MACON, Ga – The end result of Saturday night had been building in recent games for the Macon Mayhem, albeit coming without the tangible victory.
Saturday night, however, the fruits of labor that had in recent games come in spurts came together for the Mayhem, which scored twice within to final two minutes to rally back and win 3-2 for Macon’s first win of the season as well as the first head coaching victory for Mayhem head coach Zac Desjardins.
“It does so much more than, ‘hey, we got a win.’ It’s confidence,” Desjardins said. “They’ve got a great team over there, so for our guys to use our speed and size to our advantage, that’s great.”
Curtis Hansen’s goal 18:17 into the third period tied it, getting the shot past Thunderbolts goalie Kai Edmonds. For the moment, it appeared that the game was headed for overtime with the Mayhem getting, at minimum, a point in the standings. But Kyle Soper, who along with Chase Dibari assisted on Hansen’s goal, prevented that, scoring with 42 seconds to play with Devin Brink and Brendan Hussey assisting.
“They gave me a nice lane to walk right in,” Soper said. “I took a shot, it went over the net, hit the glass, got a lucky bounce and it went to my stick and I just found a way to get it past the goalie.”
Macon’s roster, one that is void of substantial SPHL experience prior to this season save for a few players, goes into Thursday’s game at Birmingham and Friday and Saturday’s home and home with Pensacola with a strong wind of confidence, a critical element as the Mayhem are still working to gel.
Night’s like Saturday certainly help. It came after two major steps forward in the past week. On Wednesday in Pensacola, Macon trailed 4-1 before a furious pulled Macon to being down 5-4 before losing 6-4. Then, on Friday, a low-scoring game went against Macon in a 2-0 loss to Evansville.
On Saturday, after having games in which Macon had played fairly well for a period only to have the rest of the game go south, the Mayhem put three full periods together, and the result was a victory in front of a spirited home crowd.
“That’s what we preach in the locker room, just character and staying with it,” Desjardins said. “The guys were just tired of losing, (Saturday), it was just about stepping up.”
As far as parity goes, it did not get much more even than on Saturday between Macon and Evansville with the Thunderbolts holding a 33-31 shots-on-goal edge. The equal side-by-side showed in the first period, too. After a scoreless first period, Evansville’s Zane Jones broke the scoring stalemate as a loose puck in front of the net was knocked past Macon goalie Dillon Kelley 5:17 into the second.
The Mayhem needed just 11 seconds to get an equalizer, and magnified the importance of winning every play. On the faceoff from the right circle on the Evansville end following a media timeout, Devin Brink quickly slapped the puck from the circle toward the net, and the Thunderbolts Kai Edmonds couldn’t stop the shot, tying the score at 1-1 5:28 into the second period.
Macon got the best of Edmonds on Saturday, who the night before had blanked the Mayhem. Edmonds stopped 31 of 33 shots in Saturday’s content.
Evansville got back out front 15:07 into the second with Josh Adkins feeding the puck to Austin Plevy for a 2-1 lead. giving the Thunderbolts the advantage going into the final period.
Trailing by a goal, Macon had a golden chance to tie the score 9:04 into the third period with the Thunderbolts Hayden Hulton being whistled for a double-minor high-sticking. But with Macon unable to score as well as Soper being called for hooking in the final seconds of the man advantage, the Mayhem came up empty.
The Mayhem, for their part, killed off the Thunderbolts penalty in which both teams were a combined 5-for-5 on the penalty key, setting up the final minutes of the contest where Macon would prevail.
Kelley stopped 29 of the 31 shots that he faced, getting his first win of the season.
“It’s huge just for confidence, knowing we can get a W against a solid team like Evansville,” Soper said.
Macon is at Birmingham Thursday and at Pensacola on Friday before hosting the Ice Flyers on Saturday. Evansville visits Huntsville Friday and hosts Birmingham on Saturday.
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