MACON, Ga. – Tempting as it may seem, an opening weekend of a hockey season is too small of a sample size of which to judge how the year will go.
Still, starting a season on a high note is nice, and the Macon Mayhem is off to a rather nice start after the best opening weekend in team history.
The Mayhem, entering their fifth season in Macon, claimed three of four possible points over the weekend, falling 3-2 on overtime to Fayetteville before pulling ahead late to slip past two-time defending champion Huntsville on Saturday night, 2-1.
For the first time in team history, Macon claimed a regulation win on opening weekend. Before this season, the Mayhem had claimed no better than a single point on the first weekend of the season.
If the Mayhem can do a lot of the things that it did this past weekend throughout the season, they have a chance to have a very strong year. For a squad whose goal appears to be strong defensively and be built to win low-scoring contests, the first two games of the season for Macon are templates of winning hockey for this edition of the Mayhem.
The Mayhem’s success was anchored in goal against Fayetteville and Huntsville. Kevin Entmaa not only stopped 45 of 48 shots in the overtime loss to the Marksmen, but he followed it up a night later, stopping 17 out of 18 shots.
Entmaa did what most goalies need to do – keep their team in a position to win.
Against Fayetteville, he gave up two regulation goals, both powerplay scores by the Marksmen. A night later against Huntsville? After a Tyler Piacentini unassisted goal 11 seconds into the game, Entmaa didn’t allow another goal to get by. As a result, Macon found itself in a position to win, and Jimmy Soper cashed in 3:14 into the third for what was the game-winning goal. Stephen Pierog, back in Macon after being in the ECHL for the better part of the last two seasons, assisted on both Soper’s goal and Macon’s first goal of the game, a Caleb Cameron marker 15:12 into the first on the power play with Stepan Timofeyev also assisting.
Clutch goals by Macon had the Mayhem in position to win on Friday as well. The Mayhem manufactured a good share of scoring chances and finally cashed in on goals by two of its veterans in the second period, Josh Cousineau and Marcus Ortiz. Hopes of a win ended up being undone via special teams with Fayetteville’s power-play unit scoring twice by way of Max Cook and Travis Jeke. On the other side of the coin, the Mayhem were whistled seven times for 14 penalty minutes, ten more minutes than the Marksmen. In the third period alone, the Mayhem racked up six penalty minutes, and with two scorers among those penalized, it was tougher for the Mayhem to get a foothold offensively with Soper and Stathis Soumelidis serving time.
“When you have the same guys out there killing penalties, it makes it tough to get into a rhythm with line changes,” Mayhem head coach Leo Thomas said.
Overall, Macon began the season with clutch scoring and strong defense. If it gets that going forward, the Mayhem can contend for the top of the SPHL.
Three Stars of the Weekend
Kevin Entmaa: Stopped a combined 62 of 66 shots.
Caleb Cameron: In addition to Saturday’s equalizing goal, he also helped establish a physical presence up and down the ice on Friday night against Fayetteville.
Jarrett Kup: His plus-three plus-minus rating was tops among all Mayhem defensemen.
Macon is home again for a pair of games this weekend, hosting Roanoke on Friday and Birmingham on Saturday.
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