PELHAM, Ala. – When you’re hot you’re hot, and that’s what the Birmingham Bulls are right now. With a 4-1 win over the Evansville Thunderbolts on Friday night, Birmingham is still sitting atop the SPHL Standings, and are on a three-game winning streak. The streak is the 3rd longest in the team’s young history. With the win, the Bulls have now won four straight games against the Thunderbolts, dating back to the 2017-18 season.
Last night was the first time this season I’ve seen both offense and defense play complete games for Birmingham. The Bulls were consistently in the offensive zone for long periods of time, and if they were not technically getting shots on goal, they kept Evansville goaltender Ryan De Melo uncomfortable, all evening.
Defensively, the Thunderbolts had a difficult time getting quality shots on net throughout the evening. Birmingham did a great job cluttering the passing lanes, and when Evansville would get a shot off, Mavric Parks wasn’t screened and able to make the save.
Birmingham looked better at times on the penalty kill but did allow Evansville to score their lone goal on a power play. The Bulls power play was nothing spectacular to write about last night as the Bulls were 0-for-3 on the evening with only three shots on goal with the man advantage.
Talking with Coach Hicks about the game, “You know I don’t think it was how we designed it, but a win early in the year as we talked last week is always good. We’ll take the two points and continue to work.”
When asked about the two-goal performance from Craig Simchuk, Hicks said, “Well Simchuk, he does everything the right way. When you do everything the right way, the hockey gods will give you nights like tonight, where you’re scoring.”
Mavric Parks narrowly missed a shutout on Friday night, stopping 31 of 32 shots. When asked about the difference, playing Evansville this year versus last, Parks said, “They got a lot of new faces over there, and they are very creative offensively.” Parks struggled against the Thunderbolts in last season, going 0-4 with a 4.02 GAA against Evansville, gave credit to his team for his first win against the Thunderbolts. “All our guys did a good job, that’s part of hockey your gonna have minor breakdowns, for the most part,” said the Birmingham goalie. “The team did an unbelievable job keeping them to the outside. Any rebounds I did kick out, they were clearing them. Any shots from the point they were letting me see it; kudos to the defense and forwards for playing a complete team effort,” continued Parks.
Finally, talking with Craig Simchuk afterward, about the team’s performance,” It wasn’t the cleanest game on our part, definitely, we’ll take a win. A win’s a win, everyone is feeling good, we still got a lot of work to do, but we’ll never turn down a win at home.”
Asking Simchuk about how different it is from the start of last season to this years. “It really does, especially from the start of the year, the first month. We have a good group of core guys returning; everyone is buying into Hickey’s system which seems to be working right now. We’re gonna ride this and keep working every day. “
Birmingham held their first charity jersey auction of the season on Friday night. The jersey them was “The Dark Knight” which if you’re a comic book fan, you know as Batman. Legally the team cannot use “Batman” so it was “The Dark Knight Jersey.” The team raised $12,450 for Children’s Hospital of Alabama with the auction. Craig Simchuk was the high bid of the evening with his jersey and a game-used stick going for $1500.
The Bulls will have a week off before they play the Evansville Thunderbolts again, at home next Friday night. The only question is, will the Thunderbolts still be winless, or can they defeat Peoria on Tuesday night for their first win of the season and not return to Birmingham a desperate team still searching for their first win of the season?
Three Stars of the Weekend
1st Star – Mavric Parks
Parks was outstanding in net on Friday night, stopping 31 of 32 shots.
2nd Star – Craig Simchuk
Simchuk had a pair of goals for the Bulls scoring the first and last of the evening.
3rd Star – Geoff Chrisfield
Chrisfield is quickly becoming a fan favorite in Birmingham. He had a pair of assist on the evening and went toe-to-toe with Thunderbolts tough guy, Nick Wright.