MACON, Ga. – Three ties, a multi-goal comeback, a 5-on-3 penalty kill, and even overtime.
Sunday afternoon’s game between Macon and Pensacola had a bit of everything.
In the end, the Ice Flyers John DeRoche netted the overtime power-play goal that ended up being the difference-maker, as the puck evaded the reach of Macon goalie Josh Benson.
It forced the Mayhem to settle for a three-point weekend following Saturday’s 4-2 win against Fayetteville. Now 2-8-2 with six points, Macon is tenth in the SPHL standings, seven behind ninth-place Fayetteville. It’s the most number of points gained by the Mayhem in a two-game stretch so far this season.
Don’t mistake the Mayhem. They’re happy with the big-picture result of three of four possible points. But there’s also a feeling of knowing that their on-ice play could be better, a clear departure from being hopeful to win to expecting to win. Macon’s head coach said as much following Sunday’s OT loss.
“I’m happy with the end result, three out of four points. But I’m heated with how we got there. But when we have three out of four in a weekend, and I’m ticked, that’s good. To be ticked about it, that’s great,” Mayhem head coach Nick Niedert said. “If you told me a week ago we’d be getting three of four points and I’d be fuming, I’d say you’re full of (crap). That’s a good thing because it means our expectations are higher, and we expect to win games.”
Macon got goals from five different players on Sunday, with scores by Connor Graham, Aaron Aragon, Rhett Kingston, Colton Fletcher, and CJ Hayes. Liam Blackburn and Timothy Faulkner each had two assists.
As for Pensacola, it capped a stretch of four games in five days, two of which were one-goal losses. Sunday’s goals came from Steven Leonard, Jordan Henderson, Mitch Atkins, Ryan Orgel, Seth Ensor, and DeRoche.
“We made some mistakes, let some easy ones get in, and they did a great job of fighting and getting back in it,” Ice Flyers head coach Rod Aldolff said.
Macon played the role of aggressor early on, scoring three times in 1:16 on goals by Graham, Aragon, and Kingston. The first two of those goals resulted in Pensacola goalie Henry Johnson, who got the start in net, being pulled in favor of Christian Pavlas, who quickly surrendered the game’s third goal at the 11:29 mark of the first period. Pavlas would settle in, stopping 13 out of 15 shots while Benson, his counterpart, saved 38 out of 44.
The Ice Flyers would rally back with an early scoring burst of their own as goals by Leonard, Henderson, and Atkins in the final seven minutes knotted things at 3-3 after a period.
Twice more on Sunday, Pensacola pulled in front. And on each occasion, the Mayhem rallied back to tie it.
The scoring deficit wasn’t the only hill Macon fought on Sunday. Time in the penalty box also played a role, with the Mayhem serving 19 penalty minutes to the eight of Pensacola.
“If I was a box score coach, I’d be like, ‘oh, they outshot Macon.’ No crap, they had 19 minutes of power-play time,” Niedert said. “You look at it and think, ‘oh, they take too many penalties,’ but anyone who watched the game knows the truth.”
Macon’s penalty kill unit had its shining moments on Sunday, notably killing off a 5-on-3, but being down a man played a role eventually, both in the overtime game-winner and in the second period when a too many men on the ice penalty resulted in a 4-3 Ice Flyers lead via a goal by Orgel 10:41 into the second.
“Our PK is pretty darn good. Your PK is only as good as your effort and goaltending, and that’s been good for us,” Niedert said. “We killed off a full 5-on-3 in the third. But when you’re killing it off with 8 of your 16 guys dressed, it’s hard.”
Another look at Ryan Orgel's second goal this year.
PEN 4 | MAC 4 pic.twitter.com/WdJk2k1b2s
— Pensacola Ice Flyers (@PcolaIceFlyers) November 27, 2022
Fletcher got Macon back even, as his rush toward the net resulted in him slapping the puck past Pavlas for the game-tying goal 16:50 into the second, sending the game into a 4-4 tie headed to the second intermission.
Macon found itself hamstrung in making a run at the lead to begin that third period. After a five-minute major penalty to David Nippard for boarding late in the second, an interference penalty to Kyle Soper and roughing to Malcolm Hayes at 4:19 and 4:28 set the Ice Flyers up for a 5-on-3 that the Mayhem killed off. Pensacola would eventually break through, going up 5-4 when Ensor knocked a loose puck barely out of the reach of Benson at 14:20 of the third. Macon fought back again, tying it 5-5 at 16:26, thanks to CJ Hayes.
With the game headed toward overtime, odds of a late push by the Mayhem were quenched when Fletcher was tagged for holding at 18:55, a penalty that carried over into overtime, where Pensacola won it.
A Hard Battle was Fought#BattleEVeryShift pic.twitter.com/DxaWyewii0
— Macon Mayhem (@MaconMayhem) November 27, 2022
“It’s our fifth game in five nights, and we’re shorthanded,” Aldoff said. “It wasn’t pretty, giving up that goal late off a guy just falling, but give them credit, kept it strong and got it done in overtime.”
Pensacola hosts Huntsville on Friday and Macon plays at Birmingham on Friday, as well. After that, the Mayhem play Fayetteville Dec. 9, starting a six-game homestand.
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