By Dave Eminian
Of The Journal Star
PEORIA, Ill. – Jason Christie made it to the pinnacle, while the rest of the Peoria Rivermen continued to climb back into the North Division race in an historic ECHL game Friday at Carver Arena.
The Rivermen raced to their eighth victory in 11 games, beating North Division powerhouse Atlantic City, 4-1, before 4,486 to give Christie the 210th victory of his coaching career.
That gave him the coaching victories record for the 23-year Peoria franchise, surpassing Rivermen Hall of Famer and ECHL commissioner emeritus Pat Kelly’s 209. Kelly has 1,900 career games and 935 wins to rank second all-time among professional coaches, trailing only Scotty Bowman, who has 2,571 games and 1,511 wins.
Christie, still in the tunnel outside the Rivermen locker room seconds after the game, was guided back onto the ice by his players, who followed after him to join the crowd in an emotional curtain call for the fifth-year coach.
With house lights dimmed and bathed in a spotlight, Christie waved to the crowd as his players circled him and applauded, then, back under the grandstand, filed past one-by-one with congratulations, the coach clutching the game puck in a moment that left him with eyes welling.
“You don’t think about chasing a record, so all of a sudden it happens and it’s so emotional,” Christie said. “A lot of the guys on that ice tonight were part of every single one of those wins. They are the ones who took the stitches, the bruises, did the work.
“Some time this summer I’ll celebrate it, think about. But right now it’s overwhelming, and we have so much more to do, such a mountain left to climb in this race.”