PEORIA — The Rivermen mobbed Ryland Pashovitz late Thursday night in Carver Arena, part celebration, part happy disbelief.
The newly acquired Rivermen goaltender followed an improbable script when he came off the bench to play the final 41:20, survived sudden-death overtime, then stunned the Rivermen, the Pensacola Ice Flyers and everyone else in the building by stopping six of six penalty shot challengers in a sudden-death shootout.
Peoria, which trailed Pensacola three times in the game, walked off with its 20th victory while Pashovitz — who was out of hockey a year ago — played the hero's role.
It was on to a rematch Friday night. Pashovitz started the night on the bench — just as he did Thursday.
"To come in to the game and play like that, it was just amazing," said veteran Rivermen goaltender Eric Levine, who is 14-0-3 but yielded the net Thursday to Pashovitz's relief role. "I don't think he really understood the enormity of the situation he was stepping into.
"I said to him, 'Do you realize what a huge win that was for us?' The whole league watches us. When we do something like that, it sends a message about our team."
So, about Ryland Pashovitz.
He is listed at 5-foot-11 but doesn't seem to be that tall. He is 24. Born and raised in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan.
The Rivermen got him a couple weeks ago in a trade with Fayetteville for future considerations, a deal that barely touched the radar.
He was part of the inaugural NCAA Division I hockey program when it started up at Arizona State University, and played there from 2015-16 through 2017-18.
He sat out in his senior year. The program got better, the talent got better, and he chose to focus on finishing his degree in communications.
"Growing up I always wanted to be a goaltender, that was it for me from the start," Pashovitz said. "I had an uncle who played hockey and I watched him a lot. My favorite goaltender in the NHL was Miikka Kiprusoff (Calgary and San Jose).
"After I finished school, I started working out, I wanted to try to play somewhere this season."
He turned up in the low-A FPHL with Columbus in the fall, then earned two games in the SPHL with Fayetteville.
This is the highest level he's ever played at, and for three games, at that.
Yet he was magnificent against the Flyers on Thursday night. In the shootout, his first penalty shot save was made when he sprawled on his belly, kicked his legs up behind him, and the puck struck his skate a few feet in the air and ricocheted away.
After that, it was on. Glove saves. Good positioning. A goaltending moment in Rivermen history that brought back memories of Mike Mudd, an emergency backup goaltender on the Peoria bench in the old IHL, who once came in cold and stopped 10 straight penalty shots in a shootout to beat Indianapolis and Olympic goaltender Ray Leblanc.
We'll be telling the Pashovitz story down the line somewhere, too.
"I was sitting there on the bench, just tried to stay involved in the game, that's all you can do," Pashovitz said. "I wasn't thinking that much about the possibility of playing until I heard (Rivermen coach) Jean-Guy Trudel say my name.
"That team is so good, and so is ours. I was really hoping we'd score in the overtime, because shootouts, well, for a goaltender those are read and react.
"The whole thing happened so fast I didn't even have time to be nervous."
And we won't be saying 'Who?' anymore.
Dave Eminian covers the Rivermen and Chiefs 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.