Opening night in the SPHL got off to a heck of a start. All four games were decided by a single goal, including one shootout in Macon, two come-from-behind wins, and a very controversial goal call in Pelham.
One day… There will be replay across all of minor pro hockey, and it won’t be a moment too soon.
At the end of the second period of the Bulls/Havoc game, a shot by Birmingham forward Taylor Dickin appeared on video to dance on the goal line before being swatted away by the glove of Huntsville goalie Mike DeLaVergne. The play was ruled a goal on the ice by referee (and former SPHL defenseman) Steven Hoshaw. Being fair to Hoshaw, who had a much closer view, it’s possible the puck was over the line. On two different video angles, however, the puck seems to be on the goal line.
With replay now in the AHL, and currently being tested in some ECHL barns – replay should make its way down to the SPHL within a few years. Already, SPHL refs do check out the game feed in some cases, but the camera angles aren’t advantageous to get a proper verification of puck location.
It was a tough break for Huntsville in a tight game, but these breaks tend to even out over the season.
Defensive development was a common theme during training camp, and now we see why.
We had a total of 28 goals scored on opening night over the four games played. There were several defensive breakdowns and miscommunications leading to some easy scores. Don’t press the panic button too soon – offenses typically have the upper hand early in the season until defensive pairings develop chemistry.
The Birmingham Bulls are not going to be pushovers this season.
It was the Huntsville Havoc coming out flat to open the season in Pelham, and the Bulls took full advantage of it. Birmingham’s offense was non-existent at the beginning of last season. Tonight, the Bulls were running hard in the first period, stunning the defending champs for three first-period goals. Don’t get too overconfident, Bulls fans… Y’all got outplayed the rest of the way. Still, the Battle of Alabama series will be far more competitive this season.
Macon and Pensacola put on a show on opening night.
The Mayhem and Ice Flyers, perhaps playing in – at least on paper – the marquee matchup of opening night and both teams did not disappoint. Both sides combined for 70 shots in a fast-paced game, especially in a third period where both teams traded scores. It was the type of early-season match played with postseason intensity, and it was a treat to watch.
The Fayetteville Marksmen are already a much-improved team.
It may only be opening night, but Roanoke came into this season with the most skilled set of forwards that we’ve seen and the Fayetteville defense shut them down. The fans at the Crown were treated to a goalie duel – a rare, welcome sight after last year’s squad would give up an average of 4.68 goals a game. In tonight’s case, Fayetteville’s Dillon Kelley was one save better than his Roanoke counterpart, Brad Barone – last season’s Goalie of the Year. The new-look Marksmen under Jesse Kallechy have a lot of positives to take out of opening night.
Tonight’s Three Stars
★ – We’re giving this first star out to all the fans at the games on opening night.
★★ – Ryan Marcuz – Pensacola – Three goals, including the shootout winner.
★★★ – Lucas Bombardier – Knoxville – Two goals and an assist, including the game winner with less than a minute remaining in regulation.
Tomorrow’s SPHL Games
Knoxville at Roanoke – 7:05 ET
Fayetteville at Macon – 7:30 ET
Birmingham at Pensacola – 7:05 CT
Peoria at Quad City – 7:10 CT
Huntsville at Evansville – 7:15 CT