MACON, Ga. – On paper, this weekend has the feeling of a rinse-and-repeat for the Macon Mayhem as it begins an eight-game homestand.
As it did last a week ago, Macon takes on Roanoke, the pair of games on Friday and Saturday coming after claiming 4-3 and 4-1 victories in the Commonwealth of Virginia.
This weekend in Macon, however, the Mayhem will trot a group out that’ll have a bit different cast of characters than last weekend.
Macon (12-2-2 with 26 points) entered Thursday tied for first place in the SPHL with Birmingham. They’ll look to stay near the top this weekend against the Railyard Dawgs.
Here are five things to look for this weekend.
Dawgs Seeking Revenge
Playing Roanoke has worked out well so far this year for Macon with the Mayhem winning all three times and earning all six possible points in those matchups. Obviously, a following of that pattern this weekend will do a lot to keep Macon near the top of the SPHL standings.
The other side of that coin is Roanoke will likely be motivated to have a point to prove against a team that the Rail Yard Dawgs have not earned a point in the standings against this year. The Dawgs have some extra motivation after pulling off a Thursday night win against the Birmingham Bulls.
Who fills in for Ruby?
At least for now, Macon won’t have the mainstay presence of Jordan Ruby in goal. “Rubes” was loaned to the Wheeling Nailers of the ECHL earlier this week, and until he returns, Mayhem fans will now turn their eyes toward Macon’s new goalie combo with both of its goalies from opening night, Ruby and Gordon Defiel in the ECHL.
Ian Sylves, who posted a win Nov. 24 five days after being signed by the Mayhem in his only appearance so far in Macon, will be one relied on to hold things down in net. Who else could be in line to stop pucks between the pipes? It’ll be a name familiar to Macon fans from opening night. Andrew D’Agostini signed with Macon earlier this week. He appeared in nine games for Pensacola this season before being let go by the Ice Flyers, going 3-5-1 with a 3.18 goals against average. One of those wins? A 4-3 shootout victory against Macon on Oct. 19.
Building Up The Blue Line
Macon saw another one of its early-season stars head for the ECHL this week with defenseman Brandon Fehd going to the Rapid City Rush, whose preseason camp he attended before ending up in Macon where he led the team with a plus-minus rating of plus-16.
Fehd did his best to buy himself some staying power with the Rush on Wednesday, getting a goal in a 6-3 victory against Allen.
Down three defensemen with Fehd and Jake Faiella in the ECHL (Greenville) with Seth Ronsberg remaining on injured reserve, Macon has brought in Taylor Love to bolster a big, physical presence. At 6-3 and 220 pounds, he is the biggest size-wise on the Macon roster. He has SPHL experience as well, playing in a combined 28 games last year for Fayetteville and this weekend’s opponent, Roanoke. He also played in eight games for Carolina in the FHL this year, piling up 29 penalty minutes in that span.
More than just Trask
As expected, any conversation about the SPHL’s scoring leaders involves Macon’s Jake Trask and his league-best 17 points (eight goals, nine assists). But for the Mayhem to keep putting up points, it’s key to have another scoring threat to give the option of spread scoring threats across its forward lines. It has that so far with Dakota Klecha, whose nine goals leads the SPHL, one ahead of Trask and a handful of others entering Thursday.
If Macon can get another strong output from its one-two scoring punch, odds of a four-point weekend are good.
Seeking The Aggressive
Other than it meaning a higher chance of scoring goals, there’s another reason for Macon to be aggressive on offense this weekend and pepper the Roanoke net with pucks.
This season, Macon has enjoyed a high rate of success when outshooting the opponent as the Mayhem have a 7-0-0 record in games that they have more shots on goal than the opposition.
Puck drop for both games will be at 7:30 ET on Friday and Saturday night at the Macon Centreplex.
Follow Brad Harrison on Twitter at @SinBinMayhem.