Up to this point in the 2017 SPHL Playoffs, the hockey gods have been very kind to the Macon Mayhem. With a William B. Coffey Trophy in their possession for finishing first in the regular season and an awareness that out of twelve seasons only four teams that won the Coffey Trophy went on to win The President’s Cup, they embarked on their quest just two weeks ago.
Starting 80 miles away, Macon managed to bounce back from a legendary performance by Columbus Cottonmouths goalie, Mavric Parks, in the opening game of their first playoff series. Parks managed 52 saves shutting the Mayhem out while seeming like he was prepared to single-handedly send Macon to the off-season prematurely. Macon managed to turn all their shots into solid scoring chances in game two and three by going after the rebounds in front of the net.
In the second round, a hot Pensacola Ice Flyers team had no answer for Macon’s forecheck that caught the Flyers largely unprepared for shots from the blue line and resulting in them being swept by the Mayhem.
Enter the Peoria Rivermen.
Peoria is best prepared for what Macon does. They can slow down Macon’s attack with a veteran defense that will jam the Mayhem forecheck while trying to dominate the boards. In the regular season, The Peoria Rivermen outlasted The Mayhem in the four games they played head-to-head taking three out of four, all were decided by one point and two of them were settled in a shootout. Peoria outperformed them on the stat sheet, but the playoffs have proved to be a different story.
There is plausible evidence from the past two weeks that Macon can escape Peoria’s counter attack and claim their first President’s Cup in franchise history, just the second in Macon. Here are my five reasons The Mayhem stand a great chance of bringing Central Georgia its first professional championship:
- In Ruby We Trust – Goaltender Jordan Ruby has been beyond stellar of late with a .952 save percentage on 166 shots. His goals against average is 1.53. Amazing numbers for an NHL netminder, much less a goalie who at this time last year had only played eight minutes in the SPHL. In 313 minutes of play in the playoffs, he has only allowed eight goals – one goal every 39 minutes. If he continues this excellent performance, The Cup will undoubtedly reside in the Central City by next week.
- Power Play Production – Fourth (Macon) vs. sixth (Peoria) in the regular season, less successful against Peoria, but has continually improved. Since the playoffs started, Macon has held the top position in PP scores converting 43 percent of the time.
- Scoring By Committee – While 90% of Peoria’s 13 goals in the postseason have come from only three players Connor Gorman (10 pts, 6 goals), Alec Hagaman (9 pts, 6 goals), and Brandon Greenside (8 pts, 3 goals), Macon’s scoring has come from a completely different approach. This is much more advantageous for Macon, who can isolate and shut down three players much easier than Peoria can isolate and shut down seven players.
- Coaching – While this factor would normally be a draw, Coach Kevin Kerr has proven that his coaching skills have benefited from building this franchise from the ground up. He has responded well to what other teams have thrown at The Mayhem and made the proper adjustments to put his team in a position to win. In turn, the players have bonded under his leadership and have proven they will execute his adjustments. This series final should be no different. For all intents and purposes, The Mayhem’s biggest strategic challenges are behind them.
- Streaking Is Good – Hockey, as with most major sports, is all about the hot team right now and Macon has been hot, hot, hot since the start of the playoffs. In every metric that is tracked by the SPHL, The Mayhem have improved in all and are leading the league.
Whichever team you side with, the 2017 Presidents Cup Final promises to be a very competitive series between the two most deserving franchises in The Southern Professional Hockey League.