HUNTSVILLE, Ala. – Three years ago, the Huntsville Havoc finished off by far the worst season in franchise history. An 11-38-7 finish, winning 23 fewer games than league champion Peoria, doomed them to the SPHL basement. Many were calling for the ouster of head coach Glenn Detulleo, but Havoc ownership showed patience.
What a difference three seasons make.
The Havoc ascended the mountain from the valley of that disastrous 2014-15 to the top of hoisting the President’s Cup five months ago. The cardiac kids needed overtime on enemy ice to dispatch Macon in three games and went to Peoria for a winner-take-all game three in the President’s Cup Finals, defeating the Rivermen 4-2 to claim their second league championship in SPHL franchise history.
For Detulleo, he is now the longest-tenured active coach in the SPHL with a combined 155-148-38 record in 341 games.
Nuts and Bolts:
Last Season Record: 30-16-10
League Finish: 4th, SPHL
Playoff Finish: Won Championship (defeated Peoria)
Goals For Per Game: 3.63 (4th, SPHL)
Goals Against Per Game: 3.21 (4th, SPHL)
Power Play: 21.2% (45/212; 2nd, SPHL)
Penalty Kill: 80.2% (178/222; 9th, SPHL)
BIG SHOES TO “STEF” INTO: It’s almost unfair to ask anyone to try and fill the shoes of perennial all-SPHL defenseman Stuart Stefan, who retired to take a spot behind the bench as the Havoc’s assistant coach. However, the player on the blue line who will likely come the closest is Nolan Kaiser, himself beginning his fourth season in Huntsville. Unlike Stefan, Kaiser also brings a physical edge to his game, picking up 310 penalty minutes in 140 pro games with the Havoc. Kaiser is also a shoo-in for running quarterback on the Huntsville power play; of his 25 points last season, nine of them (4G, 5A) came with the man advantage.
CHRISTIAN POWERS AND THE “SY” WHO SHAGGED GOALS: The one-two offensive punch of Sy Nutkevitch and Christian Powers returns to Huntsville this season. Nutkevitch finished fifth overall in the SPHL last season in assists (41) and points (62), while Powers’s 28-goal output was second-best in the league. Nutkevitch started on a torrid pace last year, scoring at least a point in 23 of the first 29 games of the year. The duo also led the offensive charge in the Havoc’s championship run: Nutkevitch led the league in assists (8) and points (13), while Powers finished tops in the SPHL in postseason goals (6) and shots on goal (34).
DELI SANDWICHES TO GO: Mike DeLaVergne will begin his second professional season with the Havoc as the more experienced goaltender. Despite playing in 11 fewer games last season than fellow Huntsville netminder Keegan Asmundson, DeLaVergne won only two fewer games than Asmundson (14 vs. 16), had the only two shutouts by the Havoc last season, and finished with better numbers than Asmundson in goals-against average (2.94 vs. 3.11) and save percentage (.911 vs. .901). Look for DeLaVergne (whose Twitter handle is @Deli_Sandwiches) to begin the season as the #1 goaltender while rookie Max Milosek gets his pads wet in the pro game.
“It seems like the new guys are catching on pretty quick…there’s a lot of potential, and now it’s just a matter of realizing it,” Detulleo said in an interview with WZDX-TV.
Max Milosek – The rookie netminder isn’t a proven commodity in the SPHL like DeLaVergne, but he comes to Huntsville after three solid years as a starting netminder for the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point, backstopping the Pointers to the NCAA Division III national championship in 2016. He was signed to a three-game tryout with Macon at the end of last season but did not see any playing time during that stint.
Ryan Salkeld – After a midseason trade last year from Macon to Mississippi, Salkeld notched 21 points in 20 games for the RiverKings. The Havoc are banking on Salkeld’s breakout performance to only add to the team’s embarrassment of riches on offense this season.
Stephen Hrehoriak – Like Salkeld, Hrehoriak was dealt in the middle of last season, sent to Huntsville in a trade with Pensacola. Hrehoriak also had a late-season surge, but his came even later than Salkeld’s; he scored eight points for the Havoc in the team’s nine preseason games and was second on the team with 28 shots on goal during the playoffs. The third-year pro looks to join Nutkevitch and Powers among the offensive leaders returning to Huntsville this season.
Gone but Not Forgotten:
Stuart Stefan – Huntsville will likely never forget Stefan, a stalwart on the Havoc blue line each of his seven professional seasons. Remarkably, Stefan played in every single regular season game the last six seasons, 336 straight games without missing a single one. His 29 assists last season was his best total in his seven pro seasons, while the 42 points he amassed last season were one off his career best. Stefan was named to the all-SPHL first or second team five of his seven years pro, winning the league’s Defenseman of the Year award in 2014. The smart money is on Stefan’s #7 to join the ranks of the other retired numbers in Huntsville hockey history.
Keegan Asmundson – Asmundson, who spent the vast majority of his first three professional seasons in the ECHL prior to joining the Havoc last year, returned to that league this season with Kalamazoo. While he has been relegated to a backup role during his ECHL career, he was in 36 games between the pipes for Huntsville last season. He played in seven of the Havoc’s nine playoff games last year and was in net for every minute of Huntsville’s semifinal win over Macon in three games and their championship over Peoria in three games. His SPHL player rights were acquired by Quad City in the Storm’s expansion draft in June.
Shawn Bates – Bates began his pro career in the SPHL with Columbus from 2014 to 2016, then ascended to the ECHL to play for Atlanta and Tulsa before returning to the league with the Havoc last season. He had arguably his best pro season, finishing a point short of a point-per-game average with 44 points (19G, 25A) in 45 games. Bates was second in the SPHL only to teammate Nutkevitch last season in playoff points with 11. He returned home this season to his native Alberta to play for Innisfail in the Allan Cup Hockey West AAA senior league.
Sin Bin Swami Sez:
The Havoc have held serve on offense with no shortage of firepower on the roster to start the season. The big questions loom on defense, where Kaiser is poised to take the leadership role on the blue line left behind by Stefan, and in goal, where Mike DeLaVergne enjoyed some success last season but will be backed up to start the year by a rookie netminder in Milosek. The offense alone will help the Havoc make a serious run at the regular season championship, but the loss of Stefan on the blue line may make for tough sledding come the playoff run. While Huntsville should finish at or near the top of the standings in the regular season, it will be extremely difficult to replicate their playoff success come this postseason.
What do you think? Let us know how you think the Havoc will do!