HUNTSVILLE, Ala. – The number two seeded Huntsville Havoc will face off against the seventh-seeded Evansville Thunderbolts in round one of the 2022 SPHL Presidents Cup Playoffs.
Huntsville is coming into the playoffs hot. They shut out the Birmingham Bulls 7-0 on the final Friday of the regular season and then came from behind to win 4-2 on Saturday night. In the Havoc’s last ten games, they went 6-4, losing the four games in a row to the Roanoke and Fayetteville before facing Birmingham on the final weekend.
Evansville’s record down the final stretch is almost a mirror image of Huntsville’s, with them going 5-4-1. They closed out the season, losing twice to the Knoxville Ice Bears with an overtime heartbreaker on Saturday night.
This is Evansville’s second playoff appearance since joining the league back in 2016. They lost in the first round that season 2-1 to the Macon Mayhem.
The Havoc went on to win the President’s Cup Trophy that season which was the first of back-to-back championships for the franchise. This is the Havoc’s 14th playoff appearance in the storied franchise’s history. They have made the finals four times, winning the President’s Cup in 2010, 2018 & 2019
Final Regular Season Records:
Huntsville Havoc: 41-13-1-1, 84 points (2nd in SPHL)
Evansville Thunderbolts: 28-26-2, 58 points (7th in SPHL)
Series Schedule (Home team in CAPS and all times local):
Game 1 – Thursday, April 14 at HUNTSVILLE – 7:00 pm CDT
Game 2 – Saturday, April 16 vs. EVANSVILLE – 7:00 pm CDT (at Swonder Ice Arena)
*Game 3 – Sunday, April 17 at HUNTSVILLE – 7:00 pm CDT
* => If Necessary
Season Series Recap:
The two teams had not faced each other since January 28th, when the Havoc traveled to the Ford Center and fell 3-1 to the Thunderbolts. Despite the loss, the Havoc took the season series 3-1-1. The only other time the Thunderbolts were able to get a win came in an overtime thriller back on December 3rd. It was Huntsville’s second loss of the season that featured a record-breaking start with 12 wins in a row.
Jacob Barber and Tyler Piacentini have been the key to Huntsville’s success over the Thunderbolts. Both players posted five points in the season series. Piacentini put up two goals ad three assists, while Barber scored four goals and an assist. Three of Barber’s goals came on January 6th in the 5-1 victory over Evansville.
Josh Adkins led Evansville in goals against the Havoc with two on the Thunderbolt side, and Austin Plevy led the team in scoring with three points (1 goal, 2 assists).
How Huntsville Wins:
Hunter Vorva just capped off an amazing season in net for the Havoc posting a 1.93 goals-against average and a .934 save percentage. For Huntsville to win this series, the solid goaltending needs to remain the same. In addition to that, the team’s top scorers ( Sy Nutkevitch, Barber, Rob Darrar, Piacentini) need to capitalize on the fact that Evansville will be playing this series without Brian Billett. He was placed on season-ending IR ahead of the playoffs. Both teams are in the bottom three of penalty minutes, but if a power play does present itself, it will have to be better than the 16.8% power play efficiency the Havoc posted in the regular season. Lastly, they need to play the way they have the majority of the season. This team has been sitting at the standings all year and capped off the season in dominating fashion, and they can not revert back to the way they played against Roanoke and Fayetteville late in the season.
How Evansville Wins:
Evansville’s top players need to produce offense. Plevy, Cameron Cook, Josh Adkins, and Mike Ferraro need to find a way to get pucks past Vorva. This season, the team has struggled to score against Huntsville, being shut out once and held to only one goal in two other contests. The Havoc can turn any little mistake into a breakaway in the other direction, so puck control in the offensive zone will also be critical.
With Billett out for the playoffs, Chris Janzen has his work cut out for him. This season, Janzen has played in six games, going 2-3-1 with a .896 save percentage. He will have to be better than that to keep the Thunderbolts in games. It’s not all just on Janzen though, the defense in front of him will have to shut down the high-scoring forwards on the Havoc’s top line.
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