PEORIA — What does a 29-3-4 team do after rolling 5-0-1 through a 12-day road trip to Macon and Pensacola?
Why, try to make the roster better, of course.
The Peoria Rivermen traded center Joe Widmar, checking line center Dean Yakura and FHL call-up winger Stephen Gaul to Quad City on Monday in exchange for center-winger Austin Hervey.
Peoria released FHL defense call-up Aaron Atwell.
Widmar is a terrific player. He has bounced to a couple ECHL teams and been on call-up since Dec. 26. Counted on at the start of the season to be Peoria’s top center, he played only 15 games here. His two-year stint with Peoria included 15 goals, 47 assists and a plus-29 rating in 51 games.
“We just couldn’t wait for him anymore,” Rivermen coach Jean-Guy Trudel said. “We loved having Joe on our team, he’s a great player. But we need to get to work toward building and adjusting our roster for the group that is going to take us through the playoffs.”
Widmar might not return from the ECHL this year. Who knows. He’s currently playing on ECHL Atlanta’s top line.
The Rivermen believe Hervey, meanwhile, is a gem on the struggling expansion Quad City team.
The 6-foot-1, 210-pound left wing will play center with the Rivermen. He had three goals and six assists in 22 games with Quad City, and now joins a Peoria offense that is ranked No. 1 in the SPHL.
Last season, he notched 12 goals and 15 assists in 55 games with SPHL Knoxville. He turned pro in the spring of the 2016-17 season after four years at Adrian College, going straight to ECHL Indy for five games (one goal, one assist).
“He’s very similar to another player we acquired, from Evansville, Pijus Rulevicius,” Trudel said. “Rulevicius was an eye-opener on this road trip we just finished. He changed around two of those games for us. We knew then we needed another player like him, and Hervey is a guy we’ve liked and wanted all year.
“He has size and strength and toughness, and I think he has more talent than his points have shown. He plays a heavy game, and I think he’s going to look good with us.
“Facing Pensacola and Macon, on the road, those are the types of teams and places we’ll see in the playoffs, and Hervey is a player who should thrive in those places, where it’s tough to play.”
NAUD WAY: There are certain ECHL teams that should coming with a warning label attached for SPHL players offered call-ups.
Fort Wayne has had a terrible track record with the Rivermen this season. Earlier this year they called-up Peoria center Joe Widmar for a three-games, three-nights stretch and scratched him for all three games.
They called him up a second time and then cut him. He ended up with ECHL Atlanta and never came back to Peoria.
Fort Wayne was in the midst of a stretch last week in which it had just one game in 12 days. It called-up up Rivermen defenseman Guillaume Naud — and scratched him. On Monday, they cut him.
INVEST IN VIDEO REVIEW: Huntsville won a game against Quad City last weekend on a goal that was scored after the clock had already reached zero in overtime.
Officials counted the goal. Replays showed how preposterous that call was. The league said nothing publicly.
The league needs to review the operational setups in its arenas. What happened in Huntsville should not have been possible even without video review. And yes, everyone wants video review for goals.
It costs money to put such a system in place. Owners should consider, though what happens if fans start to wonder about the integrity of the games for which they are being asked to buy tickets.
TALK NET: Rivermen coach Jean-Guy Trudel, after the Rivermen swept a three-game weekend at Macon:
"Neither side was at its best. We've been missing significant parts of our roster all year. Macon had all of their defense back, but they were missing five or six forwards. We understand the adversity they are facing. We've been facing it all season. We just keep playing hard and expect to win."
• Trudel, after a going 5-0-1 on a defining six-game road trip through Pensacola and Macon, on whether the league respects Peoria's 29-3-4 record or downgrades it because it's played a lot of games against cellar teams Evansville and Quad City:
"That making a statement talk, it's more for fans. We don't look at it that way. We came down to Pensacola and Macon and won. We feel good about ourselves and we got the points we wanted to get. We have our own standards, our own team goals, and we don't have to prove ourselves to anyone."
RIVER READINGS: Rivermen defenseman Jake Hamilton was suspended one game by the SPHL on Monday for his interactions with fans during and after Saturday's game at Macon. A Macon fan moved to the railing near the penalty boxes and heckled Hamilton, and he verbally engaged the fan rather than ignore it. ... The Rivermen net loss to the roster was three players Monday — including Hamilton, but not counting Joe Widmar who wasn't actually here. Peoria will dip into the low-A FHL to fill the holes. But another intriguing thing is the team has a veteran slot open with the deal of Dean Yakura, and could reach out for an older player. ... The Rivermen head into the week 12 points ahead of second-place Birmingham. Their magic number to clinch a playoff spot is five points over Quad City and six points over Pensacola. They only need one of those, as they've already locked out Evansville. ... Rivermen goaltender Steve Klein is ranked No. 1 in the SPHL with a 1.83 goals-against and .929 saves rate. Tandem mate Storm Phaneuf is 24 minutes short of qualifying for the league lead, with a 1.80 goals-against and .912 saves rate. ... Rivermen rookie center Ben Blasko leads the league scoring race — by an eight-point margin — with 46 points in 36 games. ... Peoria rookie Austin Vieth leads the league with 18 goals. ... The Rivermen hold four of the SPHL's top five spots in plus-minus with Blasko, Vieth, Alec Hagaman and Ralfs Grinbergs.
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.