MACON, Ga. – Despite not having sole possession of first place in the SPHL, it’s hard for the Macon Mayhem to complain about their current state.
Macon (10-2-2 with 22 points) is tied for first place with Birmingham, but the Bulls currently hold the tiebreaker.
As the Mayhem get set for a pair of road games this weekend at Roanoke, here are five key takeaways for Macon moving forward.
A big and early victory
Typically, you don’t want to put a lot of weight on one single early-season game, but Saturday night’s 3-1 win against Birmingham is a strong exception. Not only did it snap a two-game losing streak for the Mayhem, but it also snapped the Bulls’ 11-game winning streak. A win like that, coming against the same Birmingham squad that took a 2-0 win the night before was huge not just in picking up two points in the standings, but it also prevented the Bulls from owning an early-season mental edge as well.
As nice as wins against teams such as Pensacola and Roanoke are, the Mayhem need to claim victories against teams in the league’s upper half. The win over Birmingham certainly accomplished that as Macon has now split six combined games against teams currently fourth or better in the SPHL standings, going 3-3-0 against Knoxville and Birmingham.
Still strong in goal
Jordan Ruby continues to do what Macon signed him to do back in the summer – put the Mayhem in position to win games. So far he is 6-2-0 and with a 1.88 GAA. Even in Macon’s two losses earlier this week to Pensacola and Birmingham, he gave the Mayhem a fighting chance, giving up two goals each time out.
At the same time, it’s critical for Macon to have goalie depth in the event of injury, ECHL loan or even if Ruby just needs a night off. Stamina-wise, it’s hard to expect a goalie to be effective starting nearly every game – Garrett Bartus here in Macon three years ago when he started in all but 12 games was an exception to that.
With Gordon Defiel’s ECHL loan, Macon has had to scramble to find a steady backup for Ruby, but they may have found one in Ian Sylves, signed by the team Nov. 19 after being previously released by Evansville. His debut in Macon on Saturday was nothing short of impressive as he stopped 37 of 38 shots.
If the goal is for the netminder to keep Macon’s high-scoring offense in position to win games, the Mayhem once again appear to have the tandem to get the job done.
When crafting together a game plan to slow Macon down, one assumption is that Jake Trask will get his points. This season so far backs that up with his 15 points and eight goals ranking him second in the league. Dakota Klecha is also giving opposing teams a scoring threat to worry about. His pair of goals in Saturday’s win gave him seven on the year, putting his point total at 14, placing him among the league’s scoring leaders.
If there’s a sticking point for the Mayhem so far this season, it has to do with special teams. Macon’s power-play unit, which got a much-needed goal over the weekend from Klecha, ranks next to last in the league, scoring on 14.5 percent of its chances.
The Road Ahead
Macon hits the road this weekend for a pair of games against Roanoke before returning home for a six-game homestand consisting of back-to-back Friday and Saturday contests. The stretch begins next weekend with Roanoke coming to town.