BIRMINGHAM, Ala. – As we have reached the quarter pole of the 2019-20 SPHL season, the Birmingham Bulls find themselves somewhere they haven’t been in 78 games. They’re sitting with a sub .500 record. The last time the Bulls were in this position, was the end of the 2017-18 season when the Bulls finished 22-28-6.
You don’t need to be a fan, a journalist, or even need glasses to see that Birmingham has struggled thus far into the season. Record excluded, the Bulls are eighth in the SPHL in goals per game (2.53), seventh in goals allowed (3.33), and sixth on the power play (10-68, 14.7% efficiency). All of those stats point to a Bulls team that is currently seventh in the standings (6-7-2, 14 pts entering the weekend), trailing first-place Peoria by 11 points.
The good news is, the second quarter of the season starts with a three-game homestand. Home is where the comfortable beds and rowdy fans are. Birmingham will host the Pensacola Ice Flyers for a pair of games on Friday and Saturday night, and on Sunday, the Quad City Storm will make their final regular season appearance at the Pelham Civic Complex.
The Bulls have been impressive at home since their first year in the league, with a .619 winning percent at home, ensuring the rowdy fans in The Bull Ring leave games happy more often than not. This weekend, more than most, is when Birmingham will need to keep that home-ice success going.
December 13 & 14 – Pensacola Ice Flyers
The Pensacola Ice Flyers are the most familiar face in Birmingham as far as opponents go. The Bulls and Ice Flyers have faced off 23 times in the regular season and three times during the preseason. Pensacola leads the all-time series 11-10-2 and the 2019-20 season series 2-0-1.
In the first three games of this season, Pensacola has outscored Birmingham 10-5 and have outshot the Bulls by an average of 14 shots per game. Ryan Marcuz & Blake Young lead Ice Flyers in scoring versus Birmingham this season with five points apiece. Chase Perry has started all three games against the Bulls and is undefeated.
What Birmingham needs to do to win against Pensacola:
I would be stating the obvious if I said shoot more, so I won’t. More shots look good on the scoreboard, but the quality of shots look better in the scoring column. Better execution on the power play is needed desperately. In the three games against the Ice Flyers, Birmingham is 2-11 on the power play. The Bulls have had three more chances against Pensacola with the man advantage, so better execution on the power play would be more than beneficial.
Help the goalie out. As I stated earlier, Pensacola has peppered Artt Brey in the first three games this season. Brey has faced 124 shots in 180 minutes of play versus the Ice Flyers. Chase Perry, on the other hand, has only seen 82 shots in the three games.
Sunday, December 15th – Quad City Storm
As often as Birmingham has seen the Pensacola Ice Flyers, the Quad City Storm are almost strangers to the Bulls. Birmingham and Quad City have played seven times in the first two seasons of the Storm’s existence, the Bulls have skated away victorious in every game. The two have played twice this season, both games in Birmingham, with the Bulls coming from behind in the first game to win 6-4. Game two saw Brey record his first professional shutout as Birmingham blanked the Storm 3-0. He is currently riding an 80-minute shutout streak against Quad City.
Matt Fuller recorded his first professional hat trick against the Storm on November 1st, and is one of four players (Canon Pieper, Jacob Barber & Josh Harris) with three points against Quad City this season.
What Birmingham needs to do to win vs Quad City:
When you’ve never tasted defeat against a team, more of the same would seem to be the correct answer, but as always it’s deeper than that. Despite being 7-0 against the Storm, Birmingham has had to come from behind in four of the seven games versus Quad City.
Execution on the power play. I could have CTRL+C and CTRL+V’d the above against Pensacola, because the numbers are similar. Birmingham is 2-10 on the power play against Quad City. However, the Bulls have scored twice while shorthanded in the two games. The Birmingham penalty kill held the Storm to a combined 0-13 on the power play in the first two games of the season.
Birmingham will need to cure what has ailed them so far this season if they’re wanting to see home ice in the playoffs. A successful home weekend coming up, would be the medicine to cure those ailments in my opinion.
I will be back live-tweeting from all three games this weekend, so if you cannot attend, feel free to follow on Twitter at @SinBinBulls. You can also stay plugged in with all the latest SPHL news, by giving us a “like” on Facebook!