BIRMINGHAM, Ala. – Have you ever wanted to play checkers only to find out when you get all the pieces out that a couple is missing? That was the 2019-20 Birmingham Bulls season. The Bulls had moments where everything seemed right in the world. Then, there were the times when it seemed like they were a boat without a rudder.
If there is a bright spot to how the season abruptly ended, its that when we finally start hockey back, the Birmingham Bulls are on a one-game winning streak.
Final Record: 17-23-6, 40 pts, T-9th in SPHL
Leading Scorer: Jacob Barber – 18G, 24A, 42PTS
Leading Goaltender: Artt Brey 30 GP, 10-14-2, 3.13 goals against average, .907 save percentage
High Point: The high point of the season would be the wins over in-state rival, the Huntsville Havoc. Birmingham picked up their first overtime win over the Havoc when Kasey Kulczycki scored 91 seconds into the 3-on-3 overtime period on February 28th.
The Bulls pulled some last-minute magic that usually is reserved for Huntsville in the Von Braun Center on January 18th. With just 24 seconds remaining in the game, Jacob Barber would beat Max Milosek for the game-winner. That was Birmingham’s second win in three seasons in Huntsville.
The Low Point: This could be a thousand-word paragraph if I had to pick each low point. The low points came on November 28th, December 5th, December 13th, January 3rd, February 7th, February 14th, and February 29th. These are all dates the Bulls lost by four or more goals. The last game, February 29th was a 4-0 home loss against the Macon Mayhem, one of the four teams Birmingham was battling for a potential playoff spot. The February 14th loss, another home loss, this time to the Havoc by an 8-3 margin. The eight lamplighters were the most goals Huntsville has ever scored against Birmingham. On December 5th, the Knoxville Ice Bears tied the 2017-18 Macon Mayhem for the largest margin of victory over the Bulls, a 7-0 win in Knoxville.
Surprises/Disappointments: The surprise of the season had to be the offensive performance of defenseman, Matt Fuller, who had 11 goals and 13 assists when the season was abruptly ended. Fuller’s 11 goals were second in the SPHL among defensemen and a career-high for the blue-liner.
The disappointments, like the low points this season, came in multiples. The most obvious was the lack of production from the second line and down on offense. Players that were expected to contribute from day one just never did. The first line of Josh Harris, Jacob Barber, and Mike Davis accounted for 57 of the Bulls 122 goals scored.
The inability to find a capable backup goaltender was the other disappointment of the season. Until Austin Lotz joined the Bulls, moving Brey to the backup role, The Bulls back up goaltenders went 0-5-0 with a GAA of 5.17.
If the season continued…how would it have played out?
Had the season continued, I don’t think things would have turned out for the better for Birmingham. The Bulls were scheduled to host the Roanoke Rail Yard Dawgs the weekend the season was suspended and eventually canceled. The Rail Yard Dawgs were only one of two teams remaining on the Birmingham schedule with a sub .500 record. The Bulls would have been swimming upstream coming to the finish of the season, and I don’t think there was enough gas left in the tank to get to the finish line ahead of the teams Birmingham was battling for a playoff spot.
Focus for Offseason
In the offseason, the Bulls need to focus on finding some secondary scoring. It’s nice to see the top line producing like a top line is expected to do. But, to be competitive in any level of hockey, however, you have got to have scoring coming from the other players on the roster.
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I don’t know when we will see hockey played in Birmingham again, I hope it’s in October when the 2020-21 season is supposed to begin, but the way things are now, we don’t know. I do know that when we see the Birmingham Bulls back on the ice again, I think you will season a hungry team that is looking to erase the memories of a disappointing 2019-20 season. I believe the Bulls coaching staff will find the players needed, and 2020-21 will be the year of the Bull.
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