MACON, Ga. – Get some name tags out, because everything is all-new for the Macon Mayhem. Due to numerous other ECHL and SPHL teams opting out last year, Macon’s roster was chock full of talent from other teams than in a usual year, it wouldn’t have.
As a result, every player from that roster was absent as training camp began. In addition, head coach Kevin Kerr stepped down in the offseason with associate head coach Ryan Michel having also departed. As a result, the Mayhem in a single offseason, through no fault of their own have gone from a record-setting team to one of which has had its slate wiped clean and now hits the reset button with new head coach Zac Desjardins, formerly an assistant with the ECHL’s Tulsa Oilers.
Last Season in Review
Record & Playoff Appearance: 32-6-4, won William B. Coffey Cup for best regular-season record in SPHL. Lost in President’s Cup Finals to Pensacola, 2-0.
Season Summary: It’s pretty simple. Last year, even in a shortened season, was everything that you could ask for as a fan of the Macon Mayhem except for being upset in the President’s Cup Finals. The Mayhem won .810 percent of their games and led the league in scoring and allowed the fewest goals. Other than losing in the finals, it was the closest thing to a dream season a team could ask for, one that for various factors will never align again.
Leading scorer: In what ended up being his final year in hockey prior to retirement, Mason Baptista was a headache for opposing goalies with 43 points (17 goals and 26 assists). He not only led the team in scoring but was also second in the SPHL in the same category.
Goals For/Against & League Rank: 134 goals for, first in SPHL; 84 goals against, first in SPHL.
PP Conv. % & League Rank: 12.9 percent, first in SPHL
PK Conv. % & League Rank: 89 percent, second in SPHL
Due to practically all of last year’s roster being gone due to either retirement or being returned to the teams that previously held their rights in SPHL and ECHL, the entire roster entering camp consists of players that were not in Macon last year. As always, there could be players that end up in Macon pending on whether or not they make the final roster in ECHL camps of which they are in.
The most experienced player in terms of SPHL experience is Joseph Drapluk. He was on the ice last May in the President’s Cup Finals…on the opposing side with the Pensacola Ice Flyers. In two combined seasons, the forward played in 51 games, having 13 points last year. On a team with a lack of experience on this level, Drapluk being able to bring that to the table will be key. Drapluk is one of three Mayhem position players on the roster entering camp with SPHL experience. The others are forwards Nigel Slade and Lane King.
Macon’s banking on experience paying off in goal, as they began camp with three goalies, two of which have SPHL experience. In fact, Michael Stiliadis is the lone player who has played for Macon, appearing in five games in 2019-20 with a 2.15 GAA. He also played in five games for Roanoke the same season. Also bringing experience is Dillon Kelley. In addition to playing for Elmira of the FPHL last year, he briefly played for Peoria in 2019-20 plus 36 games for Fayetteville the year before.
Hopefully, Macon fans took lots of photos of last year’s team, because this year’s edition will look nothing like it. Both head coach Kerr and Michel are gone, as is every player from last year’s roster. The biggest loss, both from a production and veteran leadership standpoint is Mason Baptista and his 43 points, plus the 32 points last year from Jason Tackett, 29 from Brian Bowen, and 27 of Ryan Smith.
It’s a similar tale on defense. The top three plus-minus ratings of last year belonged to the Mayhem – Casey Johnson, Nate Kallen, and Nick Minerva. None of them are on the roster entering training camp. Macon’s goalie combo from last year that was so formidable with Jake Theut and Ryan Ruck‘s GAA of 1.74 and 2.06 being second and third in the SPHL? That’s also departed with both returning to the ECHL, opening the door for new faces in the crease.
2021-22 Schedule Breakdown
The Mayhem will get to stretch their traveling legs early, playing six of their first seven contests on the road. Macon will get a long road trip to Peoria out of the way the second weekend of the season, October 22-23. As tiresome as that much travel may be, the upside is that for a team full of newcomers, traveling that much could help it grow closer together.
A four-game homestand within a range of December 4-16 will bring the Mayhem to the confines of the Macon Coliseum, enabling a chance to build home-ice advantage. The schedule tilts more toward playing at home in the second half of the season. In January, Macon has a three-game homestand from January 13-15 against Birmingham and Knoxville with five of Macon’s February games being at home with the opponents being Knoxville, Fayetteville, Huntsville, and Birmingham.
Home-ice advantage could also play in Macon’s favor toward the end of the season with the Mayhem’s final seven games being at home. Those opponents include Vermilion County, Pensacola, and Birmingham.
Top storylines for 2021-22
There’s no way to understate the fact that this team is all-new from the roster to head coach Zac Desjardins. The team’s even wearing a red-colored jersey as one of its primary threads, the first time that Macon’s jerseys have had that color design. There’s also a much-awaited new video board in place, center-hung in the middle of the Macon Coliseum. Given that, there could be some early growing pains, but look for this team to hit its stride as the season goes on the make a postseason push.
Macon has a bevy of scorers, but that experience, for the most part, is limited to the FPHL. Having experience is good, the challenge becomes translating that to the level of the SPHL. The challenge as the season starts is getting those scorers to mesh, and seeing that growth will be fun to watch as the year gets going.
Macon is targeting experience in goal to begin the season with Stiliadis and Kelley. Having goalies with experience on this level is a strong asset, so look for at least one of those goalies to be among the top half of the league in terms of GAA.
Prediction Sure to Go Right
Due to lack of experience, look for this team to take some lumps early on. By year’s end, however, Macon will either be making a postseason push or play spoiler against teams that are trying to do so.
Prediction Sure to Go Wrong
With so little experience, there’s no pressure for this team. Without that weight, Macon could hit its stride early and be among the top four, and momentum would be helped by the time Macon’s schedule picks up more games on home ice.
How will the Mayhem fare this season? Will they find themselves on the outside looking in at the playoff bracket, go deep in the playoffs, or win the President’s Cup? Let us know your thoughts.
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