BIRMINGHAM, Ala. – If there was a term to describe this weekend for the Birmingham Bulls, I would choose roller-coaster. A loss bookended by an impressive pair of wins kept Birmingham in the hunt for the Coffey Cup and solidified their second place spot in the standings.
Thursday night in Macon, Georgia the Bulls clinched another season series over an SPHL foe. Another outstanding performance by Mavric Parks against the Macon Mayhem helped Birmingham to a 3-1 win. Parks stopped 36 of 37 shots he faced and improved his record this season to 25-7-2 overall and 3-1 against the Mayhem. Trailing 1-0 after the first period, Birmingham would get goals from Jacob Barber and Justin Larson in the second period to take the lead. Garrett Schmitz picked up his first goal since returning from the ECHL to put the game away for the Bulls. Talking with Coach Jamey Hicks, “We played really well, we kept the game simple.”
Friday night was not nearly as nice for the Bulls as the team looked sluggish most of the game, falling in Huntsville, 5-3, to the Havoc. Huntsville, as they have done many times in the past against Birmingham, came out flying and unlike most of the 2018-19 season, it took the Bulls time to catch up. When they finally did, it was almost too late. Goals from Ryan Salkeld and Stephen Hrehoriak had the Havoc up 2-1 after one period of play. Kasey Kulczycki had the Birmingham goal in the period. The second period was impressive for one member of the Bulls. Sebastian Andersson faced nine shots in the period before Birmingham could manage one. Despite being peppered in that fashion, Andersson only allowed a single goal while facing ten shots on goal.
Trailing 3-1 after two periods, the Bulls came out in the third period with energy and it showed. Shane Topf cut the Havoc lead down to one early in the period, but a Josh Harris tripping penalty would prove to be costly. Christian Powers scored on the ensuing power play making it a 4-2 game. Kulczycki found the back of the net with less than five minutes left in the game, but a short-handed empty-net goal from the Havoc’s Dale Deon sealed the deal.
Post-game, Coach Hicks verified what I felt I saw, a team with tired legs. “Well, we played tired hockey is what it was. We have to be better, that’s for sure. The good news about hockey is you play another game tomorrow.” It was almost like Coach Hicks had a vision of the future.
Birmingham did indeed play another game on Saturday, and when the final buzzer sounded, the record books had few new entries into it. I was unable to attend the game due to working on a different story in Huntsville, but I was following the game and was shocked beyond belief every time I refreshed my phone.
To say the Bulls opened up a can on Evansville on Saturday night would almost be too mild of a term. Goals from Harris, Nick Owen, Taylor Dickin, Harris again and Jacob Barber had Birmingham up 5-0 after one period. Birmingham had a season-high 19 shots on goal in the first period. In the second period, the Bulls offense slowed down a little bit. Cole Golka scored his first professional goal to extend the lead to 6-0. Josh Harris finished off his hat trick halfway into the period and with just two seconds left in the period, Kulczycki made it an 8-1 game. The third period brought the kind of shenanigans which usually comes in blowout games. Three game misconduct penalties, three fighting penalties and a total of 53 penalty minutes slowed the period down. After the ice was cleared, Austin Daae would add to the Bulls record night with a pair of goals in the third period to make the final score 10-1.
Saturday night, Birmingham set team records for goals in a game, goals in a period, most points by an individual player and most goals by different players. Josh Harris skated away with five points on the night which is a franchise record. The five goals in the first period eclipsed the four-goal third period earlier this season in Quad City for most in a period.
For the weekend, the 16 goals over three games is a team record, eclipsing a couple of 13 goal weekends, most recently done earlier this season against Peoria and Quad City. Birmingham scored on 16.16% of their shots for the three-game stretch.
In an email exchange with Coach Hicks, I asked what do you attribute to an offensive output like the team had, “Everyone once in a while these games appear. I don’t think you pay too much attention to it.” I also asked when the team is up by five goals after just twenty-minutes of play does it affect the way you coach the game.
Not really. continue to pay attention to detail. Always some things to work on. I was happy with our guys staying composed, but really ‘it was’ only one game of 56. – Birmingham Coach Jamey Hicks
Over the weekend the Bulls made a couple of roster moves. Saturday Birmingham signed Josh LaFrance and placed Sam Williams on Waivers. LaFrance is from Barrie, ON, CAN. In three season for York University in Canada, LaFrance appeared in 62 games. He had 14 goals and 23 assists.
The Sin Bin Bulls Three Stars of the Weekend
★★★ – Kasey Kulczycki. Kulczycki had three goals and an assist over the weekend’s games.
★★ -Mavric Parks. Parks was 2-0 on the weekend allowing only 2 goals on 55 shots.
★ – Josh Harris. When you set a franchise record for points in a game, you get the first star by default. On Saturday night Harris had three goals and two assists in the Bulls 10-1 throttling of Evansville.