MACON, Ga. – With a look ahead and a glance in the rear-view mirror, here’s this week’s rundown from within the SPHL.
The season, with five teams having opted out, got underway over the weekend with both Pensacola and Huntsville rallying for victories with Macon taking a season-opening win on Monday night on the Havoc’s home ice.
Pensacola 4, Birmingham 3 (OT)
Huntsville 3, Knoxville 2
Macon 2, Huntsville 1
Here are some of the biggest takeaways from a very early season.
Conditioning to be Key
With five teams playing, it’s not possible for all teams in the league to play on the same night. For that reason, you’ll have cases during the season where one team may have to play a back-to-back game and another will be fresh. Such was the case Monday night in Huntsville. While Huntsville was less than two nights removed from coming back to beat Birmingham, it was Macon’s season opener. This weekend, Knoxville rests on Saturday before traveling to Macon on Sunday. The smallest thing can mean a difference in winning and losing, and being able to persevere could be a major storyline as the season goes ahead.
Old and New Faces Lead Mayhem
Macon was been fresh against Huntsville, but it still had to go on the road without the luxury of the roster with just five players who played for the Mayhem last year. Macon overcame that, getting goals from stalwarts Stephen Pierog and Jimmy Soper. That set the stage for the newcomer in goal, Jake Theut, who outdueled Huntsville’s Max Milosek in the third period, stopping ten shots on goal in that period, alone.
Experience Pays Off
With multiple players off of the Peoria Rivermen roster playing in Pensacola, the Ice Flyers know that they’ll have talent being infused into the roster. But they also bring something else – knowing what to do in order to win games.
After trailing 3-0 within the game’s first nine minutes at Birmingham, Pensacola roared back with two goals by Alec Hagaman and Jordan Ernst before winning in overtime via a snipe by Darren McCormick – giving the Ice Flyers all of their goals from players by way of Peoria for this season.
Speaking of scoring spurts, the Bulls showed they could do just that against Pensacola with shots by Taylor Pryce, Alec Baer, and Tanner Froese finding the back of the net. The challenge for Birmingham now becomes finding a way to channel that over a full three periods.
How to Make a Good First Impression
Huntsville’s 3-2 win against Knoxville was not short on new faces making big impressions. The Havoc’s Isaac Johnson netted his first SPHL goal before the Ice Bears tied it on a snipe from Austin Plevy, who landed in Knoxville as a result of Evansville opting out for this season.
Three Stars of the Week
⭐ Alec Hagaman, Pensacola – Scored two goals in the Ice Flyers overtime win against Pensacola.
⭐⭐ Isaac Johnson, Huntsville – He already has a consistency that scorers would love to have to begin a season – two goals in two games, so far.
⭐⭐⭐ Jake Theut, Macon – 28 saves in Macon’s 2-1 win at Huntsville.
Wednesday, Dec. 30
Birmingham at Pensacola, 7:05 CDT
Saturday, January 2
Birmingham at Macon, 6:30 p.m. EDT
Huntsville at Pensacola, 7:05 p.m. CDT
Sunday, Jan. 3
Knoxville at Macon, 4 p.m., EDT
Pensacola at Huntsville, 5 p.m. EDT
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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