MACON, Ga. – Usage of the phrase ‘grit’ gets tossed around much like a frisbee in conversations about sports, notably hockey.
But that phrase would not be an exaggeration about the Macon Mayhem’s weekend against the Pensacola Ice Flyers. Macon began 2020 in strong fashion, taking three of possible four points in a home-and-home against the Ice Flyers, who are tied for second in the SPHL standings.
Macon won 3-2 at home on Friday before falling a night later, 2-1, in overtime. Pensacola ended up winning another low-scoring contest with 11 seconds remaining in overtime.
Sure, Macon would have likely loved to get a pair of wins, but it’s a huge shot in the arm for the Mayhem, especially given what kind of adversity that they were saddled with before the weekend even began. It was also Macon’s first road point of the season.
Call-ups to the ECHL, injuries, and illnesses had depleted the Mayhem of four of their top seven scoring forwards entering Friday. Macon simply dug deep, snatching control in a five-minute span of the second period to come back from a 1-0 deficit to lead 3-1, going on to win 3-2.
With the attrition among its forwards, Macon needed others to step up, and it received just that. A total of four defensemen chipped in to get the Mayhem on the board against Pensacola’s Jake Kupsky. Mayhem forward Marcus Ortiz continued to help carry the load offensively as he tied the score, and Macon defenseman Jarrett Kup had an assist along with Daniel Perez.
Another Mayhem defenseman played a role in what ended up being the go-ahead goal, as Larry Smith assisted along with Stephan Timofeyev on David Powlowski’s goal while defenseman Zach Urban’s slap shot gave the Mayhem an important insurance goal. Among those assisting on that third goal? Defenseman Ben Campbell.
Of course, there was more to the night on Friday for Macon’s defensemen than just scoring. They, along with the 28 saves out of 30 shots effort by Kevin Entmaa, gave Macon its fifth home win in a row.
A night later in Pensacola, Powlowski’s second goal in as many nights (with Kup and Stathis Soumelidis assisting), tied the score. This helped to force overtime and in turn earn Macon a point in the standings.
The addition of Hayden Stewart in goal for Macon paid off right away over the weekend. If the Mayhem can get goaltending similar to what they received over the weekend, they’ll have depth at that position and a formidable tandem in net. A night after Entmaa’s 28 of 30 effort, Stewart stood tall, stopping 40 out of 42 shots. Stewart, whose goaltending last year with Knoxville bounced Macon from the President’s Cup playoffs, came aboard last week after Cody Porter was placed on waivers.
MANAGING ABSENCES TO BE KEY
The bottom line is this: for Macon to get into the President’s Cup playoffs, it’ll have to fight through a rash of injuries and players not in Macon due to SPHL call-ups.
With Sunday’s news that Urban was called up to South Carolina in the ECHL, he joins Jimmy Soper as Macon’s other player in the ECHL (currently with Greenville). Caleb Cameron and Danny Cesarz remain on the injured reserve. Thankfully for Macon, Soumelidis only missed Friday’s game due to the flu.
POSTSEASON CHASE IS NOW
Sixth and seventh place in the SPHL standings are separated by nine points. As it stands now, that leaves four teams fighting for the final two postseason spots. Macon is among them, one point behind seventh-place Quad Cities. Macon is 8-15-3 with 19 points, one point ahead of Roanoke and two in front of Birmingham.
Macon plays Roanoke three more times this season, including consecutive games January 18 & 19 on the road. The Mayhem also play Birmingham three times, with two of those contests being on the road. Macon does not play Quad City for the remainder of the regular season.
MARKSMEN ARE NEXT
Macon’s schedule gets no easier next weekend. Fayetteville, in a three-way tie for second place, visits Macon for a pair of games at the Macon Coliseum on Friday, January 10 (7:30pm EST) and Saturday, January 11 (7:00pm EST).
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