BIRMINGHAM, Ala. – On Saturday night at the Pelham Civic Complex, a crowd just a shade over 2,000 people saw something yet to be seen this season. The homestanding Birmingham Bulls were dominated from opening face-off to final buzzer in a 5-1 decision. Instate rival, The Huntsville Havoc took the fight to the Bulls, and for the first time, the Bulls didn’t respond. At times during the game, while the Havoc was skating on ice, it looked like the Bulls were mired in concrete.
Huntsville entered Saturday’s game with the SPHL’s worst power play unit; they proceeded to go two for five on the night with the man advantage. The only flaw of the Havoc’s power play this evening became the sole highlight for Birmingham. Midway into the 3rd period, Jacob Barber intercepted a pass on the penalty kill. He broke away into the Bulls offensive zone and beat Havoc goalie, Max Milosek to prevent Birmingham from being shutout.
The most shocking thing of the evening was the performance of Mavric Parks. Parks, leading the SPHL with 12 wins on the season, gave up five goals on just 24 shots. The fifth and final goal of the evening led to Parks being pulled from the game for the first time in his professional career.
When speaking with Coach Jamey Hicks afterward, instead of a deserving poor-mouthing of his team, he gave all the credit to Huntsville. “They came out hard, they came out with a game plan, and they stuck to it,” said the Bulls coach.”
“Glenn (Detulleo) does a good job over there. They have good players.” Hicks, even in adversity, doesn’t throw his squad under the bus.
Saturday evening’s game was the polar opposite of Friday nights 6-2 dominating win over the Pensacola Ice Flyers. Friday evening saw the Bulls impose their will on the Ice Flyers, scoring early, playing physical, and at times skating circles around Pensacola. One of the Bulls’ highlights included the return of Justin Larson. Larson had missed the previous five games for Birmingham. Larson made his impact known quickly in the game. A snapshot from the top of the slot beat Ice Flyers goalie Keegan Asmundson 70 seconds into the game.
Larson was hardly the only player producing for the Bulls on the evening. Nine different players recorded a point on the evening including Garrett Johnston. Johnston scored his first professional goal and assisted on a couple of more.
For many fans, the highlight of the evening came during the middle frame. The game had been physical all evening. Hard checks into the boards and some questionable open ice hits finally boiled over. Garrett Schmitz and Daniel Perigo got tangled up coming into the Ice Flyers offensive zone. After both tumbled to the ice, they both came up swinging. While the two linesmen were monitoring the Schmitz-Perigo fight, Nick Owen took offense to a cheap shot on Jacob Barber from Pensacola’s Russell Jordan. Owen and Jordan went to fight in the corner. With only the referee there to monitor that fight, Owen and Jordan got to wail on each other till both were exhausted. With two scraps, both going at the same time, the crowd at the Bull Pen was ecstatic.
After the game, I asked Coach Hicks about the chippiness of the game which in my opinion lead to the fights, “You play a team four times in the first month and a half of the season, there’s gonna be some stuff like that.”
The good news for the Bulls is, despite the less than stellar performance to end the weekend’s games, they remain tied for first place in the league. At the end of the day, it’s only a single loss and as bad as it was to watch, if you continue to win, an isolated loss doesn’t matter much.
Bulls Three Stars of the Weekend
★ Jacob Barber – Barber had a pair of goals and assists over the weekend, including a shorthanded goal in Birmingham 5-1 loss to Huntsville on Saturday night.
★★ Josh Harris – Harris also scored and assisted twice over the weekend. Harris had a pair of goals on Friday night against Pensacola. He assisted on both of the goals scored by Barber over the weekend.
★★★ Garrett Johnston – Johnston picked up his first career professional goal on Friday night. The rookie defenseman was +3 for the weekend and also added an assist against the Ice Flyers on Friday night.
Next Up for the Bulls
Coming up this weekend, Birmingham gets to see a set of new faces on the ice. The Knoxville Ice Bears make their first appearance at the Pelham Civic Complex on Friday night. Following the game, the two teams will load up on their respective buses and make the trip to the Great Smoky Mountains to play in Knoxville on Saturday night.