PELHAM, Ala. – The Birmingham Bulls are preparing to start their second season in the SPHL. The expansion season of 2017-18 was one of downs and ups. The Bulls started off their maiden voyage into the SPHL, 0-7-0. A 4-3 shootout victory over the Peoria Rivermen on November 18th gave Birmingham their first SPHL win. The Bulls would win 21 more games between November 19th and March 17th. As the season started for Birmingham, it would end in an almost identical manner, a 0-6-1 end to the season kept the Bulls out of the playoffs.
Nuts and Bolts
Last Season’s Record 22-28-6
Goals Per Game (2.84/9th)
Goals Against Per Game (3.55/9th)
Power Play (41/245, 7th)
Penalty Kill (230/279, 4th)
Who Will the Fans Cheer For? The 2018-19 Birmingham Bulls will be looking for a new fan favorite this season. Despite the begging and pleading from the fan base, Alexander Taulien was not resigned by Birmingham. This will make for interesting games this season when the Macon Mayhem enter “The Bull Ring”.
Who will “Light the lamp”? Last season Birmingham was the second worst team in the SPHL when it came to goals per game. The Bulls averaged less than three goals per game, while allowing almost our goals per game. Having returning leading scorer Josh Harris back in Birmingham will help, but the Bulls will need more offensive production this season.
Will Birmingham be able to start… and finish? The Bulls rookie season in the SPHL looked a lot like a poorly written novel. The first and last chapters left a lot to be desired, but the apex of the book was a masterpiece. The question for 2018-19 is can Birmingham author a complete book, instead of a novel that left the fans wanting more than the way it ended?
Talking about how the season was book-ended with losing streaks, “Well yeah, i think you learn from those, you take a look at how it ended. with (Andy) Bathgate, (Justin) Larson, & (Steven) Phee all out and Mavric Parks still not back, it takes a toll on a lineup, especially a first year team.” – Bulls coach Jamey Hicks
2017-18 SPHL Rookie of the year Jacob Barber is one of the players to watch in Birmingham this season. Barber who was acquired in January in a trade with the Peoria Rivermen, provided Birmingham with an offensive spark upon arrival.
Harris is the lone Birmingham veteran this season. Harris played in 52 games finding the back of the net 26 times. Those 26 goals lead the Bulls and was good enough for fourth in the SPHL.
For Birmingham to succeed this season, they will need to step it up on the blue-line. Caleb Apperson is one of the defensemen returning to the Bulls this season. Apperson, who was a late season addition to Birmingham made his presence known immediately. Technically a rookie this season, his experience in 13 games last season will be depended on at the blue-line.
Gone but Not Forgotten
John Rey – Reyzor as he was known by the fans and teammates retired from professional hockey at the end of last season. Rey was one of the better defensemen in the league, and had he chose to play in 2018-19, he would have been one of Birmingham’s protected players and a huge piece of the puzzle for the Bulls this season.
Nate Mitton – Mitton left Birmingham in January for the ECHL’s Utah Grizzlies. What was thought to be a short term loan, ended up lasting the remainder of the season. Mitton will be playing for the Cincinnati Cyclones of the ECHL to start the 18-19 season.
Taulien – As mentioned before, Taulien was easily the most popular player in Birmingham’s first season in the SPHL. A physical player, Taulien’s popularity came with his willingness to “drop the gloves” when needed. Off the ice he will be missed for his charitable actions. His “Standing Tauls Against Cancer” foundation raised a little over $25,000 last season.
Sin Bin Swami Sez
As mentioned earlier, Birmingham was one of the teams you didn’t want to face from November 19th till March 17th. The question now lies, can they play as well as they did then to start the season and end it as well. Call ups will be the question for Birmingham, but that can be said for every team in the SPHL.
The Bulls were 12-6-6 in games decided by 1 goal in 2017-18. Of the 12 wins, only 5 came in regulation. The recipe is simple, win more games in regulation. A win is a win, but when you are still giving up a point in overtime, your not gaining much ground.
I believe Birmingham will qualify for the playoffs this season. I think a year of experience with the coaching staff, a more stable home rink presence, and a feeling of unfinished business will be the difference. Like most teams, once they’re in the playoffs, matchups are everything, and for the Bulls a deep run into the playoffs isn’t out of the realm of possibilities.
What do you think? Let us know how you think the Bulls will do!