MACON, Ga – The Macon Mayhem capped their weekend having continued to do what any team chasing a regular-season points title needs to do in the final month. Keeping the pressure on.
After a 5-0 win against Pensacola on Thursday, the next two nights brought more of the same for Macon, winning 9-3 on Friday against the Ice Flyers before taking a 3-1 road win at Pensacola.
Macon has now won four in a row and goes to Knoxville on Tuesday night in a battle of the top two teams in the league.
The Mayhem (24-5-4, 52 points) now hold a seven-point lead ahead of the Ice Bears (21-11-3, 45 points) for first place after Knoxville’s 4-2 loss to Birmingham on Friday.
In Friday’s win against Pensacola, the Mayhem did not take a team they had beaten the night before for granted. By the time the buzzer sounded, Macon led 4-1 and Gabe Guertler had pulled off a ‘Gordie Howe Hat Trick.” Unfortunately for Pensacola, that buzzer came at the end of the first period following two Mayhem goals from Guertler and one each from Brian Bowen, who opened the scoring 7:14 into the contest and Dean Balsamo.
The scoring barrage also led Pensacola head coach Rod Aldoff to eventually replace his goalie mid-game for the second time in as many games. This time it was Jack Berry being replaced some 25 minutes into the game by Jake Kupsky a night after Berry came on to relieve Kupsky.
Jason Tackett and Balsamo lit the lamp 25 seconds apart in the second prior to Nick Minerva getting on the board 17:09 into the second for a commanding 7-1 advantage.
Logan Coomes needed just 1:41 into the third period to score unassisted before Tackett’s score with just more than five minutes left set the final score.
Jake Theut got the win in goal for the second night in a row, stopping 19 out of 22 shots.
A night later on Saturday in Huntsville, it was Ryan Ruck’s turn to shut down the opposition.
As one-sided as the first two games of the weekend ended up being, Saturday night in Rocket City was all kinds of nip and tuck.
Both teams matched one another on special teams from the start, trading power-play goals. Macon defenseman Matt Stief got the puck past Havoc goalie Max Milosek for a 1-0 lead with assists from Guertler and Ryan Smith just 5:07 into the game, Huntsville got even with a power-play goal of its own less than three minutes later courtesy of Sy Nutkevitch with Tyler Piacentini and Alex Beradinelli assisting.
With both goalies making the sledding tough for both offenses, Jimmy Soper’s score 14:32 into the second ended up being the difference-maker as Paul Meyer and Nate Kallen assisted. In a testament to how even the game was, shots on goal were equal on both sides at 35.
Mason Baptista added an empty-net goal, keeping him among the league’s top three in scoring and goals scored.
Also in the SPHL
With Pensacola’s two losses to Macon, the door was flung open for Birmingham to make up ground toward fourth place in the standings. The Bulls did just that. With a pair of third-period goals from Jacob Smith and Cameron Strong, Birmingham knocked off second-place Knoxville, 4-2. The Bulls (10-18-7, 27 points) trailed Pensacola (13-15-5, 31 points) by four points.
The Ice Bears, who fell 6-5 in a shootout to Huntsville on Friday, have now lost four in a row, having gained one point in their previous four games.
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