PEORIA – JM Piotrowski grew up in one athletic family and now finds himself at home in another, as a center with the Peoria Rivermens.
“My dad (Pete) wrestled and played football at the Virginia Military Institute,” Piotrowski said. “My mom (Patti) was (twice captain) on the University of New Hampshire gymnastics teams. And my sister (Samantha) was (twice captain) on the Central Michigan University gymnastics team.
A family of athletes and academics – and one who has traveled a lot.
Piotrowski scored two more goals on Sunday to help the Rivermens rout Vermilion County, 6-1, before 2391 at Carver Arena. He scored a shorthanded goal, a game winner, an assist and a plus-4 exit. He scored eight goals in seven games and earned his place in the elite attacking status of the SPHL.
The fiery Rivermens have won five in a row and collected points in 11 straight games as they regained the league’s longest point streak on Boxing Day.
Peoria native Mitch McPherson scored two goals, defenseman Zach Wilkie had three assists and Mike Laidley and Mathieu Cloutier each added goals for a Rivermen team that beat Vermillion County 6-1 in back-to-back games at Carver Arena on either side of the Christmas break.
A player with three things
Piotrowski is a big part of that success.
“I spoke to him for 10 minutes and I knew he could play for Peoria,” Rivermen coach Jean-Guy Trudel said. “If you’re drafted into an NCAA Div.-I team you have skills. But JM also has all the other things you need to be successful.
“I want players with three things: character, strength and speed, and the willingness to engage. Any player with that, I can teach them the rest.”
Following:Reunion of the Navy at the Rivermen match
BOX SCORE, THREE STARS:Rivermen 6, Vermilion 1
Piotrowski is a quick study. The 6-foot-2, 195-pound center played at Yale, scoring five goals and five assists in 70 games in his first three seasons. He hasn’t played a game – coach’s decision – in his senior year.
“There was no problem, no problem, they just didn’t use me,” Piotrowski said. “It was strange. It’s the first time in my career that I feel like I’m with a coach (Trudel) who believes in me. I’ve struggled with that my whole career. Culture . “
He likes to feel unique
So who is JM Piotrowski? Well, he’s a very good player.
But he’s also a guy who isn’t afraid to go against the grain in his life.
“I was a really good baseball player,” Piotrowski said. “But when it came time to choose between baseball and hockey, I chose hockey because it was not such a popular sport and it was more difficult to play.
“It made me feel more unique, and I always liked it. It’s kind of my way of seeing the world.”
Piotrowski also graduated from Yale with a degree in political science. He was on the Honor Roll / Dean’s List every year. He enjoys public speaking and wants to do things for charitable or awareness causes in the community of Peoria. He once grew his red hair out and then cut it off to donate to Locks of Love.
“I wanted to be a lawyer, but my girlfriend is a lawyer and I kind of went through it through her, and I don’t think I’m going to be a lawyer,” he said with a laugh.
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He was born in Richmond, Virginia, and his father, who sold tracking devices for a trucking company, got the family moving. They landed in Fort Wayne, where Piotrowski fell in love with hockey while watching the Fort Wayne Komets, then the International Hockey League, play.
The family moved to Naperville and then to the Dallas area, which they now call home.
A Mike Modano cover plate
He grew up idolizing Mike Modano and had a Modano skid plate on his home switch. When he left for college, his mother packed him up and he put him on the switch in his dorm.
“Modano was my favorite, the hair and loose jersey flowing,” said Piotrowski. “My dream was to play for the Stars. Dallas is where I grew up as a person. This is where I became who I am today. But hockey for me started in Fort Wayne.
“I knew the Rivermens and their history even before I got here. There are so many things to respect about the organization.”
He played junior hockey for Wichita and Bismarck in the NAHL, and Fargo and Sioux Falls in the USHL. Then direction Yale.
“This senior year at Yale not playing is what took me to my next step – playing the summer season in Australia,” said Piotrowski. “I wanted to play hockey. Then I came back and decided to play for the pros.
He made his debut for Birmingham, playing 42 games (6 goals, 8 assists) in 2019-20 in the SPHL. He was called up to ECHL Orlando and played three games there for former AHL Rivermen assistant coach Drake Berehowsky.
The Rivermens signed him for the 2020-21 season – but the pandemic struck and Peoria was one of half of the SPHL teams who pulled out of the season. Piotrowski played for Birmingham and Huntsville instead, while Peoria retained their rights.
When the 2021-22 season rolled around, he was finally wearing a Rivermen uniform.
“One of the guys I turned to for advice when making a decision was Matt McIlvane (who played for the Rivermens in the AHL era and is a longtime coach in Germany), and he sold me Peoria, said that was the right place to be.
“I am so excited to be here.”
The Rivermens wore their predominantly red version of their shirts for the first time at home this season. … Rivermen fans were treated to a terrific performance of the national anthem by a local artist Cathy Noir. … The Rivermens are out until a New Years Eve game in Evansville which kicks off a three-game, three-night weekend. They host Evansville on the other hand at Carver Arena on January 1 and 2.
Dave Eminian is The Journal Star’s sports columnist and covers Bradley’s men’s basketball, the Rivermens and the Chiefs. He writes the sports column Cleve In The Eve for pjstar.com. Contact him at 686-3206 or [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @icetimecleve.