MACON, Ga. — Four minutes into their game with the Roanoke Rail Yard Dawgs on Friday night at the Macon Centroplex, the Macon Mayhem had the first of many chances to put an end to their three-game winless streak. With Roanoke’s Vojtech Zemlicka already sitting for a double-minor for high sticking, Steve Mele was called for a hook – giving the Mayhem a long five-on-three power play.
In what was a harbinger of things to come, the Dawgs freshly-revived penalty kill negated all three power play chances early in the first period en route to negating seven power play chances for the Mayhem in Roanoke’s 2-1 victory over Macon. The win was the third in a row for the Dawgs against the Mayhem, with the series finale taking place Saturday night in Roanoke.
While the homestanding Mayhem failed to convert on several scoring chances – dominating the shots on goal by a 35-17 margin – throughout the game, the bounces all seemed to go in favor of the Rail Yard Dawgs. John Siemer had a clean look at Roanoke goaltender Tanner Creel with less than seven minutes remaining in the opening frame. Siemer’s shot rebounded directly to Roanoke defenseman Nate O’Brien, who got free for a long breakaway and wristed the game’s opening goal past Ian Sylves.
“This was a tough one,” said Mayhem coach Leo Thomas as he reflected on the loss, “we’re not playing good hockey and I hope the guys respond.”
“I thought we had a few good opportunities in getting some shots on net, but for the most part the guys aren’t willing to go the extra mile and get more chances,” Thomas continued.
Creel (6-8-0) got his first win since December 22nd by putting the team on his shoulders, especially during the first and third periods when Roanoke was outshot by a 28-7 margin. “(Jacob) Caffrey really took over for us for a while ago, and the way Tanner played tonight, I hope this sparks him for a bit of a run for us as well,” said Roanoke coach Dan Bremner about the team’s goaltending play tonight.
In our preview capsule, we mentioned Roanoke forward Cody Dion as the thorn in the Mayhem’s side. If Dion wasn’t battling Macon’s Nick Minerva down low, resulting in a pair of skirmishes between the two, the Roanoke power forward lived up to his billing. Dion would net the eventual game-winner in his typical fashion – by getting position down low and potting home a rebound midway through the second period.
“I hand it to Macon and the team that Leo (Thomas) built. They’re a tough, gritty team and that’s something I pride myself in and my team,” said Bremner on the blue-collar tone of the game. “I love it when I see guys go at it… they’re gritty players and I love teams like that,” complimented Bremner.
One bright spot for the Mayhem was the hard-nosed play of forward Jimmy Soper, who played tough down low and delivered several hard hits throughout the game – earning the praise of his coach. “Soper’s that kind of player,” Thomas complimented, “he’s the kind of guy who leaves it all out there… he’ll hit everything that moves. (Soper) was giving us that energy and throwing body checks and it’s something I said between the first an second period.”
Thomas expects a similar type of game when the teams meet again Saturday night at the Berglund Center. “The last four games against these guys have been the exact same,” said Thomas, “(Roanoke) is a team that works hard, they hound pucks… we have to match that and be better.”
The Sin Bin’s Three Stars
★ Tanner Creel (G-Roanoke) – Creel rebounded after a pair of disappointing outings and found his groove in a 34-save performance.
★★ Cody Dion (F-Roanoke) – Dion’s physical presence paid dividends for the Rail Yard Dawgs and his efforts were rewarded by scoring the game-winning goal in the second period.
★★★ Jimmy Soper (F-Macon) – Soper was all over the ice tonight, leading the team in hits and his blue-collar play opened up several scoring chances for teammates.