MACON, Ga. — The Macon Mayhem started the 2018-19 SPHL season with a firm first step, taking three out of four possible points during the opening weekend.
After losing the season opener on Friday, 4-3 in a shootout to Pensacola, Macon held off a late charge by Fayetteville on Saturday to take the 3-2 win. Dakota Klecha, Brandon Fehd and Jake Trask had the goals in Saturday’s win with John Siemer, Jake Faiella and Stathis Soumelidis getting the tallies.
Five takeaways from the Mayhem’s weekend
First Win For Thomas
The moment was hardly lost on Mayhem head coach Leo Thomas, not to mention his players. Following Saturday night’s win, Macon’s players wasted little time making their way to the locker room, where they greeted Macon’s head coach following his first win as a professional head coach with a rousing celebration.
Even mere moments after the win, the gravity of the situation was already sinking onto the shoulders of Thomas, an assistant in Macon the past two years under Kevin Kerr.
“As soon as I got in the room, to see the smile on those guys faces, to get the puck, it means everything,” Thomas said. “These guys battled all weekend, it means a lot.”
Goalies Meet Expectations
Among Macon’s offseason additions, the biggest attention-getters were the signing of Jordan Ruby and Gordon Defiel. The acquisitions gave Macon one of the SPHL’s most talented and proven one-two punches in goal.
Over the weekend, both made the decision to bring them to Macon pay off. On Friday, Ruby stopped 35-of-38 shots. Multiple times, Ruby came up with saves that a year ago, the Mayhem’s collection of goalies did not make for the most part. The story was similar on Saturday with Defiel saving 29 out of 31 shots.
In part, the weekend was an exhibition component for Thomas. Due to the Mayhem’s exhibition game being canceled, Macon never got the benefit of evaluating each of its goalies against outside competition. Friday and Saturday provided just that.
“We have two really good goalies. Ruby made some incredible saves (Friday), Thomas said. “Both of them are going to see the net. Both of them are going to compete and be professionals about it.”
Showing Some Grit
For a spell on Friday, it looked like deja vu for the Mayhem, A season ago, Macon fell 4-0 on opening night in a one-sided loss to Pensacola. It looked like affairs were heading in a similar direction less five minutes into the second period when the Ice Flyers led 2-0.
That’s when Macon answered questions about the internal resolve of this team. Goals by Siemer and Faiella within five minutes tied it. Even then, after Ruby got caught out of position and Pensacola led 3-2, Soumelidis equalized the game at 3-3 29 seconds later.
Even though the Mayhem fell 4-3 in a shootout, Macon appeared to learn a lot about itself as a team in defeat. That showed with the way that it responded to win one night later against Fayetteville.
“They never gave up and always battled and battled and sucked it up and played 60 minutes plus,” Thomas said.
Established Scorers… Score
When a team returns the majority of its scoring leaders from the previous season, the expectation is built in for them to carry the offensive load, especially early in the season. That was the case for the Mayhem through their first two games.
Overall, Siemer and Soumelidis each have two points with a goal and assist so far with Trask having a goal. Klecha is coming out of the weekend with a two-point game against Pensacola with the top newcomer so far, not to mention overall points leader, being Justin Levac with three assists.
“At the start of the year, you want to get a win. To get three of four (points) on the first weekend, that’s not too bad,” Klecha said.
It’s very early, but Zach Urban looks to be the leader in setting the physical presence for the Mayhem, not to mention the guy that opposing players will have to answer to after landing a big hit on a Macon player.
He exited the weekend leading the team with seven penalty minutes, but Urban’s pair of games goes much further than that. On Friday night, he drew a two-minute roughing penalty. On Saturday, he and Fayetteville’s Nolan Sheeran came to blows. And as expected by most players playing at home after a fight, he gestured to the crowd on the way to serve his time in the penalty box.
“He’s playing hard on pucks and has a big body on the back end to stir stuff up,” Thomas said. “He did that some for us last year and we’re looking for him to do that this year.”
Macon hosts the Knoxville Ice Bears on Friday and a rematch with the Pensacola Ice Flyers on Saturday.