MACON, Ga. — For the second time in team history, there’ll be a new head coach behind the bench for the Macon Mayhem. Leo Thomas, Macon’s assistant coach the past two seasons, was elevated to the top spot in the offseason after Kevin Kerr took the same post with Greenville in the ECHL. Thomas and a strong returning core embark on a campaign high on expectations. Macon won the President’s Cup title two years ago and reach the semifinals last year. With one of the league’s top scorers, Jake Trask and the goalie from that title two years ago, Jordan Ruby in Macon, the expectation is for Macon contending for a championship once again.
Nuts and Bolts:
Record: 33-16-7 (73 points)
League Finish: Second
Playoff Finish: Lost in semifinals to Huntsville in three games
Goals For Per Game: 3.82, first
Goals Against Per Game: 3.11, third
Power Play: 21.0% (52/248), third
Penalty Kill: 81.0% (56/262), eighth
On paper, Macon probably has the most formidable goalie tandem in the SPHL. Not only will Macon welcome experience by way of Gordon Defiel, whose 2.61 GAA last year in Pensacola was second-best in the league with Pensacola. The Mayhem also secured the return of the teams President’s Cup Playoffs MVP of two years ago, Jordan Ruby following a year playing in France. If these two stay with the team for a better part of the season, Macon will have one of the toughest back lines in the league. That’ll be welcomed with defensemen mainstays Daniel Echeverri, Jeff Sanders, and Chris Joseph no longer in Macon, forcing the team to get used to some new additions getting used to one another.
Macon terrorized opposing defenses last year, leading the league in scoring with 3.82 goals per game. Many defensive gameplans won’t get much collective rest since four of Macon’s top five scorers from a year ago return, starting with Trask (27 goals, 42 assists) and John Siemer (20 goals, 32 assists). The x-factor for Macon is what new faces will arrive to join these established scoring lines, and how well they mesh with those here from last year used to what Leo Thomas wants to do scheme-wise. Mike Chemello played for EC Pfaffenhofen in Germany last season, picking up 26 points in 25 games. Before that, he played collegiately at Florida Gulf Coast.
Numbers-wise, Macon ranked high in the SPHL last year in goals against, yielding 3.11 per game. With that said, defensive breakdowns were far too common for the like of then-head coach Kevin Kerr. Veteran defense experience in Daniel Gentzler and Jeff Sanders further puts the onus on new faces to step up. Jake Faiella and Brandon Parrone will be two being looked upon to step up after they played in a combined 16 games last year, but did enough during that time to get an invite back to Macon. On the other side of the experience coin for Macon on defense will be Zach Urban and Seth Ronsberg. Urban appeared in 36 games and Ronsberg brings versatility to the table, also able to play center.
“Those are the core guys we have had here, they are ones you need in the room off and on the ice. We’re obviously glad to have these guys back from the ECHL and get the season going with them.” – Macon head coach Leo Thomas.
Few things excited the Mayhem fan base more in the offseason than Ruby’s return to Macon. In Ruby, the Mayhem have a goalie that is proven to get saves when the game is on the line. Last year’s rotating door of goalies never quite got in a rhythm, and there was seldom a sense that Macon could win a 1-0 game like it did with Ruby minding the net.
In Trask, Macon has a player that can generate excitement any time that he is near the puck. He truly has a knack for finding the open crease, and as long as he is in Macon, the odds of scoring goals will be high.
Alexander Taulien comes to Macon after a year in Birmingham where his nightly line was high on big hits and physical play. The Mayhem will look to him to do the same with Dennis Sicard no longer in the fold.
Gone but Not Forgotten:
Fan favorite Dennis Sicard and his penchant for physical play and mixing it up with a scrap or two with an opposing player is no longer in Macon, raising the stakes for someone to step up and fill the role as that player able to send a physical message when needed. Two early adds from the Mayhem’s move to Macon have also retired – defenseman Sanders and two-way blueliner Gentzler. With both of them gone, the Mayhem will now search for locker room leadership to replace them.
Sin Bin Swami Sez:
The Mayhem will continue to be among the top teams in the SPHL and advance to the President’s Cup finals.
What do you think? Let us know how you think the Mayhem will do!