MACON, Ga. – With the season reaching its midpoint, the Macon Mayhem headed into the weekend with a two-game set against Birmingham that carried a significant amount of weight for multiple reasons.
First and foremost, it was a statement weekend for Macon as it matched the league’s second and third place teams. A win in at least one contest would if nothing else be a mental edge for the Mayhem as the season goes on, especially if the two teams meet in the postseason.
Perhaps more importantly for Macon was the fact that it started the weekend on a five-game losing streak, giving the Mayhem the task of getting back on the winning track against one of the SPHL’s top teams.
When it was all said and done, Macon claimed two of four possible points, winning 7-5 on Friday before the Bulls blanked the Mayhem 3-0 on Saturday in front of a season-high home crowd of more than 3,000 fans, despite 47 shots on goal by Macon against Mavric Parks. The Mayhem (18-8-3, 39 points) sit two points out of second place and eight shy of league-leading Peoria.
“We knew it was going to be a tough battle, but to split it, we’re happy with that,” Mayhem head coach Leo Thomas said. “To end the first half of the season with a weekend split, we’re happy with that.”
Takeaways From the Weekend
Trask Back in a Big Way
A week after leading scorer Jake Trask was at home with his family after he and his wife’s daughter, Tate Penelope died on January 1, Trask ignited things in a big way against the Bulls.
With the team playing with decals in honor of Trask’s daughter on the back of their helmets, Trask scored a pair of goals, one of which was Macon’s fifth of the night. The feeling of Trask’s teammates to have him back was strongly evident with the celebration of each of the team’s two goals.
“He’s been through a lot, I can’t imagine (going through that),” Sutliffe said. “The whole organization has been there for him, we’re at a loss of words and happy to come together and get the win for him.”
In the bigger picture going forward, Trask in the lineup will be key with Dakota Klecha remaining on the IR and Stathis Soumelidis being loaned to Florida of the ECHL.
Starting Strong on Friday
If there was a common thread in last weekend’s losses to Roanoke, it was Macon starting slow out of the gate and playing catch up. That didn’t happen on Friday as the Mayhem were unfazed by falling behind 1-0, leading 3-1 on tallies by Soumelidis, Kristaps Bazevics and Jarrett Kup’s rocket from the blue line on the power play.
Macon’s win on Friday wasn’t just about putting goals on the board. It was also a product on pouncing on opportunities. None were more apparent than what turned out to be a crucial insurance goal. Playing the puck off a neutral zone turnover Derek Sutliffe turned the loose puck into a breakaway score and 6-3 Macon lead 1:07 into the third period. He later added an empty-net goal for two goals on Friday.
“We just stuck to the gameplan, it’s what we needed. All the guys knew that we wanted to get out of the slump,” Sutliffe said. “We’re definitely happy to get out of this one and get back going.”
Goalie Rotation Gets a Tweak
Macon tweaked things a bit in goal on Friday. The past two weekends, Ian Sylves got the start on Friday and Saturday. Each time, he was pulled in favor of Henry Dill on Saturday. This past weekend, Macon changed its goalie rotation up a bit, giving Dill the Friday start and Sylves on Saturday.
The move, partially geared toward getting Dill more game-action time, paid dividends. Dill got the win on Friday, stopping 18 of 23 shots, including holding the Bulls at bay in the late stages after the Macon lead was trimmed to one. Of his five goals allowed, three were via power play.
Sylves was solid on Saturday, yielding three goals, a performance that on most nights would have kept Macon in position to win if not for Birmingham’s Mavric Parks posting a shutout.
Three Stars of the Weekend
★★★ – Jake Trask: Two goals in Friday’s win
★★ – John Siemer: Got into the point column on Friday with three assists.
★ – Stathis Soumelidis: Put in a strong showing before being loaned to the ECHL with a goal and three assists on Friday.
Macon travels to last-place Evansville next weekend for its only trip to the Ford Center this season.
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