MACON, Ga. – For the third season in a row, the Macon Mayhem will go into the campaign adjusting to a different face behind the bench as head coach. With the surprising coaching change from the summer that saw the team part ways with Zac Desjardins and replace him with Nick Niedert, the Mayhem look to bounce back from missing the postseason for the first time in team history last year.
2022-23 Mayhem Season Preview
Having finished next to last in the SPHL last year, there is not much else to do for the Mayhem than go up, and Macon will bank on the fact that a coach with head coaching experience can turn that tide, as Niedert held that position last season with Vermilion County in its expansion year.
Another thing Macon is banking on – a strong nucleus. The Mayhem roster was gutted last year following a COVID-season roster of many players that would’ve been in the ECHL. As a result, the roster was brand new with very little SPHL experience. That changes this year with the expected return of forwards Caleb Cameron, and Nigel Slade plus two defensemen with experience in Macon – Kyle Soper and Brian Kerrigan. The addition of David Nippard from Birmingham should also supplement the scoring punch.
Last Season in Review
Record & Playoff Appearance: 10-40-6, 26 points, missed postseason.
Season Summary: With a new coach and roster, saying that Macon took some lumps is an understatement. Macon had very little experience in the SPHL last year, and it showed time and time again.
- Leading Scorer: Zak Lambrecht, 31 points (18 goals, 13 assists)
- Goals For/Against & League Rank: 123, tenth in SPHL, 250 against, tenth in SPHL.
- Power-play conversion percentage & league rank: 14.1 percent, tenth in SPHL
- Penalty kill conversion percentage & league rank: 76.3 percent, ninth in SPHL
- This team is still young, and the addition of Nippard and his experience in the SPHL since 2019 will do nothing but help that area. More experience comes to the defensive end with Troy Murray, who played a combined 31 games last season for Pensacola and Vermilion County. Plus, Gabe Mollot-Hill, who was in Atlanta’s training camp, is also on track to see time in goal coming off a year in which he was under contract with two AHL clubs – Belleville and Laval.
- As of now, Zak Lambrecht is not on track to be with the Mayhem, and any time you lose a leading scorer, that’s a significant hole to fill and a call for someone to step up.
- Gregg Hussey, who got the second-most starts in net last year behind Michael Stiliadis has departed, so a second goalie for the rotation will be needed. Stiliadis was in Macon’s camp earlier this week, thus making him a strong candidate to be on this year’s roster.
- Last year’s captain, Joseph Drapluk, also parted ways with Macon just before the start of training camp via a trade to Peoria for future considerations. Anytime veteran leadership leaves, it’s an impact, but with the core group Macon has, the task now becomes for them to step up.
2022-23 Schedule Breakdown
The Mayhem gets the advantage of having a chance to build momentum early, playing eight times on home ice in the first 13 games, including opening night on October 21 against Huntsville. It’s even more home-friendly in December, with all but two games at home. Macon fans should enjoy those home dates because, in January and February, the Mayhem are home just three times.
For that reason, building team chemistry will be key going into those two months, because if a team is to weather a grueling time on the road, having a good internal bond is crucial. February 17-19 will also mark Macon’s first foray into the northern arc of the league when it goes to Peoria.
If Macon can survive those two months, it’ll be in a good place in March with two three-game weekend homestands coming their way. Suffice it to say, January and February could make to break the season.
Top Storylines For 2022-23
First, it’s behind the bench. Nick Niedert, whose pro career began as a goalie in Macon with the Macon Trax, is head coach. Like his players, he’s also eager to put last year behind him when he was saddled with an expansion roster in Vermilion County. In more ways than one, this year is a fresh reset in Macon.
Macon has a nucleus that endured a tough season last year with guys like Cameron and Kerrigan. Did that experience bond those returning players closer and develop locker-room leaders? We’ll see.
Who’ll step up? As of now, it looks like Macon’s top three scorers will not be back. That’ll be a challenge for fans looking to remember names early this year, but it also opens the door for returners to take that mantle or for a newcomer to do so.
Prediction Sure To Go Right
Macon won just ten games last year. With a stronger core back, there’s no reason that the total cannot double.
Prediction Sure To Go Wrong
As we saw last year, the SPHL standings are tight up and down. For that reason, Macon will take some lumps early but, in the end, finish sixth in the standings and, of course, return to the playoffs.
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