MACON, GA. – A jack of all trades and master of none. That’s probably the best way to sum up the Macon Mayhem’s 2019-20 season. The Mayhem’s fifth season in Macon, to put it simply, offered a bit of everything – flurries of wins and losses, an early-season coaching change, a bevy of roster shakeup, being in the midst of a postseason race and the season ending prematurely on account of COVID-19.
As its season ended, Macon was tied for eighth and one spot out of seventh in a four-team fight for two playoff spots. Would this team have been rolling once postseason arrived depending on the matchup? That’ll be one of the big what-ifs for the Mayhem as history remembers this season.
Final Record: 17-24-6, 40 points, tied for eighth in the SPHL standings.
Leading Scorer: Stephen Pierog, 36 points (13 goals, 23 assists)
Best Netminder: Hayden Stewart, 5-7-3, 2.80 GAA.
High Point: In all honesty, there wasn’t a moment per se that one can point to that can be marked as the high point of the season. All that is needed is to look at where Macon was late in the season. Despite punches of adversity and the wheeling and dealing by head coach Ryan Michel to trade away some of the team’s longest-tenured players and two four-game losing streaks alone after January 1, this was not a team that easily gave up. It would have been easy to do so, especially with right winger Marcus Ortiz being dealt to Roanoke in mid-January, left winger Stathis Soumelidis and defenseman Jarrett Kup being traded to Fayetteville later in the same month. Each had at least 15 points for Macon at the time of being traded.
Not only that, but the goalie with the most time in net, Kevin Entmaa (8-12-2, 3.04 GAA) played his final game on Jan. 31 in Macon, being placed on team bereavement afterwards. That departure paved the way for Stewart and Michael Stiliadis. The latter of the two was 4-1 with a 2.15 GAA, giving the Mayhem something to think about in terms of goalie options pending the interest of its two goalies to end the season to return in the fall.
Low Point: The divide between the level of the standings where Macon spent much of the year and that of those contending for first place was clearly shown during a three-game stretch in the midpoint of January as the Mayhem were outscored by the Marksmen by a combined score of 18-7.
Highlight of the Season: Pack The ‘Plex Night gave Macon its biggest crowd of the season, and there was no case of stage fright for Macon, playing perhaps its best game of the season in a 6-2 win over Knoxville. It’s one thing to have a big crowd. It’s an even bigger challenge to play well in that moment, and Macon did just that.
Surprises/Disappointments: Whether it was a concussion limiting the ice time of Danny Cesarz or chemistry never meshing as well as it needed to, Macon had its stumbles when it came to offense and a league-worst 2.45 goals per game showed that. A defensive-minded team can work by giving up 2-3 goals each night as long as the offense can get goals at key times, and that was not the case for the Mayhem on more occasions than desired.
If the season continued, how would it have played out?
If there’s one thing about the season that’s the most disappointing as Macon looks back at it, it’s that this team was primed to chase a playoff spot going down to the final weekend. Case in point – the Mayhem won six of ten before the season was suspended, the most of the four teams fighting for the final two President’s Cup playoff spots – Birmingham, Quad City and Roanoke. Not only that, but the Mayhem finding solid footing on their own end, giving up more than two goals once in the final four contests.
Focus for offseason:
Macon ended the season with some accomplished goal scorers to run the offense in the likes of Pierog and Caleb Cameron (26 points, 9 goals and 17 assists), in addition to Dylan Denomme with 20 points in 21 games. To elevate to the next level, it needs a go-to guy to carry the scoring night after night. As it turned out, it was easier said than done to replace players like the departed Jake Trask and John Siemer.
Despite a season that had its share of frustrations, a renewal of a lease with the Macon Coliseum gives hockey fans something to look forward to when play resumes. Win or lose, the Mayhem have made an imprint within the market, and the enthusiasm on display at Pack The ‘Plex Night only underscored that fact.
The losses may have outnumbered the wins in a season of highs and lows for Macon, but the effort shown despite that adversity should go far in laying a foundation for the Mayhem going forward.
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