MACON, Ga. – The President’s Cup Playoffs have not yet arrived for the teams in the SPHL, but the Challenge Round format is already spicing up the final weekend of the regular season in the case of the Macon Mayhem.
In the SPHL’s postseason format prior to a year ago, Macon (fifth in the standings with a 27-22-5 record and 59 points) would likely prepping to face Knoxville in the first round. The Mayhem are two points behind the fourth-place Ice Bears, who they swept last weekend and one point in front of Roanoke.
This, however, is not your older brother’s SPHL postseason.
With a pair of games in Peoria this weekend and Knoxville hosting Pensacola, Macon could tie if not pass Knoxville for the fourth seed and the right to avoid facing either of the league’s top three teams — Peoria, Birmingham and Huntsville — in the first round. A fourth seed won’t just mean avoiding one of those three teams. It also means home-ice advantage in the first round for Macon, which would then pick its first round opponent from the remaining teams ranked fifth or below — Knoxville, Pensacola, Roanoke and Fayetteville.
If Macon falls short of getting past Knoxville? It’d then find itself at the mercy of the inkling of the league’s top four teams during the Challenge Round Selection Show at 7:30 pm on Sunday (which will be hosted by The Sin Bin and streamed live on the SPHL’s Facebook page).
It could mean a match-up with Peoria, who may opt to force the Mayhem to trek the long distance again twice within a week, perhaps hoping to catch a road-weary Macon team to gain an advantage. Or it could mean a clash against Birmingham, who like any team with Mavric Parks in goal (even back to his days with Columbus two postseasons ago), can be a tough team to beat.
Perhaps Huntsville opts to choose Macon for the Challenge Round? It’s been nothing short of competitive when the Havoc and Mayhem have faced off, with Huntsville winning four of seven meetings (the only team besides Peoria and Birmingham with a winning record against Macon this year).
If neither of those three choose to face the Mayhem, it would set up Macon and Knoxville in the first round. That could bode well for the Mayhem, winners of five of seven this season. Having two Ice Bears mainstays Marcus Ortiz and Danny Cesarz until recently could also provide an edge for the Mayhem.
The silver lining to not finishing fourth for Macon could be avoiding one of the SPHL’s more consistent teams as of late — Pensacola — in the first round. Macon has won four meetings against the Ice Flyers. That said, the Mayhem have fallen short three times to them in regulation and three times in overtime.
Regardless, thanks to the SPHL’s Challenge Round, the final week of the regular season is much more exciting than it would have been in the past.
Join Matthew Harding, Mike Campos and Quad City Storm Head Coach Dave Pszenyczny as they reveal and breakdown the four Challenge Round matchups this Sunday night at 7:30 pm ET! You can hear the announcements live on The Sin Bin app & watch it on The Sin Bin-SPHL Facebook page!