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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. – The iconic wrestler Ric Flair once coined the phrase, “To be the man, you got to beat the man.” On Saturday evening, the Huntsville Havoc showed why they are the champs. Timely goals and another incredible performance by Max Milosek give us only the third back-to-back President’s Cup Champions in the SPHL’s 15-year history (Knoxville, 2008-2009 and Pensacola, 2013-2014).

Just like Friday night’s game, the Birmingham Bulls were first on the scoreboard. After a delay of game on Milosek for inadvertently shooting the puck out of play, Josh Harris one timed a shot past Milosek on a beautiful pass from Jacob Barber to give the Bulls the 1-0 lead.

John Schiavo got the Havoc back even on the scoreboard a little less than five minutes later, with Sy Nutkevitch and Tyler Piacentini grabbing the assists. At the end of the first period, it was a 1-1 game with Huntsville dominating in the shots department, 18-8.

The second period was a fast-paced, back-and-forth, down-the-ice period. Both teams had opportunities to score, but only the Havoc would find the back of the net. Kyle Sharkey took a cross-slot feed from Nolan Kaiser and buried it just over the outstretched glove of Mavric Parks, giving Huntsville the lead. Late in the second, Birmingham would have its own chance to even the game up. Geoff Crisfield got Milosek down, but his shot went ringing off the left post, allowing Huntsville to maintain the lead.

The Bulls would have one more chance in the second period after a Matt Fuller hooking penalty put the Birmingham on the penalty kill; the Bulls had a shorthanded chance. Taylor Dickin fed Kasey Kulczycki a beautiful pass across the top of the slot. Kulczycki’s shot was somehow deflected over the goal by a sprawled out Milosek. The second period would end with Huntsville up 2-1.

The third period was more of the same as the second, with both teams having their chances early. At 11:41 of the period, Birmingham’s Garrett Schmitz was called for a tripping penalty. One minute and seven seconds later, Kyle Sharkey picked up his second goal of the game, and the eventual game winner, on the power play.

Birmingham wouldn’t go down easily though, not that anyone inside the sold out Von Braun Center thought they would. Shane Topf, who was playing with a full cage on his helmet due to the high sticking he took on Friday night’s game, took a pass from Cole Golka and beat Milosek stick-side to cut the lead to one.

However, it just wasn’t meant to be for Birmingham. With 49 seconds left in the game, the Havoc’s captain Christian Powers scored on the empty net Birmingham had left for an extra attacker, clinching the game for Huntsville.

In the post-game interview with Coach Jamey Hicks afterwards, he had this to say:

“It’s really too early to dissect, the strides that we made this year, but I’m really proud of our guys. We have come such a long way in a short period of time, we didn’t give up till right at the end, and I’m really proud of that fact.”

As always, he was very gentlemanly in defeat and complimentary of the Havoc:

“They are a real good hockey club, playing real well. Obviously we’d like to congratulate them on back to back, it’s very tough to do, something we’ll strive for.”

On the Bulls players after the game:

“We had a really special group, you don’t do what we did this year without a special group. I’m glad I coached these guys, but I’m proud I can call them friends cause they’re good people.”

Finally, to the Bulls fans who made the trip to Huntsville and those listening and watching at home:

“We made this run together. They were behind us when we started last year, they were right beside us when it ended this year.”

On-Ice Interviews:

Kyle Sharkey

Nolan Kaiser

Max Milosek – Presidents Cups Finals MVP

Christian Powers

It was indeed the Havoc’s night, and although I cover the Birmingham Bulls, I cannot say enough nice things about the Huntsville organization. From the owner to the interns, everyone I have came across in my multiple trips up to the Von Braun Center this season have been nothing but class. Congrats on back-to back-championships to all of you.

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