The Peoria Rivermen have folded their Aces and will instead try their hand with the ECHL expansion Evansville IceMen.
Peoria and parent club St. Louis have signed a one-year deal to make Evansville the class-AA farm team of the Rivermen, replacing the Alaska Aces in that role.
The Rivermen used Alaska as their farm club throughout their AHL era in a relationship that produced a head coach for Peoria and St. Louis and a championship for Alaska.
But the Rivermen gradually reduced their presence with Alaska over the last few seasons, opting instead to work around travel time and cost by bringing in players from other ECHL teams when needed in the AHL.
"We had a great relationship with Alaska, from (coaches) Davis Payne to Brent Thompson and players, but the relationship has changed over the years," Blues assistant general manager and Rivermen GM Kevin McDonald said. "We went from 5 or 6 players assigned there and coaches coming in to our AHL training camp, to something that became less interactive over time.
"It has always been our intention to find an ECHL affiliate with proximity to Peoria, and this is a situation that presented itself in the right time and place.
"Now when the Rivermen are in a three-and-three game weekend and we need a guy to come in and play that middle game, we can reach to Evansville and bring him in. And our St. Louis staff can make the same drive to Evansville to see our guys there that they make all the time to Peoria.
"It's going to be a good setup for us in Evansville, and they could see as many as five players coming down from Peoria if there is an NHL lockout."
McDonald said agreement includes a mutual option for a second season.
In a non-lockout scenario, he projects the Rivermen will assign 1-4 players with Evansville, which also will serve as AHL Springfield's class-AA farm.
RIVER READINGS: Evansville and Fort Wayne moved up from the class-A CHL to the ECHL for the 2012-13 season. ... Evansville's head coach is ex-New York Islanders' Rich Kromm. ... The IceMen will play in the Ford Center, a 9,400-seat, $127 million arena that opened last fall. ... Evansville winger Tyler Shelast will have an invite to the Rivermen AHL camp. Evansville will also send a defenseman, to be determined, to Peoria's camp. ... Former Blues draft pick Trevor Nill -- the son of Red Wings assistant GM Jim Nill -- will be in Peoria's camp. ... Evansville is about a 4 1/2-hour drive from Peoria. Both Peoria and Evansville are about 170 miles from St. Louis.
BUS TRIP TO INDIANA!!!