BIRMINGHAM, Ala. – It’s the time of the year every hockey fan dreams of, playoff hockey. For the fans of the Birmingham Bulls, the wait has been longer than anyone else in the SPHL. The last time the Bulls made the playoffs was during the days as an ECHL franchise in 1999. Birmingham lost in the second round of the Kelly Cup Playoffs, getting swept 3-0 by the Florida Everblades.
That was then, this is now though. The Bulls enter the SPHL President’s Cup Playoffs as the second seed. They’ll face off against the lowest seed, the Fayetteville Marksmen. Birmingham ended up getting to play the lowest seed when the Peoria Rivermen shockingly chose the fifth-seeded Roanoke Rail Yard Dawgs as their first-round opponent.
On the SPHL Challenge Round Selection Show, Coach Jamey Hicks gave the reasoning for picking Fayetteville for one reason.
“Well everybody knows I’m old school, obviously you always look to the hockey gods, 1 vs 8, 2 vs 7, but I think when you look at this year, there’s so many good teams.”
The selection might be old school, but it doesn’t matter if your old or new school, the numbers tell you the selection makes perfect sense.
Final Regular Season Records:
Birmingham Bulls: 39-15-2, 2nd SPHL
Fayetteville Marksmen: 25-23-8, 8th SPHL
By the Numbers:
Series Schedule(Home Team in BOLD CAPS and all times local):
Game 1 – Friday, April 12 – Birmingham at FAYETTEVILLE 7:00 PM EST
Game 2 – Saturday, April 13 – Fayetteville at BIRMINGHAM 7:00 PM CST
*Game 3 – Sunday, April 14 – Fayetteville at BIRMINGHAM 7:00 PM CST
*=> If Necessary
Season Series Recap:
Birmingham swept all four regular season games from Fayetteville this season. On December 8th and 9th, the Bulls traveled to the Crown Coliseum and won both contests by a combined score of 11-4. The Marksmen made the return visit to Birmingham on March 29th & 30th, where once again the Bulls swept the weekend, winning those games by a combined score of 10-2.
Birmingham Bulls Keys to Success:
DO: When you’ve outscored your playoff opponent 21-6 in the four previous matchups, the answer should simply be, do the same thing you did before. That answer is close, but not totally it. The Bulls will need to rely on the handful of playoff veterans on the roster. Fortunately, one of those is Mavric Parks. The last time Parks was in the playoffs, he almost single-handedly helped the Columbus Cottonmouths knock off the eventual President’s Cup Champions, the Macon Mayhem. In three games, Parks went 1-2 with a 2.15 goals against average and a save percentage of .949.
DO NOT: This is going to sound so cliché, but it’s true. DON’T TAKE STUPID PENALTIES. Despite finishing 8th in the SPHL standings, the Marksmen where first in the league on the power play. Fayetteville finished the season 44-193 with the extra attacker. Those 44 power play goals were the third most in the league.
Fayetteville Marksmen Keys to Success:
DO: Do capitalize whenever Birmingham has a man in the penalty box. As easy as that sound, Birmingham was second-best in killing off penalties this season. Find a way to solve the puzzle that is Mavric Parks. Parks was 3-0-0 against the Marksmen with a shutout on the season. Take advantage of the playoff schedule. The lower seed having the first game of a playoff series is rare. It’s a chance to cash in on home ice and steal a game.
DO NOT: Do not let Birmingham get rolling on offense. In all four games during the regular season, the Bulls had at least one period with three or more goals. This will sound repetitive, but it’s as factual as it gets. Do not miss on power play opportunities. If you get the man advantage, execute the power play.
Sin Bin Bulls Series Prediction:
While I do think starting the series on the road is not the easiest task for the Birmingham Bulls, I think talent will win out. I expect Mavric Parks to remain as dominant as he’s been this season, and I believe the Bulls have too much offensive firepower for the Marksmen. With the return of Justin Larson to the Birmingham lineup, I think this will be a 2-0 Birmingham sweep.