earned the inaugural hardware Saturday after wrapping up the season series, 13-2-1.
The trophy, made out of metal, was created by metal worker Ryan Pitts, who operates a shop in Grand Mound, Iowa, called Stronger Grip.
He is a journeyman machinist by trade, and has a budding business at www.strongergrip.com. He crafts weightlifting and fitness equipment out of metal, in the images of traditional, mythical or medieval implements.
When ESPN aired World Arm Wrestling League matches for four years, it was Pitts who made those trophies presented on camera.
He made a Thor's Hammer for the Atlanta Falcons, and has made equipment for TV show actors as well. Some of the hammers weigh 26 pounds and can be loaded up to 70 pounds with steel shot.
"As a machinist, I work under very tight specifications," said Pitts, 46. "But with this, there was no blueprint, no specs. It was a chance to create in a free form, gather material in the shop and see what I could do with it."
The trophy has hockey sticks mounted around a bucket, with a spike protruding from the top of the bucket, designed for a team-logo puck to be drilled and mounted on it.
All fashioned from metal.
There are some pictures of the trophy, and some of Pitts' Thor hammers, online with this story at pjstar.com.
FOR THE RECORD: The Rivermen, at 37-7-8 with 82 points, and 20-1-3 at home, could break several SPHL records.
Peoria has four games to play, all at home, including two against last-place Evansville. The Rivermen hold the league wins record at 39 (2015-16) and the points record at 83 (2015-16).
Peoria, as of this moment, has the league's three highest-ever points finishes at 83, 82 (current team) and 81 (2017-18).
With four home games left, the Rivermen could also challenge the league record for most regulation home wins in a season (23, Columbus and Knoxville in 2005-06).
And Peoria is already guaranteed to set a league record for fewest regulation losses overall (record is 12, by the Rivermen in 2015-16).
The league record for fewest regulation home losses in a single-season is 3 (Augusta in 2011-12 and Knoxville in 2005-06).
Peoria finished 17-6-5 on the road this season, tying its own SPHL record for fewest regulation road losses.
RIVER READINGS: The Rivermen will make all upper bowl tickets $5 for Friday's game at Carver Arena against Evansville. In addition, 22-ounce sodas will be $2 at the concession stand that night. The massive discounts are part of the team's Turn Back The Clock Night. ... Former Rivermen center Joe Widmar was released by ECHL Atlanta on Monday. The SPHL trade deadline is past, so Widmar can only play for Quad City the rest of this season. ... Utah released called-up Rivermen center Will Smith.
Dave Eminian covers the Rivermen for the Journal Star and writes the Cleve In The Eve column for pjstar.com. Reach him at 686-3206 or email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @icetimecleve.