MACON, Ga. – A week or two ago, the question was how the league’s top two teams would fare without two goalies that have arguably been the league’s best all year long.
That’s no longer a factor as both Macon’s Jake Theut and Knoxville’s Austyn Roudebush have returned from their call-ups to the ECHL. Theut was back in Macon in time for Saturday’s win against Birmingham with Roudebush returning to the Ice Bears on Thursday.
That makes both teams even more formidable with inside a month left in the regular season. Toss in Birmingham getting Hayden Stewart back from the AHL, and the goaltending roster in the SPHL just became a bit more robust.
Roudy’s back in town baby?
(G) Austyn Roudebush has returned from his call up to ECHL Tulsa!
Welcome back, Austyn! pic.twitter.com/OkD48F7XdU
— Knoxville Ice Bears (@icebears) April 7, 2021
Macon (21-5-4, 46 points) holds a two-point lead ahead of Knoxville (21-10-2, 44 points). Both have clinched postseason spots with Huntsville, Pensacola, and Birmingham jockeying for position.
Here’s more on the playoff race….
Chasing The Coffey Cup
- Record: 21-5-4, 46 points
- Playoff status: Clinched postseason berth, leads standings by two points
- Recent results: Beat Huntsville 2-1, lost to Knoxville 4-2, beat Birmingham 5-2
- Next: Host Pensacola on Thursday and Friday, play at Huntsville on Saturday
- Record: 21-1–2, 44 points
- Playoff status: Clinched postseason berth, trails first place by two points
- Recent results: Beat Macon 4-2, lost to Huntsville 4-3 and 5-3.
- Next: at Huntsville on Friday and at Birmingham on Saturday
- Record: 15-15-1, 31 points
- Playoff status: Seven points ahead of fifth place
- Recent results: Lost 2-1 to Macon, beat Knoxville 4-3, and 5-3
- Next: at Birmingham on Thursday, host Knoxville and Macon on Friday and Saturday
- Record: 13-13-5, 31 points
- Playoff status: Seven points ahead of fifth place
- Recent results: Beat Birmingham 9-1, lost to Birmingham 3-2
- Next: at Macon on Friday and Saturday
- Record: 9-18-6, 24 points
- Playoff status: Seven points out of final playoff spot
- Recent results: Lost 9-1 to Pensacola, beat Pensacola 3-2, lost 5-2 to Macon.
- Next: Host Huntsville on Thursday and Knoxville on Saturday
Stars of the Week
⭐ Mathieu Roy, Knoxville – He’s a big reason for the Ice Bears being within striking distance of first place. In three games, he had two goals, one being a game-winner, to go with three assists. That game-winner, by the way, was on Friday against Macon.
⭐⭐ Jason Tackett, Macon – Put together a five-point weekend that included a pair of goals.
⭐⭐⭐ Max Milosek, Huntsville – Posted a 2.49 GAA, going 1-1-0 overall.
? #TSBGameweek ? Its another busy week of games on the Sin Bin app! Download the app now on the Apple App Store or Google Play Store so you don't miss the packed week of minor league hockey!
⠀#ECHL #SPHL #TSB #hockey pic.twitter.com/acKA8LZhg2
— Field Pass Hockey (@FieldPassHockey) April 5, 2021
Around the SPHL …
Mayhem, UGA Hockey teaming up
The SPHL won’t be the only hockey being played the next two weekends in the Macon Coliseum. The Mayhem will host the Southern Soul Showdown the next two weekends, hosting additional contests between club hockey teams from multiple SEC schools.
? Mayhem Announce Southern Soul Showdown with UGA Hockey
— Macon Mayhem (@MaconMayhem) April 2, 2021
Friday’s game against Pensacola will now start at 6 p.m. with Georgia and Tennessee playing at 9 p.m. Georgia and Tennessee will play again on Saturday at 7:30 p.m. Next weekend, the Mayhem and Ice Flyers will again play at 6 p.m. prior to Georgia and Auburn at 9 p.m. On April 17, Georgia and Auburn play at 3 p.m. prior to the 6:30 p.m. contest between Macon and Huntsville.
Bulls stemming the tide?
If Birmingham is to make a run at a postseason spot, a shot in the arm is critical. If it does indeed make a run, last week could be pointed to as a turning point.
Going into Friday night, most casual observers would have counted the Bulls out. Here they were, coming off a 9-1 loss the night before to Pensacola, their seventh loss in a row. Playing those same Ice Flyers, Birmingham showed some grit. After scoring the game’s first goal, the Bulls rallied from a 2-1 deficit to force overtime where the Bulls won it thanks to a pair of shootout goals by Jacob Smith and one from Logan Nelson.
The Bulls may or may not make the postseason, but Friday showed that they won’t be pushovers.
Berardinelli key part of Havoc’s surge
While Macon and Knoxville have been the upper crust of the league in recent weeks, it’s early to cement them in as shoe-ins to play of a title. That’s because regardless of a regular season, Huntsville is still the two-time defending champion, and the Havoc are showing signs of hitting their usual late-season roll.
Huntsville has won four out of seven, plus two in a row against Knoxville. A key part of that effort has been Alex Berardinelli. He has three goals in his past three games.
Still plenty of scoring punch for Ice Bears
Knoxville likely feels good on one hand with Roudebush’s return from the ECHL. It should also feel good that despite a home-ice winning streak ending last weekend, the Ice Bears made it highly interesting. Sure, Knoxville lost 4-3 in overtime to Huntsville, but not before a furious rally from being down 3-1 at the game’s midpoint to tie it before the second intermission on goals by Mathieu Roy and Jacob Benson.
This team can score goals and do so in a short time window. And with Roudebush back from the ECHL, the Ice Bears remain a tough team to contend with.
Beware the shorthanded scoring threat in Pensacola
Teams would be well-served not to assume that a power play will always equate to keeping the Ice Flyers off the board. A bright spot in Pensacola’s loss last week to Birmingham was Eddie Matsushima’s short-handed goal, his first of the year, best of anyone in the SPHL. Matsuhima has 25 points on the year, tied for second on the team with Darren McCormick.
— Field Pass Hockey (@FieldPassHockey) April 7, 2021
Mayhem strong in latter stages
It’s safe to say that the Macon Mayhem are a third-period team. While the Mayhem rank next to last in goals scored in the first and second periods, the same does not hold true in the third period, where with 38 goals the Mayhem lead the league. Macon also trails Knoxville in goals allowed in the final period with 23, one behind that of the Ice Bears.
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