MACON, Ga. – The Macon Mayhem’s postseason hopes may be nonexistent in the final weeks of the SPHL season, but Macon is bound and determined to make things hard on teams in search of a higher postseason seed of home ice in the President’s Cup Playoffs.
The Mayhem came into Friday’s game against Birmingham having won three of their past five, and that recent trend continued as Macon dug in physically, leading 3-1 late in the second period before a quick answer by the Bulls on an unassisted goal by Joe Colatarci started a Bulls comeback that ended with Troy MacTavish’s game-winner in overtime for Birmingham in a 4-3 victory.
“There will never be an issue with this team’s effort. It’s always there, our leaders keep us going and do a great job, and it shows. We are not easy to play against,” Mayhem head coach Nick Niedert said. “It’s not like we’re playing bad teams, we’re playing the gauntlet right now.”
The Bulls’ comeback, combined with Peoria’s loss to Roanoke on Friday, tied the Bulls for first place in the SPHL standings. Macon will again try to play the role of spoiler when the two teams meet Saturday in Macon as the Mayhem will rebrand for the evening as the Macon Trax, the franchise that called Macon home from 2002 to 2005.
Macon appeared to be on track and on the way to the win 16:53 into the third period when Rhett Kingston took advantage of the Mayhem playing the puck along the left boards and found a seam to fire the puck past Birmingham goalie Austin Lotz for a 3-1 lead.
As jolting as the score was for Macon, Birmingham derailed that energy quickly, needing ten seconds to draw to within a goal on Colartarci’s unassisted goal.
“A bad goal against caught us sleeping for ten seconds,” Niedert said. “You can’t give up a goal like that, we can’t get scored on after a goal like that. That cannot happen.”
The Bulls’ goal helped lead to a third period where their offensive play took control in more ways than one, controlling the offensive flow and outshooting Macon in the final 20 minutes of regulation, 12-8. The offensive flexing tied the game 3:12 into the third thanks to Scott Donahue, getting the puck by Macon goalie Ben Churchfield, who stopped 30-of-34 shots. Lotz stopped 28 of the 31 shots he faced, blanking Macon over the final 23-plus minutes of regulation.
“We go up, end of the third, up 3-2, and we gave them chances to win,” Niedert said. “They outshot us and had more scoring chances. We sat back and didn’t play to win. That’s what’s most frustrating.”
Macon got to Lotz early, first from Caleb Cameron 6:18 into the first period and then in the second when Aaron Aragon’s shot from out in front of the net got by Lotz on a power-play goal at 9:44 of the second.
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