MACON, Ga. – The first full month of the SPHL season is nearly complete, and there’s no shortage of things of which to talk about. Here’s the latest SPHL Rundown.
Friday, Jan. 22
Knoxville 5, Pensacola 4
Birmingham 8, Huntsville 7
Saturday, Jan. 23
Pensacola 3, Knoxville 1
Huntsville 5, Birmingham 4
Three Stars Of The Week
⭐ Brady Fleurent, Knoxville. Needed just 28 minutes to register a hat trick in Friday’s 5-4 win against Pensacola.
⭐⭐ Mike Davis, Birmingham. In a span of three games, the veteran registered three goals and two assists, helping the Bulls split with Huntsville.
⭐⭐⭐ Eddie Matsushima, Pensacola. Was a widespread presence in the attacking zone for the Ice Flyers in Saturday’s 3-1 win against Knoxville with a goal and two assists.
Around the league…
Rising Back Up
Pensacola found a great way to bounce back and also snap a four-game losing streak – scoring early and riding the advantage to a Saturday victory. A night after losing 5-4 to Knoxville, the Ice Flyers struck first on a goal by Eddie Matsushima and let goalie Chase Perry do the rest as he stopped all but one of the 28 shots he faced, holding the Ice Bears scoreless for the game’s first 50 minutes.
It’s How You Finish
Sometimes, it’s about survival. That was the story of Friday’s win for Knoxville against Pensacola. The good news? The Ice Bears led 3-0. The bad? That lead was squandered as Pensacola rallied to tie the score. In the end, Nick Master was the one with the clutch performance, netting a game-winner with 33 seconds left.
Stewart Logging Miles
Hayden Stewart is quickly becoming one of the more traveled goalies in the SPHL. With Hayden Lavigne being loaned to Wichita in the SPHL, Birmingham needed a goalie. That’s where Hayden Stewart, who played in one game for Knoxville this season before being waived, coming to town as to join Austin Lotz as the Bulls goalie tandem. Overall, this is three teams on two years for Stewart, who also played for Macon last year.
Mayhem Weathering Delay, Call Ups
Macon is scheduled to play Knoxville on Thursday. It’d be the Mayhem’s first game in 20 days due to multiple games being altered on the schedule due to league safety protocols. Despite the unplanned break in the action, there’s been plenty of players arriving on and off the Macon roster. A pair of highly proven scorers are among the recent arrivals that’ll likely be eager to take the ice on Thursday. Max Cook, with 227 games of experience in the SPHL with four teams, will make his Mayhem debut. An even bigger scoring punch arrives with the signing of Mason Baptista. He has 300 games of pro experience, all in the ECHL. Last season, he played for now Macon head coach Kevin Kerr in Greenville, having a 40-point season, the second-best season total of his career.
Forwards Dean Balsamo and Ryan Smith are back with the team after brief call ups to Tulsa in the ECHL with Nick Minverva remaining with Tulsa and forward Brian Bowen on the 30-day IR. Bowen’s absence is a significant loss, but it should be absorbed with the return of Smith and Balsamo and the arrival of Cook and Baptista. Paul Meyer has also departed, going to South Carolina via loan.
Bulls Show Lots of Fight
Much can be discovered about a team during adversity. So what was learned last Friday about the Birmingham Bulls? It’s a team with plenty of scoring punch to show off. At 1:26 into the second period, they trailed 4-0. To the casual observer, it was all but over. Trouble is, nobody told the Birmingham bench. Even after CJ Hayes got the Bulls on the board, the Havoc answered to lead 5-1. All Birmingham did was keep the pressure on, trailing 5-4 going into the third and needing less than 3:30 to tie it all up on goals by Logan Nelson and Mike Davis before the Bulls pulled in front to win 8-5.
Balancing Youth and Experience
As the season started in Huntsville, the Havoc knew that they’d have returning experience by way of Nutkevitch, Rob Darrar and Tyler Piacentini. The x-factor, however, can be how new faces will mesh in. The answer to that so far? Quite well. Newcomers Mathieu Newcomb and Isaac Johnson have settled in nicely, as well, being among the team’s top-five scorers. Johnson has a point in all but one game this year and Newcomb is riding a seven-game point streak.
Stat of the Week
94 – Percentage of power plays killed off by Knoxville through seven games with one goal being allowed.
“It’s been a crazy, crazy year, so far.” – Macon head coach Kevin Kerr on the Down South – SPHL Podcast
Thursday, Jan. 28
Macon at Knoxville, 7:35 p.m. ET
Friday, Jan. 29
Knoxville at Huntsville, 7 p.m. CT
Birmingham at Pensacola, 7:35 p.m. CT
Saturday, Jan. 30
Birmingham at Huntsville, 7 p.m. CT
Macon at Pensacola, 7:05 p.m. CT
Brad Harrison is the SPHL editor and covers the Macon Mayhem for The Sin Bin. Follow and interact with him on Twitter @SinBinMayhem!
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