MACON, Ga. – As far as a game featuring a low amount of penalties on both ends of the ice, Friday’s game between Pensacola and Macon did not check the box.
But when it came to one that resulted in the Mayhem clinching the William B. Coffey Cup, it absolutely fit the bill for Macon.
Rallying back from an early one-goal deficit, the Mayhem won 5-3, clinching a tie for the best regular-season record in the SPHL. Since Macon owns the tiebreaker against Knoxville, Friday’s win clinched the Coffey Cup for the Mayhem (27-5-4, 58 points). It’s the first regular-season title for the Mayhem since 2016-17, also the same year that the Mayhem were President’s Cup Champions.
Nate Kallen and Jimmy Soper each put goals on the board in the first to negate an Ice Flyers lead from an unassisted Alec Hagaman goal 3:47 into the game. Then, following a scoreless second, Jason Tackett and Ryan Smith made it 4-1 prior to Dean Balsamo’s score being the final Mayhem goal. Overall, Macon’s scoresheet showed goals from five different players.
The contest, however, was heavily defined by another stat – penalty minutes and lots of them. 138 on both sides combined to be exact.
Needless to say, the penalty box was quite the busy place with seven ten-minute misconducts being issued, including game misconducts to Pensacola’s Frederic Letourneau for charging and Cam Bakker for spearing.
The penalty against Letourneau came at 10:21 of the second period, after contact between he and Macon’s goalie Jake Theut as the Macon goalie played the puck behind the net. The hit resulted in Theut having to leave the game. According to team officials, Theut’s injury was limited to a headache.
It took about nine minutes for the back and forth fracas to begin on Friday.
Just shy of nine minutes in, multiple players from each side mixed it up, the end result being five players, three from Macon serving time in the penalty box. Both Stathis Soumelidis and Nick Minerva were hit with ten-minute penalties for inciting an opponent with Jimmy Soper being tagged for roughing. The Ice Flyers, meanwhile saw Jordan Ernst serve two minutes for roughing Skyler Smutek sit out five minutes for roughing.
It was hardly the end of the penaltypalooza as the pace of the second period moved at a snail’s pace due to the penalty box being a revolving door with 52 penalty minutes in all being called. Pensacola’s Hagaman received two roughing penalties at 16:44 with Darren McCormick also being hit a pair of two-minute minors, one being an unsportsmanlike conduct as a result of the aftermath of Letourneau’s hit on Theut. Cam Bakker was also hit with two penalties at once, both a five-minute major and game misconduct, totaling 15 minutes, for spearing.
Not to be outdone, the Mayhem also had their share of time in the penalty box during the second with five players serving 12 minutes worth of penalties, including Minerva for roughing.
In the midst of Macon putting the win away in the third, trips to the penalty box did not cease.
Hagaman was hit for a total of 14 penalty minutes at 16:27, four for roughing and ten for a continuing altercation with Guertler also getting 12 minutes worth of penalties, ten for a continuing altercation and two for roughing. Bookending the night of penalties was Soumelidis, hit for unsportsmanlike conduct and inciting an opponent at 16:27. It was his second ten-minute penalty of the night.
The Coffey Cup now clinched, Macon hosts Huntsville on Saturday. Pensacola (14-7-5, 33 points) now leads Birmingham by four points for the final playoff spot. The Bulls rolled over Huntsville 6-1 on Friday to draw closer. The Bulls play at Knoxville on Saturday with the Ice Flyers going to Huntsville on Tuesday. Pensacola and Birmingham have just one head-to-head matchup remaining, May 1 at Birmingham.