In November, it looked like the Evansville Thunderbolts couldn’t buy a victory. The expansion team started their campaign with an SPHL record 11-game winless streak. What a difference a month makes. Since their 0-8-3 start, the Bolts have won seven of their last nine games – including the last five in a row, culminating in an exciting 6-5 overtime win in Southaven against the Mississippi RiverKings. Tonight in the Ford Center, Evansville defends their streak – and the SPHL Title Belt – from the visiting Peoria Rivermen.

Dennis Sicard of the Mayhem is everywhere right now. If he’s not dressed as a hot dog for Macon’s Friday night promotion or the subject of a semi-viral (by our standards) video, he’s being featured in news articles or team profiles. Will we get the voluble (and on the ice, volatile) forward as a guest on our Inside the SPHL Podcast? Stay tuned, y’all…

Speaking of our podcast? Have you subscribed to it yet? On our last episode, Dawne Walters made her podcast debut and brought her Irish accent with her. Dawnie, our Columbus correspondent, had to pay off a hockey wager with our Evansville writer, Mike Finazzo. The results were hilariously epic. Catch the Inside the SPHL Podcast on iTunes, Android, or Google Play.

Week nine of the SPHL season kicks off with full five-game slates on Friday and Saturday nights. The Bolts and Rivs, along with the Macon Mayhem and Columbus Cottonmouths, will play home-and-home series this weekend. Otherwise, Saturday night’s schedule will be identical to tonight.

Title Belt Game: Peoria Rivermen at Evansville Thunderbolts

  • Fourth meeting between the teams this season. Peoria leads the season series, 2-0-1.
  • Neither team has a power play goal during the season series.
  • Peoria’s Dan Bremner is a fantasy hockey deity against the Bolts. The Rivermen captain has three goals, an assist, a +5 rating and 15 penalty minutes against Evansville.
  • Tuesday’s game marked the beginning of a brutal 16-game stretch for the Bolts. Through the month of January, every game on Evansville’s schedule is against teams above .500 in the standings.
  • The Thunderbolts are making their first SPHL Title Belt defense. Evansville took the belt as a result of Tuesday morning’s 6-5 overtime win against the RiverKings.
  • Our Mike Finazzo famously mentioned the Bolts are undefeated (3-0) when veteran forward Justin MacDonald scores a goal. Uh oh… J-Mac was called up this week to the ECHL Indy Fuel.
  • Sin Bin Swami Sez: Peoria hasn’t lost on the road in regulation. Evansville has to lose eventually. First title belt defense will be a defeat for the Bolts.

Fayetteville FireAntz at Roanoke Rail Yard Dawgs

  • The FireAntz lead the season series against Roanoke, 2-1-0. Fayetteville has outscored the Dawgs in the series, 12-7.
  • Veterans Jake Hauswirth and Bobby Chaumont are showing the kids in Fayetteville the old men can still snipe. Both forwards lead the Antz with three goals in their last five games.
  • Dawgs winger Jackson Brewer is one of the bright spots in Roanoke’s seven-game losing streak. Brewer has three goals and two assists over the last seven games, including a three-game point scoring streak and goals in his last two games.
  • On the down side for Roanoke, goaltender Brandon Anderson is up with the ECHL Norfolk Admirals for a spell.
  • Sin Bin Swami Sez: I don’t even have to look. I’m not taking Roanoke until they win a game.

Macon Mayhem at Columbus Cottonmouths

  • The Mayhem are 2-0-1 against the Snakes this season. Macon defeated Columbus, 1-0, the last time the teams played in the Snake Pit.
  • At this time last season, the Cottonmouths have exactly as many wins (five) as they did this season.
  • Riley Spraggs, the Snakes’ leading scorer, is currently tied for sixth in rookie scoring with 11 points (4G/7A).
  • Macon is one of four teams who have yet to allow a shorthanded goal this season. Columbus, on the other hand, has allowed four.
  • Sin Bin (Irish) Swami Sez: I foresee a pub visit and a two-goal Macon win in my future.

Mississippi RiverKings at Knoxville Ice Bears

  • The teams play in Knoxville for the first time this season. Mississippi and Knoxville have split the first two games of the season series.
  • Last season, Knoxville netminder Brian Billett was 2-0 against his former Boston College teammate Brad Barone, then with the Louisiana IceGators.
  • Mississippi’s Devin Mantha is the only player with two goals in the season series. Mantha was called up to the Fort Wayne Komets on November 29th.
  • The RiverKings have scored six power play goals in their last five games. The Ice Bears have allowed two goals on their last 20 penalty kills.
  • Sin Bin Swami Sez: Knoxville, has missed some home cookin’ but is tough at home. Mississippi is mediocre on the road. But here’s the problem. Mississippi can score and Knoxville just isn’t right now. I’ll take Mississippi tonight. I’m seeing like a 3-2 sort of game.

Huntsville Havoc at Pensacola Ice Flyers

  • Pensacola leads the series 2-1-0, with one win coming by shootout. Huntsville’s last trip to the Hangar was a disaster as the Ice Flyers strafed the Havoc for eight goals on November 26th.
  • Huntsville’s Johnny Daniels returns to the lineup tonight after a brief callup to the Atlanta Gladiators. Defenseman Nolan Kaiser is currently with the Adirondack Thunder.
  • Atlanta was fair to both sides, returning winger Austin McKay to the Ice Flyers. McKay had an assist in three games with the Gladiators.
  • Apart from the eight-goal explosion against Huntsville, the Ice Flyers have only five goals over their last five games.
  • Sin Bin Swami Sez: Lock of the week. Huntsville got spanked the last time they played Pensacola. Havoc are 7-2-1 on the road and looking for payback. I like the Havoc by 2.

Tomorrow’s Games

  • Fayetteville at Roanoke – 7:05 ET
  • Mississippi at Knoxville – 7:30 ET
  • Columbus at Macon – 7:35 ET
  • Evansville at Peoria – 7:05 CT
  • Huntsville at Pensacola – 7:05 CT

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