BIRMINGHAM, Ala. – In a series that was dominated by outstanding goaltending, it was arguably the best in the league who stood strongest on Sunday night. Birmingham Bulls backstop, Mavric Parks faced 40 shots from the Fayetteville Marksmen, stopping them all. Parks, who started the playoff round with a very uncharacteristic performance on Friday night, reminded the fans in attendance and the league why he is the front-runner for the league’s MVP award.
The start of the game was a role reversal from Saturday night’s contest. The Marksmen came out attacking early, outshooting the Bulls 9-0 in the first five-plus minutes of the game. Birmingham wouldn’t get their first shot on goal till 9:33 of the period. The first period would end scoreless, with Fayetteville having a sizeable shot advantage of 18-6.
A delay of game penalty on Fayetteville’s Travis Jeke with only 19 seconds left in the first period, meant the Bulls would start the second period on the power play. Birmingham came out of the locker room swarming. With just three seconds left in the power play, Geoff Crisfield would knock in a rebound, giving Birmingham a 1-0 lead.
After a late hit by Jeke on the Bulls’ Jacob Barber landed Jeke back in the penalty box for roughing, the Birmingham power play would strike again. Craig Simchuk would deflect a Matt Fuller slap shot past Pawloski less than a minute after the Jeke penalty, giving Birmingham a 2-0 lead.
Midway into the period, Crisfield found himself in unfamiliar territory again down near the crease and was able to bang in a second goal of the night. This one off a rebound from Barber. The second period belonged to the Bulls in every form and fashion. Birmingham peppered the Marksmen netminder with 19 shots in the period, while holding Fayetteville to only 8.
The final stanza of the evening saw the fatigue of three-games-in-three-days catch up with both teams. The Marksmen tried to muster up something offensively in the first half of the period, but nothing was getting past Parks on this evening. Taylor Dickin picked up the Bulls fourth goal of the evening with an assist going to Simchuk. With Pawloski pulled to try and drum up something offensively inside the final three minutes of the game, Shane Topf fired a shot into the empty net making the final score 5-0.
After the game, the praise of Mavric Parks was on my thoughts and Coach Jamey Hicks and Craig Simchuk. Hicks had this to say:
“Well, how many adjectives have we used with him this year. That’s what we expect from him, that’s what he expects from himself.”
Bulls Captain Craig Simchuk said of Parks’ performance:
“He was ok, I guess. Guess we’ll take him for next series now. That’s the Parksie we know, that’s the Parksie that got us here.”
Crisfield commented on finding himself as a defenseman, down around the crease where he picked up a pair of goals:
“You know I’m a D-man so I don’t spend much time on top of the crease, just happened that way tonight, so I’ll take it.”
The win sets up a semifinal matchup with the Roanoke Rail Yard Dawgs. Roanoke is the Cinderella of the Presidents Cup playoffs. The lowest remaining seed as the fifth seed, the Rail Yard Dawgs knocked off regular season champion and top seed, the Peoria Rivermen in a two-game sweep. Game one of the semifinal series will be at Roanoke on Thursday night, with games two and three (if necessary) in Birmingham on Friday and Saturday nights.
Sin Bin Bulls Three Stars of the Series
★★★ – Jason Pawloski (Fayetteville) – I feel like I have said or typed this name more times than should be legally allowed this weekend, but with good reason. Pawloski single-handedly kept the Marksmen in the series all weekend long. From his first SPHL shutout on Friday night to doing everything he could to keep his team in the contest on Sunday night. If you didn’t know who Pawloski was before this weekend, you do now.
★★ – Geoff Crisfield (Birmingham) – Crisfield picked up four points over the series with a pair of assists on Saturday night and two goals on Sunday. He finished the series with a +1 rating.
★ – Craig Simchuk (Birmingham) – He was all over the offensive zone this weekend and was rewarded on Sunday night with a goal. Simchuk finished the weekend with a goal and a pair of assist.
Mavric Parks (Birmingham) – The likely SPHL MVP shook off an off night in game one and was a force in the final two games of the series, allowing two goals in 57 shots faced. Parks enters the semifinals having not allowed a goal in the last 95 minutes of game action.