BIRMINGHAM, AL – Last Thursday night, a rare occurrence happened, the Birmingham Bulls lost a game. The Roanoke Rail Yard Dawgs defeated the Bulls 4-2. The loss snapped the SPHL’s Player of the Month, Mavric Parks ten-game winning streak. It also set the Bulls up in unfamiliar territory this season. With two games yet to come on the road trip against a red-hot Fayetteville Marksman squad, it was possible Birmingham could lose multiple games in a weekend.
Just like the team did on Thursday night in Roanoke, the Bulls started off sluggish. Trailing 1-0 after the first period for the second time in as many games, the second period was gonna be crucial for Birmingham.
When asked about his team’s sluggish starts in all three games, Coach Jamey Hicks was quick to give credit to Roanoke and Fayetteville, “Don’t think you can pinpoint one thing although you have to give Roanoke and Fayetteville credit for starting at a high tempo.”
Loren Ulett would light the lamp for the Bulls 1:28 into the second period, tying it up. When all was said and done at the end of the period, Birmingham erupted for five goals to turn a 1-0 deficit into a 5-2 lead. In the third period, Jacob Barber would net his third goal of the game, to record his second hat trick as a Bull. Barber’s goal would be the only one of the third period, as Charlie Millen would stop all 14 shots from Fayetteville in the period. The win was Millen’s third of the season.
Sunday afternoon came and it was time to see which way the pendulum was gonna swing for Birmingham on the weekend. At the end of the first period, the score was 0-0. Despite firing off ten shots on Marksman goaltender, Dillon Kelly, the Bulls couldn’t find the back of the net.
But as they have done all season long, Birmingham turned the second period into a scoring bonanza. Three goals in the period gave the Bulls a 3-1 lead at the second intermission. The three goals in the period gave Birmingham an SPHL-best 27 goals in the middle frame. The Bulls would tack on two more goals in the final frame for the 5-2 victory. Birmingham has now outscored their opponents 27-19 in the second period and 21-11 in the third.
I mentioned to Coach Hicks the numbers and how Birmingham has seemed to get better as the game goes along. He replied, “We have been fortunate to have some great goal tending this year which enables us to make some in game adjustments early which has really helped.”
Birmingham would finish off the Marksmen in the third period, winning by a final score of 5-2 and improving to an SPHL best 15-2-0 on the season. To contrast the vast difference in last year to this one, Birmingham did not pick up their 15th win until February 17 last season.
Special teams was huge for Birmingham this weekend. Despite going 0-for-2 on Thursday night in Roanoke, the Bulls finished the weekend 3-for-10 on the power play. The Bulls penalty kill was solid, allowing two goals on 14 penalty kill opportunities and added a shorthanded goal as well.
Birmingham will now take the week to prepare for a pair of home games against their two closest opponents. The Bulls will host a much different looking Pensacola Ice Flyers on Friday evening. Since playing Birmingham on December 2nd, Pensacola has added Don Olivieri, Robert Lepine and Keegan Asmundson.
On Saturday night, the fan favorite Huntsville Havoc return to Birmingham for the fourth of nine games this season with the Bulls. This season, the Bulls are a perfect 3-0-0 against the defending President’s Cup Champs.
Three Stars of the Weekend
First Star – Jacob Barber – This one was kind of a no-brainer. He recorded a hat trick on Saturday night and finished the weekend with four goals and an assist.
Second Star – Josh Harris – Harris continues to climb his way up the scoring ladder this season. A pair of goals over the weekend is nice, but a +5 rating is nicer.
Third Star – Loren Ulett – The rookie is continuing to show why he was such a hard cut for the ECHL’s Kansas City Mavericks. Ulett picked up a goal and an assist on the weekend and had a +4 rating.