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Macon Mayhem

Macon Mayhem

Special teams loom heavy as Ice Bears top Mayhem

Special teams loom heavy as Ice Bears top Mayhem

MACON, Ga. – Special teams were a fickle thing for the Macon Mayhem on Saturday against Knoxville. While a pair of short-handed goals helped Macon get back in it and energize the home crowd at the Macon Coliseum, Knoxville being able to seize on power-play chances and net a short-handed score of its own ended up being a difference-maker as a pair of Justin MacDonald power-play goals in the second period helped Knoxville to a 5-3 win.

Saturday’s turn of events on special teams were hardly anything new for Macon. The Mayhem rate third in the SPHL in power-play opportunities and penalty minutes while ranking ninth in short-handed goals scored. Macon’s average of 25.56 penalty minutes per game leads the league, as does its 68 minor penalty minutes.

“You look at our standings, the funny thing is, we have the most time shorthanded in the league and the least amount of power play opportunities outside of the one team. “How the (heck) does that happen?” Mayhem head coach Nick Niedert said.  “We’re tied for the league lead in shorthanded goals, I would hope so. We’ve been shorthanded 48 times in nine games, and some of those are lengthy amounts of times. The guys battled, but we still shot ourselves in the foot.”

Thanks to the penalty box being a revolving door, mostly in the second period, Knoxville had plenty of chances with the Mayhem being whistled for 34 penalty minutes, 28 alone in the second period. And one way or another, a Knoxville penalty ended up resulting in pucks getting past both goalies.

In the first period, with Macon down 1-0 after Knoxville’s Cameron Hough had made it 1-0, a Matt Stoia hooking penalty put the Mayhem on the penalty kill. But Rhett Kingston reversed those fortunes, snagging a loose puck near the neutral zone and skating into the Ice Bears zone, beating Kristian Stead to tie the game 1-1 13:24 into the contest. Knoxville countered, going up 2-1 on a Rex Moe goal at 16:19 0f the opening period as his shot beat Tom Aubrun on the blocker side.

It took just 40 seconds for the second period to be defined by penalties, a 20-minute frame in which both teams combined for 28 penalty minutes alone. Just 40 seconds into the second, Macon’s David Nippard and Knoxville’s Elliott St. Pierre’s fracas resulted in five-minute fighting penalties, but also draw two-minute minors –  Nippard for high sticking and Caleb Cameron for roughing, making for a one-side span in terms of penalties. Knoxville took advantage of the initial 5-on-3, going up 3-1 in MacDonald’s first power-play goal.

A later penalty turned the special teams’ tables, as Timothy Faulkner’s roughing penalty at 2:09 led to Cameron scoring shorthanded with assists from Nick Klishko and Wyatt Trumbley.

But another ill-timed penalty would hurt the Mayhem. A high sticking penalty to Troy Murray at 7:59 was answered by MacDonald’s second power-play marker of the night, making it 4-2 8:07 into the second.

The Mayhem, who on the night drew even in shots with the Ice Bears with 39 shots a piece, pulled back within a goal, down 4-3 10:57 into the second thanks to Colton Fletcher. But special teams would again loom, this time with Knoxville scoring shorthanded with Cole McKechney getting on the board to end the second that’d precede a scoreless third period on both sides.

“Our effort was there, they battled through a lot of stuff,” Niedert said. “The compete was there and I loved it. They didn’t back down, they did a heck of a job.”

Macon is 1-7-1 on the season with three points, two points behind Vermilion County.

“Our record says one thing, but the guys are doing their part,” Niedert said. “We’ve got the right group, we’ll get there.”

Both Macon and Knoxville return to action Wednesday as Macon goes to Fayetteville and Knoxville visits Roanoke. The Mayhem host Fayetteville next Saturday.

Download the Field Pass Hockey app from the iTunes or Google Play stores or follow @FieldPassHockey on Twitter for the latest news on the AHL, ECHL, and SPHL throughout the 2022 season!

    Brad Harrison covers the Macon Mayhem for Field Pass Hockey. Follow and interact with him on Twitter @FPHMayhem.

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