Rivermen ink Ryan Cusin in first move for ’20-21 SPHL season
PEORIA — Ryan Cusin burst on the scene with the Peoria Rivermen last spring, played a hero's role in a critical March game, then departed to go back to college and finish his education.
Now he's making a return. The Rivermen -- technically the SPHL champions -- made the diminutive winger-center their first signing for the 2020-21 season on Wednesday.
"I couldn't talk to any other teams (Peoria held his SPHL rights) and I wouldn't have even if I could," Cusin said. "The Rivermen gave me a chance last March, brought me in to play, and that meant a lot to me. When the best team in the league gives you a chance to play, it's exciting."
Cusin, 25, is a 5-foot-8, 187-pounder from Westland, Mich., who played the last two seasons for Wisconsin-River Falls, and spent his first two collegiate seasons with UMass-Boston and Adrian College, respectively.
He was New England Hockey Conference Rookie of the Year as a freshman at UMass.
He had 16 goals with 18 assists in 29 games for Wisconsin in 2019-20. His 16 goals were tied for 17th in the nation among all NCAA Div.-III players.
“He is a gifted goalscorer,” Rivermen head coach Jean-Guy Trudel said. “It’s what we brought him here to do in March, and it’s why we’re bringing him back. He has an excitement for the game, a lot of energy, and he’s going to be a terific player as he continues to develop.”
Cusin spent three games with the Rivermen and notched two goals. One of those pulled the Rivermen into a tie with 76 seconds left in a game against Roanoke and set up a shootout victory.
It proved to be a crucial game, as Peoria was tied with Fayetteville for first place and the Rivermen controlled the top spot by virtue of league tiebreakers when COVID-19 forced cancellation of the season.
"I left the team after three games because I had to go back to college and take a test to finish my degree," said Cusin, who graduated with a degree in finance. "The test went well, and it turned out to be the last test of my college career because the school closed from COVID a week later.
"Then the SPHL halted its season. So I went home (to Michigan) and have been waiting for the state to let us start training. We just started training again Tuesday.
"I'll be ready to play. The coaching staff, my teammates and the fans in Peoria were so good, so fun to play for, I'm excited to get back there."
Dave Eminian is the Journal Star sports columnist, and covers the Rivermen and Chiefs. He 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.